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Also posted on: The IM Blog
FacilityLive is an Italian company with a product of the same name. I have recently had discussions with the company about working with them but this has not panned out. The stumbling block has been that the vendor thinks that the product is more revolutionary than I do. And the reason for this, it seems to me, is that the company is focused on its own little narrow view of the market—in this case search and knowledge management—and isn’t aware of what is going on in the wider IT community. This is a common fault that doesn’t just apply to vendors but also to consultants, systems integrators and others who aren’t looking at the bigger picture.
Before discussing this further, I had better give you an idea of what the product does. Basically, it’s what might be called search data virtualisation, in that it provides the same sort of access across structured and unstructured data that data virtualisation does, but through a search rather than a query paradigm. Its flagship product, built on top of the base platform, has the claim to fame that it will open your top 10 (say) application windows in your call centre for you automatically, based on a single search. You can do the same thing with data virtualisation except that the latter will provide an aggregated summary window about that customer whereas FacilityLive’s application will just open those applications for you. It also has a couple of quite neat additional tools, one of which is Hyperlens, which opens a ‘window within a window’, that lets you access and edit an information source without leaving the results page. The other is the FacilityLive Solution, whereby you can drag and drop a selection of search results into an ‘intelligent folder’, while keeping metadata and remote content connected.
Now, this is all good. It will help call centre operatives to do their jobs more efficiently. It helps to do the same things better. But it won’t change the way that call centres work. And this is where I have an issue with FacilityLive.
Actually, it’s the second place where I have an issue with the company. The first is that it thinks its technology is unique. It isn’t. Well, not in all the places it thinks are unique. For example, you can do many of the same things with data virtualisation tools, as discussed. More specifically, FacilityLive extracts semantics from database schemas to automate the process of constructing a semantic layer. I know of at least two, possibly three, other companies doing the same thing and I would guess that there are actually even more of them: it’s just that I haven’t run across them or, indeed, it simply hasn’t come up in conversation. But the point is that none of these other vendors would be perceived by FacilityLive as competitors, because they are not directly in the search or knowledge management spaces, so the company isn’t aware of them and therefore thinks it has market-leading technology when it does not.
But the bigger issue is about changing the way people work and, indeed, the whole search and knowledge management space in general. My view is that cognitive computing will radically impact on this space and change it forever: why do your own searching when IBM Watson (or some other product from some other vendor) can do it for you? Cognitive computing doesn’t just improve the performance of call centre operatives, for example, it automates a lot of the relevant processes out of existence. FacilityLive, if you like, is evolutionary while cognitive computing is revolutionary and the problem is that in any market there are lots of evolutionary products. Now, at present, cognitive computing is all about IBM but I know a couple of companies already working on developments in this area. Again, I expect that the companies I have talked to represent only the tip of the iceberg: I anticipate cognitive computing being a major bandwagon in the not too distant future and it’s going to swamp the traditional search and knowledge management markets—and FacilityLive along with it.
I have asked FacilityLive if it supports RDF (resource description framework) or provides ontology management or artificial intelligence, which might make a stepping stone towards cognitive computing but the company has not responded: from which I conclude that it does not have such features or any plans for them. To me this means that the company is determined to keep its head buried in the sand. It currently wants to raise investment monies or possibly an IPO. Let me put it this way: I won’t be buying any shares.