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One-on-One with InforSense
Dave Menninger, VP Global Marketing & Product Management

by Peter Traynor, Editor in Chief, Dashboard InsightWednesday, April 30, 2008

Dashboard Insight's Peter Traynor recently spoke with Dave Menninger, VP Global Marketing & Product Management at InforSense and they discussed corporate strategy and product development at InforSense.

Peter Traynor: Dave, what’s new at InforSense?

Dave Menninger: We recently announced a number of new products, specifically VisualSense, Document Explorer, Workflow Library and Virtual Machine, which are all technology enhancements; and Translational Medicine Solution, which is a solution targeted to our core market of life sciences.

PT: Life sciences is one of your big markets, right?

DM: Yes. We do about 60-70% of our business in the life science segment. Just to give you a quick recap of the year – it was a really good year for us. We grew from 75 employees to 125 employees and, over the course of the last two years, we’ve more than doubled our revenue. So things are going pretty well.

A couple of elements of recognition I can mention are that we were just selected as a Finalist in the Red Herring 100 Europe 2008 and also named as one of the Top 25 companies in The Sunday Times Microsoft Tech Track 100.

PT: That’s excellent, congratulations.

DM: We’re really well represented in the pharmaceutical industry with 12 of the top 15 pharmaceuticals.

InforSense is focused on delivering analytics as part of the process and embedding it into an organization. Bill Gassman recently talked about the convergence of business intelligence with business process management and we fit quite well into that space.

We do, as I mentioned, real-time analysis and one of the technologies I’ll talk about in this new product set deals specifically with some scoring services and a new product for interactive visualization. Obviously there’s a lot going on in the market – a lot of consolidation. We think that really creates more opportunity for us.

One of the comments at the Keynotes at the Gartner BI Summit in Chicago was that the megavendors would be tied up with integrating their product stacks. The other comment was whether the game is over. No, the game is not over. Innovation and new vendors are coming into the market and will fill the void that the big vendors are leaving.

PT: That will be an interesting space to watch. Tell me more about your products.

DM: There are 4 new product announcements relative to the technology stack and one related to the applications. The first product is VisualSense. VisualSense is an interactive visualization product. Companies like Spotfire, Visor, Tableau and so forth are in the same space. We’ve created our own thin client visualization technology to supplement what we’ve been doing. So we’ve partnered with Spotfire for some time now but we want to be able to offer an end-to-end solution. We continue to partner with Spotfire and they’re well entrenched in the life sciences community and there will be “co-opetition”. We’ve had this conversation with Spotfire’s Chris Ahlberg that we’re not a visualization company. We’re a BI platform company.

As part of our platform, we offer data integration capabilities. It doesn’t mean that we’re a direct competitor with Informatica but, by the same token, we want to be able to offer an end-to-end solution.

Another product is Workflow Library which enables organizations to collaborate, manage and share the various analyses they create using InforSense. The analytical workflows can be posted to a central repository along with comments, documentation and versioning information. Document Explorer is a thin client navigation and visualization tool for text mining. The point here is that while the “Search” function is very well understood and very common it is not very effective. Everybody’s done the Google search where you get back a million hits – that doesn’t really help you. Document Explorer provides the capability to combine domain-specific categorization of documents with free text searches resulting in a much more precise set of search results.

PT: So news feeds, blogs, you name it – any kind of unstructured data out there?

DM: Comment fields in customer service, database, RSS, blogs and forums, HTML pages, you know, searching the web and so forth.

PT: Does it take a long time to set that up?

DM: There are two elements to it. One is identifying the feeds – what sources you want to analyze, and the other is training. So if you’re deriving the ontology, you want to do some training to eliminate noise. Some of it is parts of speech but some of it is just terms that are not really important but occur a lot.

PT: So you have to continue to teach it?

DM: Yes. You set it up and extract terms and phrases and review them over a period of time designating some as “unimportant” so that they do not rise to the top and show up as high-level characterizations of documents.

PT: Can you give some examples of where this would be applied?

DM: Well, the life sciences community does a lot of searching of patents and publications for research and knowledge management obviously makes sense with internal document repositories.

We’ve seen it applied in asset management where news releases are analyzed. It is also used in customer service applications for analyzing positive and negative sentiments.

Another application is compliance analysis where you’re trying to determine how best to deal with different claims. For example, the city of New York gets an inordinate number of liability claims filed against them every year. For a million-dollar claim, for example, the city may predict based on the documents they have associated with the claim that it’s more than likely that there will be litigation. And while they may not be able to predict with certainty that they will win, there is still enough of a chance and the value of fighting it is worth it.

PT: Can you put a number on that - like a percentage?

DM: Yes. It’s all based on numbers and percentages. So there’s a weight for the type of document and there’s a weight for the certain levels of evidence within the document.

PT: That’s really interesting. The other place I thought this might work is investor relations in large companies – finding out what the sentiment out there about the company is.

DM: When we talk about customer sentiment I use the phrase “asset management” and that’s exactly where we apply that. So fund managers, be it investor relations or the people actually managing the portfolios are using that information to get some sense of what might be happening with the investment.

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