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If you have a lot of information, there are implied and hidden relationships in your data. Using Semantic Web technologies will help you find them.
Businesses have much the same information management dilemma as the federal government. They have suborganizations, divisions, groups, and projects that have sources of information. To tap the power of these groups, you need to combine the information of groups and understand the relationships between them. The simplest example that we are accustomed to is the status report process. Each employee writes a status report. A manager takes all the status reports and combines them into a project status report. The project manager's division director takes the project status report and creates a division status report. Finally, his or her boss compiles the division status reports into an executive summary and gives it to the president of the company. During this process, information is filtered so that the end product is an understandable report used to make decisions. Unfortunately, important information is almost always left out—especially with respect to the relationships between the work that is being accomplished in individual projects.
Work is being done in creating semantic-enabled decision support systems (DSSs) that focus on software agent analysis and interaction between the end user and computer system for decision making, in order to empower the end user to make informed decisions.3 Even without decision support systems,
3M. Casey and M. Austin, "Semantic Web Methodologies for Spatial Decision Support," University of Maryland, Institute for Systems Research and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, November 2001.
The Business Case for the Semantic Web
software agents can monitor your knowledge base and provide alerts. In a 2001 article in Information Week, Duncan Johnson-Watt, CTO of Enigmatic Corp., provided another example, suggesting that if SEC filings contain semantic tags, regulators or investors could create programs to automatically alert them to red flags such as insider stock selling.4 To make superior decisions, you need to have superior knowledge. The Semantic Web allows you to get there.
It is important for members of your organization to have up-to-the minute information that could help you win business. In most cases, your organization can't afford to fly all the members of your corporate brain trust out with your sales staff. Imagine a scenario where your salesperson is in a meeting with a potential customer. During the discussion, your salesperson discovers that the customer is very interested in a certain topic. The potential customer says, "We're thinking about hiring a company to build an online e-commerce system that uses biometric identification." If your salesperson is able to reach into your corporate knowledge base quickly, he or she may be able to find important information that takes advantage of the opportunity. By quickly using your corporate knowledge base, your salesperson could quickly respond by saying, "We just wrote a white paper on that topic yesterday, and engineers prototyped an internal biometric solution last month. Would you like me to arrange a demonstration?" Because of the Semantic Web working in your organization, you are able to open the doors to new business.
Competitive proposals could be another important use of your company's Semantic Web. If you have more knowledge about potential customers, the proposed task to bid on, and what skill sets they are looking for, you have a better chance of winning. If you had a growing knowledge base where old status reports, old proposals, lessons learned, and competitive intelligence were all interconnected, there is a possibility that you may have a nugget of information that will be valuable for this proposal. If your proposal team was able to enter information in your knowledge base, and you had a software agent to analyze that information, your agents may able to "connect the dots" on information that you had but didn't realize it.
Customer relationship management (CRM) enables collaboration between partners, customers, and employees by providing relevant, personalized information from a variety of data sources within your organization. These solutions have become key in helping to retain customer loyalty, but a barrier to creating such a solution has been the speed in integrating legacy data sources, as well as the ability to compare information across domains in your
4David Ewalt, "The Next Web," Information Week, October 10, 2002, http://www .informationweek.com/story/IWK20021010S0016.
enterprise. Using the technologies discussed in this book will allow companies to create a smarter CRM solution.
E-commerce industry experts believe that the Semantic Web can be used in matchmaking for ebusiness. Matchmaking is a process in which businesses are put in contact with potential business partners or customers. Traditionally, this process is handled by hired brokers, and many have suggested creating a matchmaking service that handles advertising services and querying for advertised services. Experts argue that only Semantic Web technologies can sufficiently meet these requirements, and they believe that the Semantic Web can automate matchmaking and negotiation.5