It’s been an interesting week further exploring the topic of Social Networking and Customer Service. Having a background in database, BI and now search technologies, I have been through my fair share of hype cycles, so am working on getting a better sense of the current state of the application and technology space. It is little surprise that Gartner places Social CRM: Customer Service at the peak of the hype cycle for Social Software (2009) with 2 to 5 years lead time to mainstream adoption and the related Social CRM: Community Marketing as on the rise with 5 to 10 years to mainstream adoption.
There is certainly no shortage of debate on the definition, scope and relative viability of social CRM (SCRM). Check out Social CRM: Strategy, Technology or Passing Fad? by Bob Thompson, for a recent opinion and some cross references to others’ thoughts. It’s clear that interest and momentum is high but plenty of room remains for clarification. I, for one, would like to see more in the way of reference use cases across CRM and adjacent functions to better understand processes, data usage and interdependencies. I just can’t imagine adoption hitting stride until companies can see how functional pieces and related data need fit together. All you have to do is take a look at Gartner’s rather crowded Social Software hype cycle to get a sense of potential process and data overlaps and the accompanying urge to tap the breaks a bit. Paul Greenberg, a regular contributor to ZDNet, promises more discussion on related business models and strategies..
We see that companies are beginning to get a sense of the social conversations that involve their products and services. A subset of those companies is having direct conversations with customers through social media channels. For example, one of my good friends does PR for a video game company and is crushed by the need to address misinformation and negative sentiment and to bring some control to the conversation about his clients. We look forward to going beyond the hype – seeing more examples of how companies are really building the processes and technologies around social CRM.
At Exalead, we’re working on Social CRM related technologies. Constellations is an Exalead Labs experiment that looks at connections between people and between web sites. It presents a graph of related Web sites or people. The experiment is built upon our Web index. The approach to relating people and things is flexible and can be based upon a configurable set of factors.
Windows 7, the newest version of Microsoft Windows, is scheduled to hit the shelves October 22. Worried about how your favorite desktop search application will function if you upgrade? No need to panic! Exalead Desktop is already functional with Windows 7!
Exalead is proud to announce that its ExaLabs Web application Voxalead News has been chosen as a finalist for this year’s Multimedia Grand Challenge in the category of Video Segmentation. This challenge is part of ACM Multimedia Conference, the biggest scientific conference on multimedia applications and will take place in Beijing between October 19th and 24th.
Voxalead News, previously known as Voxalead, is a Web application that enables you to search for text within videos so you can gain a wide panorama of what is said about a topic in the news. It uses a Speech-to-Text transcription module from LIMSI (IT Laboratory for Mechanics and Engineering Sciences, an entity of CNRS) to transcribe speeches.
As usual in this type of competition, there are many challengers. All categories included, there are 14 of finalists this year that will promote their application with a 3min-speech a the conference. Let’s encourage and wish good luck to Julien who will champion Voxalead News in Beijing!
Click here for the details of Yahoo’s Challenge on Video Segmentation and view the complete list of finalists.
So far, the only solution proposed by database vendors to provide acceptable performance on a large volume of information is to improve the performance of the underlying hardware. In-memory databases like Oracle TimesTen or DB2 SolidDB require huge amounts of physical memory. Datawarehouse appliances like TeraData or Netezza rely on specialised hardware coprocessors. And most recently, as Steve Arnolds points out in his blog, Oracle itself admits that the acquisition of Sun will allow them to build more powerful “systems” by combining Sun’s high-end hardware with Oracle’s database platform.
At Exalead, we believe that Search-Based Applications, or SBAs, are another (I could say more “sustainable”) solution to this problem. The key to efficiently handling large amounts of data is to make sure that data access has a strong “Spatial Locality“. Quoting Wikipedia, achieving spatial locality means that “if a particular memory location is referenced at a particular time, then it is likely that nearby memory locations will be referenced in the near future.” The main problem with relational databases is that they have very poor spatial locality, because the objects they store are spread across a large number of different tables. High-end CRM or ERP solutions typically store their data on as many as 65,000 different tables, each table being stored at a different disk location. Imagine how many different disk locations the system needs to touch just to display information about a customer or a product on a call center agent’s screen, or to produce a complex BI report. Poor spatial locality leads to huge requirements for disk access, which is the main performance bottleneck for databases today.
SBAs are built on a very different data model, centered around the notion of a “business item”. A “business item” is a self-contained object corresponding to a “real-life” entity that is manipulated by the application and understood by the end-users. For example, in a CRM application, business items would be the Contacts, Opportunities and Leads that are viewed by the business users. Unlike applications built using a relational data model, a business item-centric storage strategy allows for great data spatial locality, since the pieces of information required to answer complex, multi-criteria search queries are all part of a single business item type, and hence stored close to each other on a disk. The performance gap between this local approach and the spread-out relational data model grows exponentially wider as the amount of information applications need to store increases.
At Exalead, we are now seeing uses for search-based applications (SBAs) across many different industry sectors and enterprise departments. SBAs that have been a hot bed for Exalead are customer service-oriented applications. Recent Exalead customers have implemented SBAs within Contact Centers and also for direct use by customers (customer self-service applications).
