Five Challenges for Text Analytics

While text analytics is considered a “must have” technology by the majority of companies that use it, challenges abound.  So I’ve learned from the many companies I’ve talked to as I prepare Hurwitz & Associates’ Victory Index for Text Analytics,a tool that assesses not just the technical capability of the technology but its ability to provide tangible value to the business (look for the results of the Victory Index in about a month). Here are the top five: http://bit.ly/Tuk8DB.  Interestingly, most of them have nothing to do with the technology itself.

Four Vendor Views on Big Data and Big Data Analytics Part 1: Attensity

I am often asked whether it is the vendors or the end users who are driving the Big Data market. I usually reply that both are. There are early adopters of any technology that push the vendors to evolve their own products and services. The vendors then show other companies what can be done with this new and improved technology.

Big Data and Big Data Analytics are hot topics right now. Different vendors of course, come at it from their own point of view. Here’s a look at how four vendors (Attensity, IBM, SAS, and SAP) are positioning around this space, some of their product offerings, and use cases for Big Data Analytics.

In Attensity’s world Big Data is all about high volume customer conversations. Attensity text analytics solutions can be used to analyze both internal and external data sources to better understand the customer experience. For example, it can analyze sources such as call center notes, emails, survey verbatim and other documents to understand customer behavior. With its recent acquisition of Biz360 the company can combine social media from 75 million sources and analyze this content to understand the customer experience. Since industry estimates put the structured/unstructured data ratio at 20%/80%, this kind of data needs to be addressed. While vendors with Big Data appliances have talked about integrating and analyzing unstructured data as part of the Big Data equation, most of what has been done to date has dealt primarily with structured data. This is changing, but it is good to see a text analytics vendor address this issue head on.

Attensity already has a partnership with Teradata so it can marry information extracted from its unstructured data (from internal conversations) together with structured data stored in the Teradata Warehouse. Recently, Attensity extended this partnership to Aster data, which was acquired by Teradata. Aster Data provides a platform for Big Data Analytics. The Aster MapReduce Platform is a massively parallel software solution that embeds MapReduce analytic processing with data stores for big data analytics on what the company terms “multistructured data sources and types.” Attensity can now be embedded as a runtime SQL in the Aster Data library to enable the real time analysis of social media streams. Aster Data will also act as long term archival and analytics platform for the Attensity real-time Command Center platform for social media feeds and iterative exploratory analytics. By mid 2012 the plan is for complete integration to the Attensity Analyze application.

Attensity describes several use cases for the real time analysis of social streams:

1. Voice of the Customer Command Center: the ability to semantically annotate real-time social data streams and combine that with multi-channel customer conversation data in a Command Center view that gives companies a real-time view of what customers are saying about their company, products and brands.
2. Hotspotting: the ability to analyze customer conversations to identify emerging trends. Unlike common keyword based approaches, Hotspot reports identify issues that a company might not already know about, as they emerge, by measuring the “significance” of change in probability for a data value between a historical period and the current period. Attensity then assigns a “temperature” value to mark the degree of difference between the two probabilities. Hot means significantly trending upward in the current period vs. historical. Cold means significantly trending downward in the current period vs. historical.
3. Customer service: the ability to analyze conversations to identify top complaints and issues and prioritize incoming calls, emails or social requests accordingly.

Next Up:SAS

EMC and Big Data- Observations from EMC World 2011

I attended EMC’s User Conference last week in Las Vegas. The theme of the event was Big Data meets the Cloud. So, what’s going on with Big Data and EMC? Does this new strategy make sense?

EMC acquired Greenplum in 2010. At the time EMC described Greenplum as a “shared nothing, massively parallel processing (MPP) data warehousing system.” In other words, it could handle pedabytes of data. While the term data warehouse denotes a fairly static data store, at the user conference, EMC executives characterized big data as a high volume of disparate data, which is structured and unstructured, it is growing fast, and it may be processed in real time. Big data is becoming increasingly important to the enterprise not just because of the need to store this data but also because of the need to analyze it. Greenplum has some of its own analytical capabilities but recently the company formed a partnership with SAS to provide more oomph to its analytical arsenal. At the conference, EMC also announced that it has now included Hadoop as part of its Greenplum infrastructure to handle unstructured information.

Given EMC’s strength in data storage and content management, it is logical for EMC to move into the big data arena. However, I am left with some unanswered questions. These include questions related to how EMC will make storage, content management, data management, and data analysis all fit together.

• Data Management. How will data management issues be handled (i.e. quality, loading, etc.)? EMC has a partnership with Informatica and SAS has data management capabilities, but how will all of these components work together?
• Analytics. What analytics solutions will emerge from the partnership with SAS? This is important since EMC is not necessarily known for analytics. SAS is a leader in analytics and can make a great partner for EMC. But, its partnership with EMC is not exclusive. Additionally, EMC made a point of the fact that 90% most enterprises’ data is unstructured. EMC has incorporated Hadoop into Greenplum, ostensibly to deal with unstructured data. EMC executives mentioned that the open source community has even begun developing analytics around Hadoop. EMC Documentum also has some text analytics capabilities as part of Center Stage. SAS also has text analytics capabilities. How will all of these different components converge into a plan?
• Storage and content management. How do the storage and content management parts of the business fit into the big data roadmap? It was not clear from the discussions at the meeting how EMC plans to integrate its storage platforms into an overall big data analysis strategy. In the short term we may not see a cohesive strategy emerge.

EMC is taking on the right issues by focusing on customers’ needs to manage big data. However, it is a complicated area and I don’t expect EMC to have all of the answers today. The market is still nascent. Rather, it seems to me that EMC is putting its stake in the ground around big data. This will be an important stake for the future.

