Month: March 2012

Making big data analytics accessible to marketers

The recent announcement of SAS Visual Analytics highlights four important characteristics of big data that are key to the ability of marketing organizations to use big analytic data effectively:

  • Visualization is a challenge for big data analysis and we’ll continue to see new approaches to presenting and interacting with it. Better visualization tools are necessary not just because those who aren’t data scientists need to understand and work with the data, but because the increased efficiency and time-to-reaction to the data is critical in many cases – especially for marketers who need to react with lightening speed to current user experiences.
  • In case it isn’t obvious, visualization tools need to work where marketers can access them on web and mobile platforms.
  • In-memory data processing is necessary to support the required speed of analysis. This is still rare.
  • Big data is not only about unstructured data. Relational data and database tools are still important for incorporating structured data.

SAS is far from the only company driving new big data analytic technology, but they are the biggest and seem determined to stay on the front edge.

Why marketing is the next big money sector in technology

Ajay Agarwal from Bain Capital Ventures predicts that because of the confluence of big data and marketing Marketing is the next big money sector in technology and will lead to several new multi-billion dollar companies. His post is succinct and convincing, but there are additional reasons to believe he is correct.

Marketing spending more on IT than IT

Ajay opens his post with a quote from Gartner Group: “By 2017, a CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO”. It is difficult to judge this prediction without evaluating the supporting research, but it doesn’t sound unreasonable and the trend is unmistakable. Our own experience as conference organizers and consultants offers strong support for the trend. We cover the use of web, mobile, and content technologies for enterprise applications, and our audience has historically been 50% IT and 50% line of business or departmental. Since at least 2008 there has been a pronounced and steady increase in the percentage of marketers in our audience, so that 40% or more of attendees are now either in marketing, or in IT but assigned to marketing projects – this is about double what it was in earlier years. While web content management vendors have moved aggressively to incorporate marketing-focused capabilities and are now broadly positioned as hubs for customer engagement, the real driver is the success of the web. Corporate web sites have become the organizations’ new front door; companies have recognized this; and marketers are demanding tools to manage the visitor experience. Even during the peak of the recession spending on web content management, especially for marketing applications, was strong.

“Cloud” computing and workforce demographics have also beefed up marketers’ mojo. The increased ability to experiment and deploy applications without the administrative overhead and cost of IT or of software licenses has encouraged marketers to learn more about the technology tools they need to perform and helped instill the confidence necessary to take more control over technology purchases. A younger more tech-savvy workforce adds additional assertiveness to marketing (and all) departments. Now if only marketers had more data scientists and statisticians to work with…

Big data and big analytics

Big data has not caused, or contributed very much, to the increase in marketing spending to-date. Certainly there are very large companies spending lots of money on analyzing vast amounts of customer data from multiple sources, but most companies still don’t have enough data to warrant the effort of implementing big data technologies and most technology vendors don’t yet support big data technologies at all, or sufficiently. I agree with Ajay though that the “several multi-billion dollar” marketing technology companies that may emerge will have to have core big data processing and analytic strengths.

And not just because of the volume. One of the main reasons for the enterprise software bias for back office applications was that front office applications beyond simple process automation and contact data collection were just too difficult because they required processing unstructured, or semi-structured, data. Big data technologies don’t address all the challenges of processing unstructured data, but they take us a long way as tools to manage it.

The level of investment in this space is much greater than most realize. Ajay is right to invest in it, but he is not alone.

W3C launches Multilingual Web Language Technology Working Group

W3C announced new work to make it easier for people to create Web content in the world’s languages. The lack of standards for exchanging information about translations is estimated to cost the industry as much as 20% more in translation costs, amounting to billions of dollars. In addition, barriers to distributing content in more than one language mean lost business. Multinational companies often need to translate Web content into dozens of languages simultaneously, and public bodies from Europe and India typically must communicate with citizens in many languages. As the Web becomes more diverse linguistically, translation demands will continue to grow.

The MultilingualWeb–LT (Language Technology) Working Group will develop standard ways to support the (automatic and manual) translation and adaptation of Web content to local needs, from its creation to its delivery to end users. The MultilingualWeb-LT Working Group receives funding from the European Commission (project name LT-Web) through the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

Gilbane Boston conference now accepting speaking proposals

The call for papers for this year’s conference is now open. See information on the topics and instructions.

Researching Enterprise Search System Integrators

When looking at job postings on the Enterprise Search Engine Professionals Group on LinkedIn shows positions calling for developers with specific programming skills or knowledge of specific products. It may be a faulty assumption, but it appears that enterprises on the path to a new or upgraded search application implementation are paying less attention to the other professional skills needed on a successful team.

Knowing how to implement, tune, administer and enhance search outcomes has more to do with understanding business needs and content management than writing code. You need the expertise of content management professionals who understand the importance of (and how to leverage) metadata. You definitely need people who know how to build and maintain the controlled vocabularies that make metadata valid and valuable within the context of your organization. These professionals are not traditionally found in IT groups; they are more likely to come from a business function, or information science background, preferably with a deep knowledge of the enterprise and how it works.

Integrating content management systems (CMS), digital asset management (DAM), taxonomy, thesaurus or ontology management with enterprise search applications means understanding much more than coding. However, having a tight relationship with IT is imperative for good integration of components. In small and medium organizations it is rare to find experts across all areas and that is where a new breed of system integrators are bringing the most value as noted in the post in December, 2011.

As promised, here are some tips for finding and qualifying the right integrator for your organization. The first step is to identify service providers to consider. Use three principle discovery techniques:

  • Simple searches for “system integration providers”, “search integration”, “software” or “software integration” are all explicit phrases to use in web search engines
  • Vendor listings and directories such as those published by Information Today, and AIIM or “buyers’ guides” associated with specific product groups.
  • Conference exhibitors and conference attendees (consultants and vendors) who may attend or present but not exhibit at conference where the focus is a content management topic.

Next, qualify those you have discovered:

  • Scour their web sites by digging into links to Case Studies, Customers, Partners, and Press Releases. Each of these may lead to information about who the vendor has done business with and for, and the nature of their engagements.
  • Test-drive any public sites they have implemented and take a look at how their own web site has been implemented – How easy is it to find information on their own site?
  • Talk to people at professional meetings or in academic institutions who might have knowledge of system integrators and learn about their relationships, success and failures they have experienced. Talk to those vendors you trust and value that are suppliers of non-software products and find out companies they may have observed or encountered at their other clients. They can be a great source of “intelligence.”
  • Talk to people at their named client sites (non-referred if possible)

Five keys to purposeful and successful selection are carefully evaluating:

  • Fit for your industry and organization: cost, vertical experience, gap completion (providing competencies you lack).
  • Fit with your permanent staff: common communication behaviors, collaborative aptitude, willingness to teach, and share.
  • People who have done something as close to what you need for another organization, and will let you talk to their client before the project begins.
  • A service provider that understands the project, staging, and need for a clear exit goal (being able to clearly define what success will look like at the end of the project before they leave the scene).
  • What we commented on in the first paragraph on jobs for search engine professionals; scout potential service providers’ professional skill set to be sure they have people on their staffs who know more than just writing code.

Armed with these few guidelines as a checklist, you are ready to begin your search for a system integrator and solutions provider that suits your organization.

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