Big data comes with numerous challenges, and today's geometric growth of data means that one of the biggest problems a CIO faces is how to get the right information every time and for every employee and customer.
Louis Tetu, chairman and CEO of enterprise search company Coveo, says the average organization has two and a half times the number of information sources that it had only 10 years ago. Innovations such as social media and cloud computing are fueling the proliferation of information. In that same amount of time, CIOs have been primarily pursuing data integration—but federation of all data sources is proving to be a more efficient method of dealing with big data.
Getting More Insight from Big Data for Customers, Employees
While some think of big data in terms of volume and velocity, Tetu believes a third dimension—variety—is the key. This includes various data sources such as Web content, email, CRM, databases, ERP and social data. According to Coveo, as many as 65 percent of executives do not combine social data with enterprise content.
To handle big data, Coveo reaches beyond intelligent enterprise search technology. Focusing only on search and the ability to retrieve information actually misses the power of indexing. For Web content management, Coveo enables the complete view of the customer and delivers a contextual customer experience by federating content from multiple systems through the search index.
"We combine Coveo on websites to really assemble the complete relevant information," Tetu says. "When a person hits a website, the company should know if this person called tech support in the last week, when the customer last paid their bill&what products the customer uses and any other relevant information."
Getting meaningful information from enterprise data is critical. This goal is twofold, as the platform needs to service two distinct audiences: internal employees and the external customers. In customer relationship management, for example, the 360-degree view of the customer is a goal organizations try to attain. The problem in the CRM world, for most companies, is that the total view of the customer actually resides in a variety of enterprise systems.
"By leveraging indexes, we can not only federate but also correlate information by finding customers or find[ing] data that looks alike to serve customers in a much more relevant and efficient fashion," Tetu says.
The enterprise search element of Coveo's platform can be used across enterprise IT and intranets. It goes beyond basic document retrieval to accomplish tasks such as correlating experts through the content. Coveo enterprise search allows you to find the experts—the "people who know something about something" and the "people who know people"—and find the content that is relevant.
The major benefit for Coveo users, Tetu says, is that "employees can get the best available insight, not only by looking at content but by being able to identify the people in the organization who are the experts."
How CA Technologies Federates Data from More Than 70 Sources
One of the broadest implementations of Coveo is at CA Technologies, where it supports 13,000 active users and indexes data from 74 different systems.
CA Technologies has a broad portfolio in IT management, security, cloud management and governance. One of the company's CRM challenges was making sure the processes were in place to improve customer interaction through information analogy.
"Part of our journey in trying to understand how to modernize the organization was determining how we could use information more effectively than we had in the past," says Leo Annab, business technology officer at CA Technologies. "We were so far behind the curve with the technology we used that we could take a step back and look at what other companies were doing and find out what their experiences were like."
Annab said the company decided to make a substantial investment in both user interaction and how the company made decisions around information. In the contact center, for example, employees often wasted time searching for, assembling and recreating customer information.
Prior to the Coveo implementation, employees had to login to multiple systems and basically correlate data in their heads, with each step in the process offering the potential to retrieve the wrong data. Now employees log in only once—the Coveo platform consolidates the data from different sources through the search index. Three years ago, CA Technologies started with one data source and has continually added sources to create a seamless index that works as well as any Internet search engine.
Better Data Insight, Better Customer Service
One mistake companies can make is simply trying to keep up with the explosion of data and information. According to Annab, CA Technologies succeeded by choosing to master the data instead.
"The understanding is that we have structured information, but the amount and degree of structured information is aggressively going to go down as an overall proportion of information that's available. For us, it meant we needed to think more about federated data," Annab says. That meant leaving the data where it was and working to actually get insight from what was searched for, he adds.
Tetu says Coveo combines data from various content platforms to provide that 360-degree view and experience for the customer by allowing typically siloed content platforms to communicate with each other.
Employees can better serve customers by finding the right data at the right time. Externally, too, there is a benefit for the online customer. When a customer logs on, in most scenarios he or she can be identified, classified and routed to specific pages.
Coveo allows what are typically siloed content platforms to communicate with each other, Tetu notes. This can provide a 360 degree-view and experience for customers.
Take online Web content management systems (CMS). In the enterprise there is very little ability to federate content for a customer outside of content that resides in the CMS platform. By indexing content from multiple systems—including the Web CMS, the CRM system and other databases—a more complete view of the customer is available, and employees can better serve customers by finding the right data at the right time.
There is also a benefit for the online customer when using the Web-based self-service system. When you log on as a customer, in most scenarios you can be identified, classified and routed to specific pages so you, too, sees the right information at the right time.
Using Coveo, CA Technologies federates information from 24 different systems on its global website. The company says it has 150,000 customers who can authenticate themselves as soon as they log in. By indexing data beyond just the siloed CMS data that most online systems are restricted to using when creating customer profile and Web self-service options, the company knows who you are, what you searched for, the product SKUs you purchased or looked at and your recent tech support issues. Through the federated data sources, the company can also see the content that "customers like you" care about and then offer recommendations to further improve the overall customer experience.
"In a way it's a bit like visiting Amazon.com the second time, after you've been identified as a customer," Tetu says. "They know what you came the first time—they know what you looked for and bought—and Amazon will start pushing content that is far more contextualized." The difference is that Coveo intelligent search includes data from any enterprise system, database record and social media platform.
Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal has been covering small business, electronic commerce and Internet technology for more than a decade. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, on Facebook, and on Google +.