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Five Advantages of Unified Information Access (UIA)

By Sid Probstein
August 6, 2010 03:12 PM ET

CIO - The first wave of enterprise search helped companies tap into the world of text+, sometimes referred to as "unstructured" or "semi-structured" information. Primary drivers included the need to monetize digital content, reduce risk through compliance, or increase employee, customer and partner productivity. These early implementations provided significant value and solved important problems; they also demonstrated limitations that have lead to demand for the next generation -- Unified Information Access (UIA).

This article details the top 5 most important reasons the world's most visionary enterprises are upgrading to UIA.

1. Competitive Advantage

A recent survey of legacy enterprise search deployments for internal use found that the best implementations saved users, on average, more than six hours in productivity per week. Less effective deployments averaged less than one hour of savings. What made the difference? The best implementations focused on providing as much information as possible to the end user through a search interface. Those that provided less benefit were driven by concerns about cost, TCO and numbers of supported file formats.

This should not be surprising. Numerous studies over the past two decades have identified information silos as a major barrier to productivity.

But search has significant limitations; it deals primarily with raw unstructured information -- blocks of text. Many popular examples of 'great search' use carefully prepared content such as that found in content management systems; others focus on office documents usually found on file servers. Incorporating information from other enterprise systems like e-mail, collaboration systems, CRM and ERP systems, etc, can be very challenging -- especially if they offer complex or granular security. Meeting this challenge is the key for those who use productivity as a competitive advantage.

Beyond the impact on end-users, there is the impact on IT itself. While it sometimes can be done, implementing UIA solutions with a search engine and database can be costly! Simply setting up a database and search engine can be difficult; adding business logic to let the application use either repository, let alone both at once, can be complex and difficult. UIA platforms remove a majority of these barriers and streamline the actual interactions with the application; instead of multiple queries against multiple repositories, a single query retrieves all of the information across all of the sources. The only real work is to render the results. UIA reduces the risk and complexity for a single project. As you implement multiple projects the savings is magnified dramatically as the value gained in one project becomes gravy for the next.

Of course productivity is just one advantage of UIA. Being able to analyze information of all types very rapidly unlocks a variety of new doors. For example it may be possible to create new conversion or profit-driving analytics that use unstructured data created by users during service interactions. It may help make better decisions by bringing in and analyzing the opinion (or sentiment) gathered from both internal and external sources. Or it may create new sales opportunities by supporting complex subscription/access models. Any of these can be a major driver of revenue or profits.

This story is reprinted from CIO.com, an online resource for information executives. Story Copyright CXO Media Inc., 2012. All rights reserved.
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