JUN 18, 2010 5:15am ET

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Information Applications is a New Technology Category Designed for Business and IT

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In today’s world, without information there is no business. That is, without having the right information and making it available to the right people at the right time, an organization cannot be fully informed, make the right decisions and act on them, and compete effectively enough to survive and prosper. That much is a given. Finding ways to ensure that an organization’s information is available, timely and in the right form is a complex, ongoing process; I call it the ”secret sauce” that is needed for efficiency and profitability.
 
That need for information grows particularly acute as economic and competitive pressures flatten and thin the workforce; being able to act faster and smarter with fewer people involved requires ready access to information across a broad scope of needs. The traditional model of acquiring it – requesting answers from an analyst team or asking the IT organization for reports or changes to how data is presented – is today a recipe for competitive failure. Information should be available everywhere on demand in the form needed and through the channel requested, regardless of how or where it is stored. The information should be in a context relevant to the workforce areas that need it – marketing, operations, customer service, sales, field service, manufacturing and others. And in the global marketplace it must be available not just for the internal workforce but also for the external range of consumers, customers, suppliers and partners.
 
The increasingly large numbers of consumers seeking to interact with businesses or to interface with government entities through the Internet place intense pressures on information assets and access mechanisms. This demand can stretch the effort of  managing information to the breaking point: If the business or agency fails to take the steps required to make information easily accessible through portals, Web browsers and mobile devices, the clamor for more resources to support interactions at physical locations, telephone call centers and online interfaces will continue to drive costs skyward. And at the same time consumer satisfaction will plummet as people grow increasingly frustrated at being unable to conduct business or find what they want to know through the channels of their choice.
 
We all understand that data is a commodity in business, but information – data in a specific business context, today including content, text and rich media – is not. An emerging type of application is designed to make the right information available to employees, customer, suppliers, partners, visitors and consumers at the exactly right moment. Our firm has defined this focus in the market as a new category called information applications, and we are explaining to business and IT the opportunity for making information more available through a robust platform and tools with which these applications can be assembled, deployed and modified in a short timeframe. Information applications are built on new technologies that enable individuals to gain access to individual items or related sets of information through search and navigation and to interact with it. The information sought could be about a customer or location or could be a metric showing historical performance – no matter what it is, these applications can access and present it dynamically, and they are simple for anyone to use without training or having to involve others. Under the hood, though, deploying the capabilities to assemble and present the information requires planning. I have written about this new market category often (See: “Information Applications: New Focus on Information Availability“ and  “Information Applications: New Generation of Information Technologies “) since I started this research focus a couple of years ago. My colleague has put the use of information applications in the context of customer management (See: “Better Customer Management using Information Applications“.
 
The platform must handle both large volumes of information requests from individuals and the breadth of the content and data residing inside and outside the organization needed to answer them; at the same time it must maintain high performance and scalability potential. It must rank high in usability, offer flexibility in user interfaces and be accessible from many applications, portals and mobile devices. In short, the platform must serve as a foundation for the organization’s information architecture, supporting information access and discovery, and interactive action-taking and decision-making through collaboration.

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