In-Depth

Factiva

Project Information

a.Company and division name: Factiva, a Dow Jones and Reuters Company
b. Web site URL: www.factiva.com
c. Project designation: Factiva Insight™: Reputation Intelligence
d. Brief explanation of the goals of the project:

The goal of the project was to develop a powerful new tool that for the first time empowers executives to monitor known issues and discover emerging opportunities and threats from across the mainstream media, radio and television transcripts and consumer-generated content, including blogs and message boards, in one solution and also enables executives to create effective reputation and brand management strategies that tie to business objectives and drive competitive advantage.

Brief description of the business risks involved:

The introduction of Factiva Insight™: Reputation Intelligence posed a risk because companies have not yet realized how consumer generated media can affect corporate reputation, so it required creating awareness in the marketplace. Additionally, the solution was the first to enter the market, so Factiva needed to demonstrate the need for the solution, creating sales challenges.

Brief description of how the system helps users

Factiva Insight™: Reputation Intelligence enables executives to create effective reputation and brand management strategies that tie to business objectives and drive competitive advantage. Factiva Insight: Reputation Intelligence provides the sophisticated tools to sift though millions of pages of information, and visualize potential threats as well as hard-to-spot opportunities. It all adds up to tremendous competitive advantage. Recognizing the crucial needs of today’s corporate executives, the tool provides communicators, CEOs and brand managers with compelling evidence of both the effectiveness of their strategies on their corporate reputation as well as unseen threats to their reputation. This information can be analyzed in conjunction with share price, sales revenues, and other internal data, including lead generation and customer calls, as a means of measuring media impact on the company’s key performance indicators.


Organizational Objectives

a. What short- and long-term benefits did the organization achieve from the project? Did the solution meet the projected goals for saving time and money? How were benefits measured? Was the system mission-critical to the organization?

The main benefit was that the organization obtained a product it could introduce to the marketplace in a relatively short time. In the longer term, it received a flexible platform upon which a family of text mining products will be delivered, delivering additional value for the initial investment.

The main purpose of the solution was not intended to save time or money, but rather to allow new revenue streams to be developed for Factiva. It met this goal as major enterprises around the globe are leveraging Factiva Insight: Reputation Intelligence. However, because it was a solution that could also be utilized by Factiva’s internal public relations team, it has subsequently enabled Factiva to determine what is being said about the company in consumer generated media and mainstream media and to determine the effect of its own communication strategies. In this regard, it has saved the company significant time and money with not having to sift through unlimited blogs and pages of information. While extremely important to the organization, the project was not mission-critical, per se.

Describe the business purpose of the new system.

To fully understand corporate reputation, companies need to pay close attention to what is being said not only in the media but in blogs, message boards and online media too. The problem that companies face is the sheer volume of information makes it impossible to read and analyze its impact on their business - until now. Factiva Insight: Reputation Intelligence provides the sophisticated tools to sift though millions of pages of information, and visualize potential threats as well as seize hard to spot opportunities. Factiva Insight: Reputation Intelligence enables communications executives to understand how perceptions found in the media and public opinion affect their company’s bottom line so they can formulate proactive reputation and brand management strategies. Factiva is the only solution that combines the power to discover emerging opportunities and threats in time to influence their outcome, objectively demonstrate the effectiveness of a company’s communications strategies and compare that information with their business metrics.It all adds up to tremendous competitive advantage.

Describe the features of the new system.

In addition to nearly all active sources from Factiva’s collection of 9,000 authoritative sources, including The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones’ and Reuters’ newswires, Factiva Insight: Reputation Intelligence tracks more than 12,000 current awareness Web sites, 6,000 message boards and the most influential of 20 million identified blogs.

The product features include:
  • Monitors issues across competitors, messages and regions for a broad view of how a company is perceived.
  • Compares issues and messages across products and competitors to gauge mind share, perception and overall effectiveness of communication strategies.
  • Discovers key trends and threats to your corporate reputation as they build in consumer-generated media so that a company can influence their outcome.
  • Trends issues historically as an indicator of future threats and opportunities to stay ahead of competition.
  • Correlates perception in the media to business outcomes such as share price to measure the effectiveness of communications strategies.
Explain the functions of the new system.

The content is delivered into an easy-to-use, web-based reputation analysis tool. The new tool uses subject-matter experts from the Factiva Reputation Lab™ together with sophisticated text mining and visualization technologies. Graphical reports deliver decision-ready data from nearly all active sources from Factiva’s collection of 9,000 authoritative sources (including The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones’ and Reuters’ newswires), more than 12,000 current-awareness Web sites, 6,000 message boards and the most influential of 20 million identified blogs. These reports illustrate the market’s perception of a company or organization, its brands, products, services and competitors.

