Semantic technology may find a home in corporate America for tackling its big data problems, subject domain by subject domain. MIIAtech is betting that those first verticals will be customer relationship management and human resources domains.
The company today launches its Tautona natural language processing platform into the CRM space. The platform for searching structured and unstructured data in such systems is described as using deep linguistic analysis and reasoning technology to extract meaning from language to understand stored information. And via the web-based system that can run on their desktops, tablets or smart phones, users can query these databases in natural language in order to fulfill complex search requests. They can do it across languages, too, which can be important to organizations with global salesforces.
“Our combination of linguistics, semantics and ontological parameters give us the ability to really analyze much deeper than what is out there today,” says Stephen Lernout, CEO of MIIAtech. “And that actually gives us the language advantage because once you reach that true meaning level, by definition you are language independent.”
Why select CRM as one entry point? The amount of data now filling these systems in enterprise-size companies, says Lernout, is growing so fast that keyword-based search is simply not adequate for being able to retrieve necessary information. In addition to the entries salespeople make in specific fields in these increasingly complex databases, they also populate these systems with lots of unstructured data, such as notes about meetings with customers. “You know it is there, but it’s not doable to find it or you don’t have the tools for finding it,” he says. Furthermore, he argues, if sales staff or executives knew that the data will be semantically indexed at the back-end and that they will be able to query it via natural language as needed, they might take advantage of this flexibility to create richer information at the front-end. “They’ll be more involved at the input side, if sales and marketers know it’s not necessary to analyze the meeting into structured and unstructured information,” Lernout says. “It’s winning on both sides.”
That could be useful to companies increasingly invested both in having more data to analyze and in analyzing it on a more continuous basis. And the ability to search these systems across languages could be useful to C-level or other high-ranking execs that want seamlessly delivered multi-regional or even global perspectives around customer data.
MIIAtech is looking both to partner with CRM companies to align its capabilities directly into their platforms, as well as to work with customers to implement it in a more bottom-up approach.
The vendor currently also is working with a customer in its native Belgium on a proof-of-concept on applying its technology to the HR space, which includes recruitment firms and internal staff at Fortune 500 companies. Lernout says that the firms his team talks to, including some sizeable outfits, all deal with the same issues: “The number of resumes, of CVs, is growing so immense on one side of the input. And on the other side are the job profiles,” he says. That leads to expending lots of human labor and person-hours trying to profile the former into a database so they can later be better searched for their applicability to the latter. The HR application of the Tautona platform “in a split second uploads CVs and job profiles into a database, and semantically indexes it, to match and reverse match profiles with CVs and vice verse.”
The multi/cross-lingual capabilities can be particularly useful here, given the opportunities it may open to make it easier to match individuals with the right requirements to jobs that may be available in other countries, even if they submit their CV in a language that’s not native to hiring managers abroad. Or, in the case of the proof-of-concept customer, HR execs may be dealing with multiple languages right on their home base – in Belgium, Dutch, French and German are all official languages.
Lernout also says its solution can be a help to companies that spend big budgets on HR services from providers such as Monster.com (which itself is exploiting the semantic web), LinkedIn or other job portals. “When they are able to recruit someone, with a resume found at Monster, they often are confronted with the fact that the resume was in their own database all along, but they were not capable of finding it,” he says. But he also sees partnership opportunities with online job recruitment sites, as well as HR companies and in-house HR organizations. The HR app should launch later this year.
The adoption of the semantic web in the enterprise, Lernout says, indeed is “going to be vertical and step by step.” He also sees opportunities to apply a platform like Tautona to online retail, automated call centers, and help desk processes for the services industry. MIIAtech will offer its software as on-site installations or software-as-a-service options, and it is looking at a cloud solution for winter 2012. According to Lernout, enterprise customers are starting to be more interested in the fact that semantic technology delivers such capabilities. It’s new and they’ve started to hear more about it. But, he says, “to see it implemented and really improving what they do, that’s the key for them.”
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