What is Networked Content and Why Should We Care?

This is the first in a series of blogs about text analytics and content management. This one uses an interview format.

I recently had an interesting conversation with Daniel Mayer, from TEMIS regarding his new paper, the Networked Content Manifesto. I just finished reading it and found it to be insightful in terms of what he had to say about how enriched content might be used today and into the future.

So what is networked content? According to the Manifesto, networked content, “creates a network of semantic links between documents that enable new forms of navigation and improves retrieval from a collection of documents. “ It uses text analytics techniques to extract semantic metadata from documents. This metadata can be used to link documents together across the organization, thus providing a rich source of connected content for use by an entire company. Picture 50 thousand documents linked together across a company by enriched metadata that includes people, places, things, facts, or concepts and you can start to visualize what this might look like.

Here is an excerpt of my conversation with Daniel:

FH: So, what is the value of networked content?

DM: Semantic metadata creates a richer index than was previously possible using techniques such as manual tagging. There are five benefits that semantic metadata provides. The first two benefits are that it makes content more findable and easier to explore. You can’t find what you don’t know how to query. In many cases people don’t know how they should be searching. Any advanced search engine with facets is a simple example of how you can leverage metadata to enhance information access by enabling exploration. The third benefit is that networked content can boost insight into a subject of interest by revealing context and placing it into perspective. Context is revealed by showing what else there is around your precise search – for example related documents. Perspective is typically reached through analytics. That is, attaining a high level of insight into what can be found in a large amount of documents, like articles or call center notes. The final two benefits are more future looking. The first of these benefits is something we call “proactive delivery”. Up to now, people mostly access information by using search engines to return documents associated with a certain topic. For example, I might ask, “What are all of the restaurants in Boston?” But by leveraging information about your past behavior, your location, or your profile, I can proactively send you alerts about relevant restaurants you might be interested in. This is done by some advanced portals today, and the same principle can be applied to virtually any forms of content. The last benefit is tight integration with workflow applications. Today, people are used to searching Google or other search engines which require a dedicated interface. If you are writing a report and need to go to the web to look for more information, this interferes with your workflow. But instead, it is possible to pipe content directly to your workflow so that you don’t need to interrupt your work to access it. For example, we can foresee how in the near future, when typing a report in a word processing application such as MS Word, , right in the interface, you will be able to receive bits of information related contextually to what you are typing. As a chemist, , you might receive suggestions of scientific articles based on the metadata extracted from the text you are typing. Likewise, Content management interfaces in the future will be enriched with widgets that provide related documents and analytics.

FH: How is networked content different from other kinds of advanced classification systems provided by content management vendors today?

DM: Networked Content is ultimately a vision for how content can be better managed and distributed by leveraging semantic content enrichment. This vision is underpinned by an entire technical ecosystem, of which the Content Management System is only one element. Our White Paper illustrates how text analytics engines such as the Luxid® Content Enrichment Platform are a key part of this emerging ecosystem.

Making a blanket comparison is difficult, but generally speaking, Networked Content can leverage a level of granularity and domain specificity that the classification systems you are referring to don’t generally support.

FH: Do you need a taxonomy or ontology to make this work?

DM: I’d like to make sure we use caution when we use these terms. A taxonomy or ontology can be helpful, certainly. If a customer wants to improve navigation in content and already has an enterprise taxonomy, it will undoubtedly help by providing guidance and structure. However, in most cases it is not sufficient in and of itself to perform content enrichment. To do this you need to build an actual engine that is able to process text and identify within it some characteristics that will trigger the assignment of metadata (either by extracting concepts from the text itself or by judging the text as a whole) In the news domain, for example, the standard IPTC taxonomy is used to categorize news articles into topic areas such as economy, politics, or sports, and into subcategories like economy/economic policy or economy/macroeconomics, etc… You can think of this as a file cabinet where you ultimately want to file every article. What the IPTC taxonomy does is that it tells you the structure the file cabinet should have. But it doesn’t do the filing for you. For that, you need to build the metadata extraction engine. That’s where we come in. We provide a platform that includes standard extraction engines – that we call Skill Cartridges® as well as the full development environment to customize them, extend their coverage, and develop new ones from the ground up if needed.

FH: I know that TEMIS is heavily into the publishing industry and you cite publishing examples in the Manifesto. What other use cases do you see?

DM: The Life Sciences industry (especially Pharma and Crop Science) has been an early adopter of this technology for applications such as scientific discovery, IP management, knowledge management, pharmacovigilance,. These are typical use cases for all research-intensive sectors. Another group of common use cases for this technology in the private sector is what we call Market Intelligence: understanding your competitors and complementors (Competitive Intelligence), your customers (Voice of the Customer) and/or what is being said about you (Sentiment Analysis) You can think of all of these as departmental applications in the sense that primarily serve the needs of one department: R&D, Marketing, Strategy, etc…

Furthermore, we believe there is an ongoing trend for the Enterprise to adopt Networked Content transversally, beyond departmental applications, as a basic service of its core information system. There, content enrichment can act as the glue between content management, search, and BI, and can bring productivity gains and boost insight throughout the organization. This is what has led us to deploy within EMC Documentum and Microsoft SharePoint 2010 In the future all the departmental applications will become even more ubiquitous thanks to such deployments.

FH: How does Networked Content relate to the Semantic Web?

DM: They are very much related. The Semantic Web has been primarily concerned with how information that is available on the Web should be intelligently structured to facilitate access and manipulation by machines. Networked Content is focused on corporate – or private – content and how it can be connected with other content, either private, or public.

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