Who were the internal sponsors of the project? Which officials or groups were opposed to developing the application? Why?

Factiva employed a dedicated Business Champion that served as the main sponsor of the project and that helped to see the project through completion. Because Factiva was forging a new market and expanding its presence, the project generated enthusiastic support within the company from employees, executives and the leadership team.

<>Were users of the system involved in the project during the planning and development phases? If so, how?

Yes. Following initial development, users were given access to preliminary versions of the tool and their feedback was considered in the design and implementation of follow-up releases.

<>What were the greatest challenges in completing this project? How were they overcome?

Among the project’s challenges were: Presenting an interface that is both informative and easy to understand. Many data visualizations underwent several revisions on paper. Additionally, some visualizations were implemented more than once. At several points, the design was presented to potential users and revised to enhance the information, yet simplify the presentation.

Forging a coherent and effective team despite numerous personnel changes. Factiva’s model is to create teams with various levels of expertise and to rotate senior members on and off of teams for flexibility and so that can manage multiple projects at once. As such, these resources were frequently brought onto and removed from the team. The otherwise fragmenting effect of this was mitigated by having frequent team meetings and pairing team members to facilitate knowledge exchange.
Prior to developing the final product, Factiva had originally partnered with a technology company, but decided to end co-development of Factiva Insight for Reputation. Factiva’s early adopter findings led us to conclude that the ability to trend results over time is paramount to success of Factiva Insight for Reputation. As such, Factiva was required to evaluate a different partner.
Were the goals changed as the project progressed? If so, what were the changes and why were they made?

While several aspects of the project did change throughout its lifetime, the overarching goal remained constant: to build the first product in the market that analyzes large numbers of documents and detects relevant patterns and trends in this corpus for a customer. The tool would also empower executives to monitor known issues and discover emerging opportunities and threats from across the mainstream media, radio and television transcripts and consumer-generated content, including blogs and message boards, in one solution.


III. Category

Please indicate the Innovator Award category as listed below. (Categories reflect the editorial organization of Application Development Trends. Many projects can reasonably be fit into multiple categories. Try to fit your project into the category that best reflects the tools and technologies used. Don’t worry about whether you picked the right category; we will review all submissions carefully and will make changes where appropriate.

The Factiva Insight: Reputation Intelligence best fits into the “Data Warehousing” category. It is characterized by a design, development processes and tools used in enterprise data warehousing projects, Specifically, it employs text mining technology, data extraction and transformation tools, online transaction processing systems, database management systems and various reporting software.


THE PROJECT


IV. Methodology/Process

Describe how productivity tools or techniques were used in the project.

A series of prototypes were produced and presented to the Business Champion to quickly arrive at correct project requirements. In addition, the project employed a Rapid Application Development tool to facilitate software implementation and testing.

Were testing tools used during development? If so, when were they used? Was the testing cost-effective?

Performance testing tools were used to measure user response time. These tools were used late in the development cycle, but served to confirm assumptions that the overall system performance was optimum. The testing was cost effective and necessary.

Was a formal or informal software development life-cycle methodology employed? If yes, please describe it.

A fairly informal, flexible software development life-cycle methodology was employed. Initial requirements were generated, followed by brief phases of establishing a technical approach, design and implementation. Early implementation results of key or potentially problematic areas were shared with the requirements team. Where necessary, requirements were revised and the process iterated. Eventually, more substantial system implementation was achieved and a series of releases were made available to a detached test group. This initiated a cycle of defect detection and correction which continued up to and beyond launch of the solution.

What formal or informal project management methodologies and/or tools were used to manage the project? If used, please describe how.

The project used informal techniques for project management. These included requirements analysis and decomposition into work tasks; estimation of resource requirements via work tasks; establishment of rough schedules; assignment of work tasks to team members and tracking of tasks to schedule. Work assignments and requirements were adjusted where necessary and the process iterated.

Were software quality metrics used? If so, what were they, and did using them significantly help the project?

Prior to launch, defects were tracked in a centralized system. The number and rate of discovery of defects allowed the team to judge the quality of the software and determine the risk when deciding to launch.


V. Technology

What were the major technical challenges that had to be overcome to complete the project successfully? How did the team respond to those challenges?

The major technical challenge was to process huge volumes of data with acceptable user response times. As such, various system optimizations were instituted to reduce user response time. These included the denormalization and caching of results.

