Magazine article Information Today

Business Intelligence: Overcoming the Global Blind Spot

Magazine article Information Today

Business Intelligence: Overcoming the Global Blind Spot

Article excerpt

The downgrade of American credit adds an exclamation point to David S. Mason's The End of the American Century (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2008). For business intelligence (BI) companies, information is no longer about U.S. data, U.S. information, and U.S. methods. Today, information is international. The challenge to BI vendors in the U.S. is internationalization. The opportunity for non-U.S. vendors of BI systems is capitalizing on the increasing need to do more than understand consumer behavior based on the opinions of the good citizens in Omaha, Neb.

The Dassault Exalead (www.exa lead.com) technology is international by definition. The CloudView technology works in most languages and delivers search-based applications that push well beyond information retrieval and cross the boundary into traditional BI. This is a territory long dominated by SAS, SPSS, Cognos, and other icons of American technology. SAP's Business Objects delivers internationalized business intelligence. The Business Objects (www .sap.com/solutions/sapbusiness objects/index.epx) approach has captured a number of important international accounts, but I believe the agility of Business Objects seems to have been affected by the bureaucracy of the German software giant, which has owned the company since the friendly takeover in 2007.

Specialist vendors such as i2 Ltd. (www.i2.co.uk), Digital Reasoning (www.digitalreasoning.com), and Palantir Technologies (www.palan tir.com) are serving international clients with their specialized services. Other vendors with roots in the U.S. and British intelligence community are turning their attention to the international commercial market as well. Examples include Silver Spring, Md.-based JackBe Corp. (www.jackbe.com) and El Segundo, Calif.-based Fetch Technologies (www .fetch.com).

When I was working on a project in the U.K. and France in 2009, I learned about Spotter (www.spotter .com), a company founded by Ana Athayde, a native of Portugal with a fresh vision for her international BI service. Earlier this year, I became reacquainted with the company, which now has offices in Brussels, Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Coimbra (Portugal), London, Montpellier (France), New York, and Paris. In addition to its double-digit growth, Spotter was providing truly international BI services to high-profile financial institutions such as the firm that had me poking into information retrieval problems across content in multiple languages.

Taking a Global Approach

What struck me was the importance of Spotter's international approach to analyzing blog posts, Twitter messages, and content from news services disseminating content in non-English languages. Unlike some BI firms, Spotter was focused on the problems of a global information need and not trying to add languages in response to a client's complaint that consumers in Italy were annoyed with a particular product.

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I spoke with Athayde about her international focus and the strong market uptake for her firm's services. Spotter emerged from her firsthand experience with what she called the "business information infoglut problem." She explained that her background is business and marketing management in the sports field. "In my first professional experience, I had to face major challenges in communication and marketing working for the International Olympic Committee," she says. "The amount of information published on those subjects was so huge that the first challenge was to solve the infoglut and search for relevant information and understand opinions and assess reputation at an international level."

Since she was unable to locate a system that would provide "an early warning system for crisis detection and management," Athayde launched Spotter in 1998. Over the past decade, the company has invested 20 person-years in development and is now enjoying "overnight success. …

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