I was at a client's yesterday and saw a demo Attensity - a (newish) text analytics tool.
I have seen a few of these over the last couple of years. Mainly in the context of blog/message board/Web analysis - basically pulling text off the Internet and analyzing it for trends. This typically involved asking the software to look for something, which, as the Attensity guys made clear, is so 'text analytics 1.0'.
Attensity is a 'next generation' tool that does a thing called 'exhaustive extraction' (I think that was the term they used). It looks at everything and pulls out all relevant trends - not just the ones you were looking for. That is new. And it means that you're not guessing at what is and isn't important. Attensity understands the context in which certain topics are discussed and can roll up these contexts into trends - that is far from just collecting word or phrase frequencies.
It looks to be great for companies with a lot of data stored as text - emails, product feedback, maintenance records, etc. Text analysis really is one of those hairy problems few people have worked out. These guys look to have a good head-start.
It was also interesting to sit in a software demonstration when I'm involved in building a software application that will ultimately be put to a similar test (selling itself). This is maybe a separate post, but a few things I noticed in the pitch were:
- A technology story is not always compelling to a non-tech audience - the Attensity guys made a bit of a song and dance about how their product evolved, how it fitted into the whole Business Intelligence space, etc. Not interesting to people who have had nothing to do with the industry - this is the sort of thing that gets Gartner analysts excited, but means nothing to most other people.
- Ditch PowerPoint - or at least keep it to 20 slides, max. When trying to sell something to a business audience, you just have to answer one question, 'how will this tool make my life easier?' That's it. You don't need a long PP to do that, just a few slides and a product demo. When they get it, they will get it.
- Get strategic - this is a knowledge tool, its value resides in the decisions you make off the back of the information it provides. Even though as a salesman for the software company you might not know a lot about the business you are pitching to, you have to get to the decision point - somehow. That's where the pain is, and it's the pain you are trying to chase down and relieve.