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Search technology: a spectrum of options

This article appears in the issue April 2014 [Volume 23, Issue 4]
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A mainstay of knowledge management technology, search has been growing in sophistication at the enterprise level, but also still offers traditional products for keyword searching and desktop use.

Relay Technology Management, which was recently purchased by Decision Resources Group, provides analytics software for the life sciences industry to support decision-making in areas such as asset evaluation and strategic planning. The information needed to make such decisions is unstructured, complex and in a variety of different formats. To provide relevant information, Relay needed a powerful technology solution to index, extract, categorize and analyze content. The company selected the Active Intelligence Engine (AIE) from Attivio, an information access platform that includes search, content integration, text analytics and other functions.

An important factor in the choice of Attivio's software was the ability to integrate with many types of data. "Attivio's platform has a wide range of connectors," says Brigham Hyde, co-founder and managing director at Relay, "so we did not have to spend time developing components. We built our infrastructure, incorporated the AIE and had our product ready in 10 months." Its purpose is to discover and evaluate business opportunities in the life sciences.

Relay's platform provides real-time business intelligence and data visualization to identify and evaluate many types of assets. "When we provide information to help a client decide whether development of a certain cancer drug should be pursued, for example," Hyde explains, "we might find it in a research report, a press release, a document from the SEC and a transcript from an investor call. Relay's platform analyzes all that content and provides actionable information that supports rapid decisions and makes the development process more efficient." 

A primary tenet

In addition to using Attivio to process and analyze information, Relay also uses its full-text query engine for in-house research that produces quantitative information used by clients. "We build workflows and write structured queries that produce data such as the number of licensing deals for a particular company or product," Hyde says. "We have developed intellectual property for the unique interface we developed between the structured database and unstructured stack."

Having used the search function in-house to extract actionable information from unstructured text, Relay is now considering leveraging it in other applications it develops. "In today's world, search needs to be present on every device and from any function," Hyde says. "It has been a relatively lightweight component in the way people use business technology applications in the past, but we want it to be a primary tenet of their activities and to offer users the same intuitive experience they have on their smart phones."

Search should offer deep insights, not just present the user with a list of documents, according to Sid Probstein, CTO of Attivio. "People want answers from their searches," he says. "For example, when they search for the name of the CEO of a particular company, they do not want to have to read through a large number of documents to find it—they just want the name." Attivio's entity extraction allows that type of information to surface.

Attivio's products also offer a variety of ways to achieve a highly personalized search experience. "AIE Business Center allows non-technical business users to define a very specific user profile and then show certain results in response to a search," Probstein explains. "For example, if a company's employees type in a search for ‘healthcare' and ‘renewal' during open season enrollment, they can be directed to a particular page that presents the information they need for enrollment, whereas at other times a different set of results would be shown."

Search results can also be adjusted based on predictive analytics. "Customers can be scored based on their having bought a certain category of products in the past," Probstein says, "and then have a different search experience than someone in a different category would have." 

Ontology enhances search

Mulsanne Management helps clients with business strategy, transformation and technology exploitation. The company focuses on helping its clients achieve and maintain a competitive edge. Among its services is strategic information management, which is an outgrowth of the firm's knowledge management work.

Mulsanne began using Cogito, a semantic technology solution from Expert System to automatically categorize and tag content based on taxonomies that are unique to individual communities of practice. Mulsanne identified Expert System through referrals from colleagues who had seen it in action, and recognized it as an asset to the resources it was developing.

Cogito uses the Expert System ontology, called Sensigrafo, to provide an understanding of meaning in context. The addition of contextually relevant metadata can then be used for a variety of applications including search, categorization and entity extraction.

"An overwhelming amount of unstructured information needs to be managed," says Bryan Bell, executive VP of Expert System, "but language is ambiguous. Sensigrafo provides a sophisticated way to clarify meaning and improve search." It also offers a visualization that places the search term in the center of the screen, surrounded by alternative meanings from which the user can select the desired one (see image above). 

A boardroom topic

"Our clients use a variety of different search engines, so we wanted a product that would support any of them," says Sacha Clark, Mulsanne founder and CEO. "It also has the ability to index, categorize and tag virtually any accessible data and information sources." Clients are now able to perform far more efficient and effective searches. "Cogito lets them use filters specific to each community of practice to narrow search results very precisely," Clark adds.

Having seen how Cogito improved findability, Mulsanne Management decided to expand its use to provide clients with another application-tailored dashboards for individual senior executives and for business functional groups. "These dashboards help make knowledge management a boardroom topic," Clark says. "We are creating the means for people throughout the organization to receive valuable information in an entirely new and focused way."

Mulsanne draws on its business expertise to create or customize filters for a variety of business-relevant facets, and the information is delivered to the dashboard by Cogito. The dashboards provide relevant news and information, along with enabling precisely targeted searching. "Highly tailored updates on topics such as market intelligence, technology developments and geopolitical news offer our clients quicker customer insight, accelerated innovation and better decision-making," Clark adds.

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