At the Shell Corporation, geologists plan oil exploration with a custom interface to petroleum research, customized for Shell by Dialog.
Underwriters at the Royal & SunAlliance insurance company conduct risk analysis with a custom application that integrates local data with competitive intelligence from OneSource.
Clientelligence, a research firm serving sales forces, mines COMTEX to provide sales people with highly specific information on prospective clients.
At the Lois Paul & Partners public relations agency, associates build their own client-centered newsfeeds, employing a user-friendly interface to Factiva.
The examples in the boxes on the left illustrate the information-intensive environment of today's enterprise knowledge workers. The workplace has been redefined as a rich data universe, from which customized content streams directly (almost transparently) to the individual knowledge worker's desktop. The days when end-users grappled fruitlessly with arcane command searching at destination sites are gone. The era of frustrating, scattershot Internet searching may be nearing its end.
This new workplace has emerged as a direct result of the rapid and exciting advances in information management, networking, and interface design; these forces have combined to unlock content that has long hovered just out of reach for potential users. Mission-critical business, news, and financial information may have been online for more than a decade, but this information has been under-exploited because no genuinely user-oriented infrastructures existed. However, over time, significant vendor/client partnerships have been forged resulting in the construction of the requisite infrastructure to connect content and knowledge workers' desktops.
Because of today's powerful application tools, these infrastructures can be readily customized to the unique needs of the individual enterprise and knowledge worker. However, there are common elements that characterize state-of-the-art enterprise external content applications:
- Access to authoritative business, news, company, financial, market, and technical data.
- Customized data sets and interfaces, at host, enterprise, and desktop levels.
- Desktop interfaces that integrate local and external content.
- Customized views for different departments, from the R&D lab to the sales force to the executive suite.
- "Push" and "pull" options, enabling automatically fed content as well as user-defined searches.
- Enterprise-wide, flat-rate pricing plans that encourage widespread use.
- Fall-back reliance upon enterprise libraries and information centers for advanced research.