First to the emerging Content Intelligence (CI) market: the FAST Adaptive Information Warehouse

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In a recent article BI and CPM markets in 2007: When two become one I forecast the impending convergence of content management with business intelligence to create a new product category: ‘Content Intelligence’ (CI).

The first real product to span this divide was launched in January 2007: the FAST Adaptive Information Warehouse (AIW). The glossy brochure says “FAST AIW puts the Business Intelligence solutions on top of the Search platform to integrate and orchestrate all of the information needed to make BI truly effective”.

This is interesting as FAST has introduced BI built on Search. Other suppliers such as Cognos and SAS have positioned this the other way around i.e. Search on top of BI, as an additional feature. In truth there has been little traction from the market so far for Search on top of BI.

For me, FAST’s approach makes more sense as it enables clever stuff with the results of Search. For example, an executive dashboard flags that Eastern Region is not selling the new product X as expected. The CEO asks a BI analyst to investigate. The analyst reports that Eastern Region has a full complement of sales people, sales of other products are as forecast, and there is adequate stock of product X. The Sales Manager responsible reported “everything is fine—the sales prospects we are working on just haven’t come through yet”. It looks like a false alarm.

Well actually something is wrong, but the Sales Manager, John, does not want to admit it. His top salesman is leaving, and two members of his team have had an altercation. One salesman, James, is playing truant. Also new product X is designed for new business customers—but the salespeople’s skill sets are in ‘farming’ existing accounts. The situation calls into question John’s sales management competence. He hopes to “stay low” and quietly recover the situation.

Traditional BI will identify the performance discrepancy but not the underlying causes of the performance issues. The cold numbers only show half the story and not: (i) adverse comments made in the annual employee satisfaction survey (ii) HR personal appraisal records revealing conflict between two team members (iii) HR training records that show only one salesperson trained to sell the new product X (iv) the sales manager’s instruction to sell the older, higher commission products (v) that unhappy James has been allocated a poor set of sales accounts which require extensive travelling to visit.

By integrating hard performance data with softer relationship oriented information, a complete picture of the situation and the corrective actions required can be gained in a timely manner, and the situation can be handled with sensitivity and tact. The office grapevine is circumvented with a more complete ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ data version of the truth.

The convergence of content management and business intelligence into Content Intelligence heralds the opportunity to take a more holistic 360 degree view of staff, customers and partners from a relationship, descriptive, and a scientific point of view. FAST AIW signposts the way and merits evaluation.

Ongoing challenges for CI suppliers will be to ensure that content results are relevant and contextualised, that the technology aligns to workflow and business processes, and can be glued together into an SOA foundation.

Although CI is still in its infancy, the potential for better data governance and more informed enterprise management is clear. Content Intelligence solutions have the potential to change the way organisations are managed. Strategic and operational data and unstructured information assets can be married up within an intelligence and analytical setting. Better, timelier, and more informed decision making within organisations and their extended supply chains will result.