With the increasing business competition, having information to succeed is not enough. Businesses need to analyze the information that they have and get new insights to make better decisions. The traditional field of Business Intelligence with its costly and cumbersome tools is not enough to get insights and discover patterns in data. Business users need tools that enables them to explore the business information in an intuitive and flexible way. They need truly self-service solutions that enables them Business Discovery – Semantic Search is the way to go.
BI limitations are well-known
Traditional BI tools are very powerful tools, but they need a team of people to maintain the system and to create new dashboards and new reports. This has a first impact in the business flexibility to respond to changes in the market, because the resources needed to create new reports or dashboards is huge. Even the so called Agile BI, which is the new generation of BI tools, has a limitation: it needs technicians or power users to create new reports or dashboards. The reason for this is simple, yet difficult for these vendors to overcome: information overload. Their interfaces have all the possible options available, which makes user interfaces complex and cognitively demanding. Business users do not master BI concepts, and they get easily dispersed if you give them too much options.
BI tools need to be more flexible and above all, they need to be self-service, in the sense that any business user can do new reports and dashboards. This is a new level of BI, or like some people coined it, it is Business Discovery. Basically is the ability to explore the data in a more flexible way, doing queries that come to the mind of the business user, testing associations between data in order to find hidden patterns or insights, but doing this just-in-time.
In order to combine the flexibility needed by Business Discovery and the simplicity of a non-overloading User Experience, one needs to have a radical different approach. You have to combine an intelligent user interface capable of communicating with the user in a natural way, and to devise a system that is flexible, in the sense of being able to understand what the user wants. One possible approach to solve these requirements is Semantic Search.
What is Semantic Search?
Semantic search enables the existence of just a search box. The engine behind it is able to understand natural language and give the user what they want. In terms of simplicity and user attention, the user has no way to get dispersed. In terms of flexibility, the approach goes way deeper than regular search. The idea is simple, yet inspiring: why can’t we just type the analysis or queries that we want?
A simple example of using semantic search would be to type “count sales last month by country” and the systems provides the user with a graph that shows the information requested. The systems needs to understand what is a ‘sale’, what is a ‘country’, how can he interpret ‘count’, and above all: how all these terms relate to each other and compose a specific query.
Semantic Discovery a new concept
Now that we know more about Semantic Search and Business Discovery, we can try envision the combining both concepts, which gives rise to: Semantic Discovery. This combination enables the user to explore data in a very simple and flexible way, allowing the discovery of new insights or patterns in data.
Analyzing information comprises essentially two main steps: searching the needed information for the analysis and then exploring that information. The first has been covered in the previous paragraphs when semantic search and discovery was described. The second step is different and needs some thoughts on it.
Once you have the information about want to analyze, it is common to go a step further and explore that data. Manipulation and visualizations are two main operations common in the exploration. Manipulation enables the analysis of data from different viewpoints. This allows the emergence of insights and patterns in data, which are valuable for the user that wants to take some decision based on the data. Most of the current BI tools do not even provide this kind of functionality, and it generally ends with the user exporting the data to Excel and manipulate it there.
A Semantic Discovery solution must provide flexible operations to the search results that enable an easy manipulation of the results. This is obviously an important feature to complement the powerfulness of the Semantic Discovery engine. Some simple operations, like summarizing columns, or changing the query definition, should be easy and intuitive for the user.
Another important operation for the exploration of data is the visualization of this data. For us, humans, the ability to process images is far more powerful than our ability to process digits or letters. We are fast at understanding an image than in reading a sentence. Like the adage says, a picture is worth a thousand words.
The solution developed by Wizdee
Wizdee’s Software is the culmination of several years of research and development in areas such as, Semantic Search, Natural Language Processing and Business Discovery. It combines two important aspects: a powerful semantic discovery engine, with tools for data exploration (based on the search results).
Wizdee’s software provides a new way of searching business information, enabling the discovery of new insights for business users. It allows the user to be more productive and to freely explore the business data without traditional BI limitations. With its ability to be used anywhere, anytime and by everyone, it will bring the true data democracy.
To know more about this subject download the whitepaper “The Next Generation of Business Intelligence” here.
Paulo Gomes, CEO