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The Business Context for Unstructured Information Mining

In parallel to, and in collaboration with, technological progress, businesses have adapted and evolved to better leverage structured and unstructured information analytical capabilities. This is part of a larger phenomenon sometimes referred to as the co-evolution of business and technology.

The Enterprise Ecosystem

Gone is the day of the monolithic enterprise. To create efficiencies, most industries have disaggregated into their component parts. For example, in the automotive industry, the manufacturers do not mine the ore to make the steel to fabricate the parts that make up their products. All of these tasks are performed by specialized companies for the automotive industry, and as many other potential industries and customers as possible, in order to maximize their return on investment. Similarly, as a consumer, you do not actually buy or service your vehicle from the manufacturer, but there is a selection of dealers and service providers to choose from. Today's enterprise exists in a complex network of suppliers, vendors, business partners, competitors, and industries, which we call the enterprise ecosystem (see Figure 1-1).

Figure 1-1

Figure 1-1 The Enterprise Ecosystem

;An increasingly important aspect of the enterprise ecosystem that creates an integrating backdrop is the information space. This consists of all human knowledge accumulated in its various forms: written, spoken, and otherwise. This is manifested in communication mediums such as newspaper, magazines, books, television, and the Web. With the growth of the internet and electronic media, the rate of growth in the information space is increasing exponentially. But more information is not always better. Figuring out what is important is becoming an increasingly difficult problem.

Services Industry Growth

A second trend in the evolution of business is the significant growth of the services sector. Over the last century, the world's labor force has migrated from agriculture to goods manufacturing to services (see Figure 1-2). This largely has to do with efficiency gains in agricultural and manufacturing processes through technological innovation and labor optimization. There is no reason to believe that this won't occur in the services sector as well, so the advantage will go to those who lead in this process, not those who ignore it or resist it.

Figure 1-2

Figure 1-2 Services industry growth

So why is this important in the context of Mining the Talk? Services, by their nature, are more unstructured. Services involve an interaction between the service provider and the customer. Customers are integral to the process, because they are involved with the co-production of value between a provider and a consumer. This makes each transaction inherently unique. When modeling or capturing this process, this uniqueness or variability lends itself to a more unstructured representation. With the explosion of the services sector and its affinity to unstructured information, the ability to extract value from this information will only grow in importance.

One of the techniques to create efficiencies in agriculture and manufacturing was process standardization. This is made somewhat more difficult in services with customers in the loop, because in many cases, they may not care about your process efficiencies. We can all relate to being annoyed by complex phone navigation trees to try to get to the right person or service to handle our concern. It is clear that business process standardization will continue and is necessary, but those who do it most effectively without alienating customers will have a distinct advantage.

From Transaction to Interactions and Relationships

It is no longer sufficient to only look at the attributes of a transaction with customers at the boundary of the enterprise to understand your business. Businesses need to look at the lifecycle of their interactions within the business ecosystem (see Figure 1-3). This means all of the interactions that you have with your customers, suppliers, business partners, employees, and competitors, as well as the industries and economies in which you compete. On its face, this can seem either obvious, insurmountable, or both. However, there is hope, and Mining the Talk will help get you there.

Figure 1-3

Figure 1-3 Interaction lifecycle

How many times have you heard the sage business advice, "listen to your customers"? Although this is good advice, it is necessary but not sufficient. You will also need to listen to your employees, because they are closest to the action. Your vendors, suppliers, and business partners are also a source of incredible information. In addition, the information space, what is being said in the press, on the Web, and in the technical literature, are other sources that can be utilized. All of this requires constant attention and monitoring. These are not transactions to be counted and sorted, but they are ongoing interactions and relationships that need to be understood and leveraged.

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