Search, Unstructured Data Management, and CRM – My Take

I wanted to follow up on Colin’s post, for two reasons.  One, this is a topic near and dear to me. And secondly, my Bloglines reader is not working so I haven’t been able to scan the blogosphere effectively enough to think of anything else to write about. Just kidding…maybe.

In 2005 I co-authored a long report called “Text-Aware Applications: The Endgame for Unstructured Data Analysis” (Yeah, I know, long name). In the report we looked at many types of technologies looking to get at that “last mile” of information – text and other data sets that do not fit neatly and squarely into a relational database.

At the time, this was a pretty forward thinking report. Nowadays, everyone is dealing with some form of semi-structured or unstructured content. Call me prescient.

But in the report I did point out that CRM vendors would become the axis of unstructured data management – mainly because all of this data out there was either being written by, for or about customers. Makes sense to keep this data in a CRM system, right? But when it comes to search and unstructured data, I have a unique viewpoint.

I feel search is like a front line attack when it comes to the massive amounts of data out there – or in more plain terms – a nice start. For ad hoc queries, for trying to find answers to a question you already know- search can be great. But…what about when you do not know the question you want to ask?

This is where strong analysis tools come in. These tools can search millions of re-occurring phrases, relationships between individuals or groups of people on the web, voices in messageboards and blogs – and roll all of this up in trend data that can be very valuable for market research and other CRM related initiatives.

So, to follow up on Colin’s points – it is great to see these different types of technologies – search and analysis- converging in cool tools like InsideView’s SalesView (which of course works seamlessly out of the box right inside SugarCRM). These pre-packaged tools are fast, cheap and easy to use. Sales reps and marketers can take advantage of these functions almost immediately.

In 2005, this wasn’t the case. But it is amazing to see how far we’ve come in terms of the cost, deployment time and ease of use in just three years. (I predicted 24 months…I was a little off…sue me.)