Wrangling Enterprise Data

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In our previous blog, The Myth of One Golden Informational Warehouse, we described the ideal informational warehouse where all relevant corporate information resides in an easily searchable, coherent, and up-to-date form. We also discussed how individual preferences, habits and organizational culture make it hard to achieve such a warehouse.

In this article, we will try to analyze this problem from the “systems” perspective. Systems, in this case, consist of tools, processes and the data that they hold and operate.

Data and Tools

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The above diagram describes various types of data and the tools and services a typical organization uses. For the sake of simplicity, this diagram only includes systems that are pervasive and used frequently by employees.

As you can see, the tools on the left tend to be “systems of engagement” – natural, conversational and dynamic; while tools on the right tend to be “systems of record” – highly structured, curated and managed. Moreover, communication mediums like E-mail and IM are noisier (e.g. due to language ambiguities) from the information perspective compared to structurally curated information repositories like CRM.

Unfortunately, internal knowledge organizations in enterprises have this unenviable task of wrangling all these sources of information into a cohesive, searchable, navigable solution that is non-disruptive, secure, and easy to use.

The Problem/Solution Gap

It is quite easy to see why knowledge or IT organizations prefer stricter, more structured services (right side of the spectrum). For example, extracting a customer name or an employee assigned to a task is much easier from a CRM or PM tool where specific fields capture that information. However, it is much harder to extract such information from Slack messages or E-mail conversations.

On the other hand, employees hate to curate information for the system. They have a job to do after all, be it development, sales or marketing. Documenting something is just an overhead they would rather avoid.

And therein lies the dilemma. Employees are communicating through IM or E-mail and generating tons of useful information in a dynamic work environment – and almost none of it makes it to the system of record. Meanwhile, the more structured sources that contain no IM or E-mail are the places from where business intelligence is derived.

Needless to say, this deep rooted and pervasive disconnect has created a gap in the way employees access corporate information relevant to their jobs.

Enterprise Wiki: Shifting to the Right

A good example of the tension described above is Enterprise Wiki. A few years ago when wikis were all the rage, there was a massive effort to shift collaboration from chat and E-mail to wiki.

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As demonstrated in the diagram, many forward looking organizations thought that this new initiative would make their data easier to manage by shifting to a more structured, organized, and system ready service.

Unfortunately, this shift required a change in behavior from employees as they had to learn a new user interface and process which was less natural than before. While some appreciated the change, others were not quite so enthusiastic. For example, Product Marketing may love wiki pages as they are well organized and easy to manage. However, for the Sales team (supposedly the benefactor of this content), such a solution would be a burden as they may not have access to corporate network all the time and may want a mobile friendly solution. They just need answers, not documents. They would naturally stick with E-mail or chat.

Indeed, research from MITRE has suggested that people have resisted putting information onto wikis because:

First, we uncovered a reluctance to share specific information due to a perceived extra cost, the nature of the information, the desire to share only “finished” content, and sensitivities to the openness of the sharing environment. Second, we discovered a heavy reliance on other, non-wiki tools based on a variety of factors including work practice, lack of guidelines, and cultural sensitivities.

In other words, the failed adoption of wikis was part of the systematic difference in expectations between the consumer and the producer of the information.

The Ideal Solution

With organizations wanting more clean and structured data that is easier to slice and dice for business intelligence and employees wishing for more conversational style mediums, an ideal solution would have to fill the gap of expectations.

In an ideal world, employees would be able to converse in a free-flowing manner using whatever means their group feels is best, while innovative technologies and products would analyze that content and extract valuable business information to form a structured database. Thankfully, traditional search technology along with linguistics and machine learning applied on very specific areas like sales and support can make this problem tractable.

We at Nimeyo are working on technology where employees can continue use E-mail, chat, SharePoint, Salesforce or anything else they desire, while our algorithms build the knowledge meta-layer on top of that.

With our “pods and bots” approach, our pods aggregate unstructured information and add a layer of intelligence, while our bots deliver answers right into your workflow. Essentially, we require no change in user behavior while still tapping into one of the richest sets of corporate information.
Drop us a note if you would like to learn more.

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