While business users are looking for relevant information, some data resides in a structured format such as a database, while everything else tends to be in unstructured formats strewn across e-mail systems, various portals and thousands of documents.
To sort all that out, we give people access to SQL to precisely find what they are looking for in a database. Then some form of search is used to find keywords in unstructured documents that they hope are vaguely relevant to the questions they are trying to answer. And there generally is no context between the structured and unstructured information in the enterprise, so making any sense of information stored in all these systems can be exceedingly difficult.
This is what makes the a series of new dashboard applications from Attivio based on its Active Intelligence Engine intriguing. The company has come up with a unified approach to finding information that Attivo CTO Sid Probstein says combines the precision of SQL with the fuzziness of search. Rather than having to stitch separate queries together, Active Intelligence allows users to query and search structured and unstructured data at the same time.
Those results are then presented side by side to give business users context about both a specific transaction and all the collateral information associated with that transaction.
On one level, the Active Intelligence Engine concept is so simple that it's a wonder business users have managed to live without it this long. After all, most companies have no idea what they already know about a customer or an issues because none of the data they have can be harnessed in a way that's really useful. On the other hand, the concept is so powerful in that it gives users access to a business intelligence dashboard that provides a lot more context than traditionally could be pulled out of a database. The part that's been missing up until now are the applications that will make the Active Intelligence Engine more accessible.
Business leaders are asking more from their information assets than ever before. The challenge for the IT organization is to prove that investments in IT can add more value than just being the electronic version of a file cabinet. Hopefully, Attivio is part of a new wave of business intellgence-gathering tools that might actually make all the information in the enterprise truly useful.