IBM says that companies need to mine blogs, wikis for vital business data

Companies will need search and data mining technologies to obtain business-critical information from the explosion of blogs, wikis and other Web-based collaborative schemes.

A sudden proliferation of blogs, wikis and other Web-based collaborative schemes will require smarter search and data mining technologies that can analyze information in the blogosphere to obtain business-critical information.

"Unstructured information is not as easily understood as structured data," said Marc Andrews, who heads up IBM's Strategy & Business Development, Information Integration. "Just providing access to blogs or call center logs won't give you a holistic picture. The biggest challenge is providing a consistent and coherent view to all the different areas where people are collaborating, so that an organization can gain real business value."

This was the message that emanated from a presentation given yesterday by IBM at its office in Cambridge, Mass., where its Lotus Software Division is headquartered. The presentation, entitled "The Future of Enterprise Social Networks," included a panel discussion on the business and social impact of the current and next generation of Web-based collaborative technologies and a demo of some of the social networking technologies in use internally at IBM.

The panel discussion was moderated by Irving Wladawsky-Berger, IBM's vice president of technical strategy and innovation. The panel also included IBMers Mike Rhodin, General Manager, Workplace, Portal and Collaboration; Irene Greif, IBM Fellow and Director, Collaborative User Experience; and Andrews.

According to Wladawsky-Berger, organizations are seeing the proliferation of ad hoc unstructured information from all kinds of sources, and, just as important, the search capabilities needed to make sense of all that information are evolving as well. Marry the two, and what you have "is the right way to do knowledge management," he said. "When you have gigantic amounts of information, and the sophisticated tools to make sense of it, something akin to intelligence arises. And if you're a business, you ignore intelligence and knowledge at your own peril."

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As a researcher, Grief is currently studying the impact that wikis and blogs are having on social networks. "When companies decide on their mix of e-mail, instant messaging, wikis and blogs, they are shaping what type of collaboration they will have," she noted.

One area of impact, Rhodin said, would be in best practices documents, which today, he noted, are not only published "by people with imperfect knowledge" but are often out-of-date by the time they are available for viewing. "If we were to publish best practices as a wiki outside the firewall," he said, "then customers, developers and users would be able to contribute to it and keep the information up-to-date in real-time." He later said that such external collaboration, including developers being on wikis in the Domino community, was in the planning process at IBM.

The technologies previewed during the presentation included:

  • Appliki, an application wiki that allows users to build and edit application functions inside a wiki;
  • Jamalyzer, a real-time text mining and theme analysis tool that breaks down the results of a Jam, a collaboration tool that uses the Internet to facilitate universal access for an organization's employees, to interact virtually. Jamalyzer breaks down the results of a Jam into usable information and provides visual representations of conversations from the Jam.
  • Dogear, a social bookmarking service that allows users to centrally store, categorize and share a set of personal bookmarks, allowing users to not only find and share bookmarks of interest within a community, but also to connect to people interested in similar topics.
  • Fringe, a technology that goes beyond IBM's internal online employee phonebook by showing more contextual information, such as the ability to create an online network of people with similar interests and views of reporting structures and recent blog postings.
  • Web Activity Management, which provides a simple, Web-like interface to business activities to show them as workflows and structures documents, while allowing people to organize and share to-do lists, files, notes, Web links and sub-activities.
Tremendous impact foreseen

Social network analytic technologies such as these "are going to have a tremendous impact on the way we use information, on the way we make decisions that change our business," said analyst Judith Hurwitz, who was in attendance. Hurwitz, who is president of research and consulting firm Hurwitz & Associates in Waltham, Mas., also predicted the leading edge collaborative technologies that IBM was previewing "were going to creep into IBM products and services," and would eventually surface in Lotus Notes and IBM Workplace. "The original goal of Lotus Notes was that it would be used exactly this way, but the technology infrastructure wasn't in place," she said. "This is what Lotus Notes was intended to become."

She added, "Every time I see Irving [Wladawsky-Berger] start to incubate a technology, it gets commercialized within three to five years. I have learned over time never to underestimate his knowledge and his understanding of what things will mean long term."

p> This article originally appeared on SearchDomino.com.

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