With that in mind, I recently came across a blog on the movement of customer service towards the use of social media. Linda Evans’ entry on “Customer Service in Social Media” in particular comes to mind. What really resonates with me is the importance of companies monitoring their name in the social media space in order to be fully engaged with their customer base. It seems that the underlying challenge is how to be fully tapped in. Indeed, having a customer service Twitter channel makes a lot of sense, as does a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. But what about the next popular channel and the next … And, how in the context of customer service, does this get pulled together as a full and cohesive view of and conversation with the customer?
Well, yes, I do have an opinion on this, and now it’s even stronger. To maintain a 360-degree view of the company as well as its customers and competitors, channel searching needs to be both adaptive and efficient. To be truly meaningful, the result of channel searching also needs to be up-to-date and presented in a unified fashion that makes sense. Search technologies are key to enabling a company’s customer service strategy and infrastructure to adaptively find, tap into and assimilate all sources of relevant information—including social media.
In his latest blog post (European Search Vendor Round Up, September 16, 2009), search expert Stephen Arnold names Exalead as one of the search industry’s most dynamic companies in Europe. It is a welcome recognition from a veteran search analyst who consistently provides technical and financial analysis of actual customer implementations in his research.
Steve makes a very good point, too, concerning the importance of product testing. While expensive to do, we appreciate Steve’s approach of hands-on work with the software products he advocates. There’s nothing like real data to prove a point. Thanks, Steve.
In September, Exalead will be present at no less than 3 European events. Whether you are in Berlin, London or Paris, come and meet our team!
SuMa-eV Forum, Berlin, September 10th
The German “Association for the Promotion of Search Engine Technology and Free Access to Knowledge” holds its 6th meeting on the topic “Information and Knowledge – The Driving Force of the 21st Century?” on September 10th. Exalead will be participating, and François Bourdoncle, Exalead co-founder, will lead a workshop on innovative and alternative new search engine technologies. Learn More (in German)
Gartner Portals, Content and Collaboration Summit 2009, London, September 16th and 17th
Exalead is both an exhibitor and sponsor of this summit held by Gartner, one of the most well-known analyst companies in Information Technologies. Do not miss the presentation by Jean-François Gaucheron from AFP (Agence France Presse), an Exalead customer, on Thursday 17th. Learn More | Subscribe
Conference Décisionnel CIO – LeMonde Informatique, Paris,
After being nominated for the past four consecutive years as one of KMWorld’s Trend Setting Products, Exalead Cloudview™ has made the final list yet again.
The judging panel was composed of editorial members at KMWorld, analysts, system integrators, vendors, line-of-business managers and users. They assessed more than 800 products and selected those demonstrating visible technology breakthroughs that fulfill the challenges and needs of both vendors and customers.
The complete list of award winners will be featured in the KMWorld’s September 2009 issue and then in its online version.
About KMWorld KMWorld is the leading information provider serving the Knowledge Management systems market. The publication covers the latest in Content, Document and Knowledge Management by informing its more than 50,000 subscribers about the components and processes, and subsequent success stories that together offer solutions to improve business performance. KMWorld is a publishing unit of Information Today, Inc.
Last April, Exalead paved the road towards innovation by becoming the Entrepreneurial partner of the Erasmus Mundus European project, a co-operation and mobility program which promotes Research and Development in the European Union.
Exalead has backed the creation of a new Master’s Program in “Data Mining and Knowledge Discovery” (EMM-DMKM). According to MIT’s analysts, Data Mining and Knowledge Discovery have been recognized as emerging technologies that will change the world.
The Master’s program is very unique because the courses are both devoted to Marketing and also to Development with courses like Human/Computer Interfaces or Web/Social Networks/Association/Text/Multimedia Mining.
The program has been selected and awarded by the European Committee, and it’s recognized and certified EMM-DMKM as a Master of Excellence at the European level. It will remain a unique Erasmus Mundus program in Europe focused on the topic of “Data Mining and Knowledge Discovery” and specific funding and scholarships will be assigned to the best “non-European” students who apply to the Master’s Program.
For those who want more information about the Master’s Program in Data Mining and Knowledge Management, it’s here.
The O’Reilly Team’s Velocity ’09 conference was held June 22-24 in San Jose, California.
Several ‘Web celebrities’ spoke about Cloud Computing, a theme picked up by some lesser-known gurus as well.
That is the case of Jeremie, an R&D Engineer at Exalead, who was chosen as a speaker for an Ignite session.
What is an Ignite session? It’s a session in which each speaker has 5 minutes to talk about a technical Web-related issue, with 20 slides that rotate automatically every 15 seconds – before an audience composed of fellow “geeks,” of course.
Jeremie thus spoke for 5 minutes on a trendy topic in data storage solutions: “key value stores”. This data storage system appears to be more efficient than traditional relational database management systems, but it is also more simplistic. According to Jeremie’s point of view, one should be vigilant regarding the immaturity of some of these solutions. Moreover, they make data cross-referencing more complicated, and they cannot be used for every type of application. These simple tools have been created for very specific needs (e.g., there are key value stores in Exalead’s low index layers).