What software tools, including databases, operating systems and all development tools, were selected for the project? Why were they selected over competing tools? What process was used to select develop­ment tools and software platforms?

Several COTS software tools were used in the project including:

  • Full Text Search Engine – for mining content against a set of customer-specific queries.
  • Linguistic Analyzer – for the extraction of interesting phrases.
  • Relational Database Management System – to manage application configuration and result data.
  • An interface generation tool capable of producing applications with rich, dynamic content – to render data relationship visualizations.
  • Microsoft Windows and Unix-family operating systems – to run applications,databases and development tools.
  • J2EE Application Development Environment – to develop the end-user application
  • J2EE Application Server – to run the end-user application.

These technologies were selected after aggressive evaluation of competing tools. Collectively, the team determined that these technologies would help Factiva to put forth a flexible, high-performing and cost effective solution.

<>Describe the overall system architecture. Were elements of the technical infrastructure put in place to support the new system? Please describe.

The overall system architecture dictates cooperating distributed systems as follows:
The system architecture consists of a traditional 3-tier architecture: a web tier, a business logic tier and a backend tier. Content from various providers is collected and transformed to a common format. Texts flow into a Text Mining component which is responsible for extracting relevant portions of the texts. These excerpts are sent to an application which implements business logic by aggregating and summarizing the results of the Text Mining output. This application supplies the web tier with data which, in turn, presents results to the user via standard web technologies. Text that flows from one system is expressed in standard formats, specified by XML schemas.

<>What characteristics of the tools and technologies used were most important in achieving the business purposes of the system?

Expressing data in XML enabled a flexible mechanism for Factiva to be able to describe data of interest and rich relationships among them.

The J2EE environment provides fertile and robust collection of support classes. Further, its software architecture encourages problem solving at a higher level, thus allowing developers to spend a higher proportion of their time addressing business goals.


VI. ProjectTeam

What was the size of the development team?

The size of the team varied between 6 and 11 members over various portions of its lifetime.

Describe the software development experience of the team members.

Factiva formed a robust team of professionals to develop and oversee Factiva Insight: Reputation Intelligence including the vice president of product at Factiva who has been responsible for innovation and development of products that put advanced technologies to work solving customers’ strategic business issues. Other members of the team had at minimum five years experience developing technologies. Collectively, the team possessed more than 100 years of development and management experience. Factiva’s model is to create teams with various levels of expertise and to rotate senior members on and off of teams for flexibility and so that can manage multiple projects at once. As such, these resources were frequently brought onto and removed from the team. While, the experience varied and some team members had worked only on relatively self-contained, independent modules while others had developed full scale distributed systems, Factiva formed the right team to get the job done.

What was the composition and skill level of the team? Did development teams require training to work with the technology?

Collectively, the team possessed more than 100 years of development and management experience and the vice president of product spearheaded the initiative. Other members of the team had at minimum five years experience developing components for distributed systems, but some were new to the specific technologies they were asked to work with. A number of senior team members had had significant experience architecting and designing J2EE-based high performance systems, but required that middle management and some junior members of the team also develop the expertise.

Training, where needed, occurred somewhat “on the fly”: team members took online e-learning courses and consulted other reference resources (Internet support groups, paper and online books, etc.). Additionally, team members with specific expertise trained other team members with less experience.

How many person-months/days did the project take, and over what calendar
time frame? Was a formal schedule created at the start of the project? Did the project stay on schedule?

The project was developed over roughly two calendar years and consumed 185 person-months.

Did management and the user community consider the project a success?

Both management and the user community do consider the project a success. Today, major enterprises around the globe are leveraging Factiva Insight: Reputation Intelligence to monitor known issues and discover emerging opportunities and threats to the organization.

If you had to do the project over again, would you do anything differently? If yes, please explain why.

If Factiva were to do the project over again, the company would endeavor to gather more end-user feedback earlier in the process.


strong>Developing Factiva Insight:

Reputation Intelligence was a new and cutting edge technology that also forged a new market for Factiva. As such, Factiva would spend more time to determine more precisely the true needs and priorities of the user.

Factiva would also allocate more time and place a higher degree of emphasis on refactoring code as it was being developed and tested. Occasionally, either for reasons of expediency or not having a clear enough idea of how the software needed to evolve, components were designed in a suboptimal manner. This would sometimes cause scheduling delays down the road when other components had to accommodate for deficiencies in collaborating components. These foresights may have helped Factiva to produce the product ahead of schedule.

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