Semiotics for enterprise search
The benefits of the approach pivot on reducing the time a user needs to locate desired information. Patterson gave me this example: "Imagine that you are interested in queries like ‘Where is Joe's office?' or ‘What is his phone number?' In those instances, deploying Sophia is overkill. We don't add any further value over other tools such as Google Search Appliance or some of the other basic key word systems in this instance. But if you are interested in discovering what topics exist in your data, or unearthing new information related to your query that you didn't know existed, or deciphering how documents are semantically linked to one another within a particular context, or understanding the meaning of your information at a glance, then Sophia is a tool that is worth spending time evaluating."
The Sophia system can create customized search reports that can be exported as PDF or XML to enable ease of integration with other analytical tools within an organization.
Patterson said, "Sophia enables and encourages results sharing among employees to reduce the amount of time people spend re-executing queries already carried out by others, and it can automatically watch the corpus for new information indexed after a result set has been returned to the user."
The challenge facing Sophia Search is difficult. The knowledge management and content processing sector is characterized by fierce competition. The emergence of open source options for search such as Lucene/Solr, for business intelligence such as Pentaho, and for data management such as Cassandra puts pressure on commercial, proprietary enterprise software.
The opportunity Sophia has is to demonstrate a better way to tap into the unstructured content that an organization possesses. If Sophia can significantly reduce the time required for a user to locate the item of information needed to close a deal or resolve another business issue, Sophia could gain traction in both the enterprise knowledge management and the search-and-retrieval markets.
The present business climate remains unforgiving. A number of enterprise content processing firms have undergone some organizational shifts. Executives have rotated at Lucid Imagination, MarkLogic and Sinequa since the first of the year. Other firms have been repositioning themselves into a wide range of vertical markets, including financial services, customer support, healthcare and competitive intelligence. The payoff from those changes is not yet known.
Sophia's reliance on semiotics may be the breakthrough required in content processing and information retrieval. Vendors with more traditional methods face longer sales cycles and the shadow of the free, open source software option.
Patterson sees today's troubled marketplace as benefiting the buyer. Sophia's sales approach focuses on the customer's need, according to Patterson. "At Sophia, we discuss with the customer right at the start where the strengths of Sophia lie, because we don't want to waste their time if we don't believe it is the best tool for their needs," he said.
Sophia wants to make partnering a key component of the customer's business strategy. "We believe our technology is not just a standalone product," Patterson said, "but also it is complementary to many existing solutions and can be used to enhance their capabilities. "
Reliance on key word indexing causes some knowledge management systems to crash at take off. To get over the hurdles to enterprise knowledge management and information retrieval license deals, Sophia will rely on the lift from the power of semiotics to take flight.