By Ultan O'Broin-Oracle on Mar 05, 2013
"Beer." Mark Burrell, Director of User Experience for Oracle Endeca Information Discovery, tells me the apocryphal story of the technology’s origins. “Some Princeton friends were struggling to find a commemorative beer on eBay. They concluded that humans should be able to easily find their way around messy, dynamic information." Using facets (or attributes) to navigate through self-describing, unstructured data, ones that could relate to each other, was the answer:
"Say you’re on a home repairs web site, searching for a washer. Endeca facets would let you discover if it is in appliances, in dishwashers, to find it by style, by size, and so on. Facets summarize the data and guide users in a way that makes sense to their world."
It’s been a rollercoaster ride since the founding "beer quest", with Endeca taking off as an industry leader in the e-commerce and information access world, followed by Oracle acquisition in 2011. Oracle Endeca Information Discovery is a real game changer for the enterprise, now answering million-dollar questions:
Consumerization of Analytics
I was gobsmacked that Mark designed the faceted search for the Irish car website carzone.ie. “Those horizontal sliders on price tested brilliantly. People even play with it” (I have!). Mark’s an evangelist for what user experience really means; his use of personal technology is one of problem solving in new, smart ways. He mentions using LinkedIn to discover professional relationships. Trulia’s faceted information for finding real estate by school district, commutes, and comparing buying and renting options impresses him. Pandora streaming Internet radio service is a fave for his music, with suggestions that are pure “serendipitous discovery”. And then there’s MIT’s Scratch, “computer programming made easy”. He loves the idea of snapping together components, enabling people to build cool stuff, fast.
This story of easily building magical experiences with stunning visualizations to make sense of a virtual world of information and discover new things is right there in the Endeca user experience, too. Mark tells me how Endeca technology explored a very large corpus of published medical data and discovered relationships between asthma and poverty and cockroaches when visualized as a tag cloud. I wonder how long such discovery would have taken, it at all, by manually poring over spreadsheets?
It’s “the consumerization of analytics. We’re in the age of insight,” says Mark.
How Oracle Endeca Information Discovery Works
At the back end, the Endeca engine indexes data, assigns metadata, and exposes salient terms and clusters of information as navigational facets. This provides for a layer of different visualizations and tools to let users easily explore the information.
Sure, traditional business intelligence, dashboards, analytics and so on, have been around for 20 years or more, but fundamentally they’re about the “how” – what formulas are used to show KPIs, for example. Endeca goes beyond that into the “why” of information, the “sweet spot” for decision makers, says Mark.
It’s the “magical” Endeca front end user experience with its visually compelling way of engaging the right users in the discovery of insight from the right information that enables great decisions and timely action, while measuring the results – conversion rates for example – and showing ROI.
For customizers, those great user experiences come easy. The Oracle Endeca Information Discovery Studio combined with a componentized architecture and baked-in best practices are the secret. Creating a geo-spatial visual UX, a cloud tag, or heat map for your data is simple.
Endeca user experience is based on some of the best interaction design patterns I’ve seen, informed by the power of their technology, design expertise and the consumerized expectations of users living and working in an increasingly mobile and social world of shopping and sharing on the go.
The Business of Information Discovery
Broadly, information discovery product use cases are everywhere. For example, with Endeca, a CPG company can understand what products are performing, in what markets, regions, and what users are saying and how they feel about products, vital in the social world of customer experience.
Endeca product offerings are represented by Oracle Endeca Information Discovery (for business intelligence and discovery of any type of information), as well as great e-commerce solutions with Oracle Endeca Customer Experience Manager and Oracle ATG, for example. The ease of use and integration capability makes the experience of working with existing Oracle applications even better too. Oracle Endeca Information Discovery is seamlessly integrated with Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12.1.3 to deliver superior data discovery with killer usability, matched by high performance and mobile capability too.
Big Data versus Bad Data
Clearly, Endeca is a Big Data sense maker, but I mention the problem of bad data and how analytics is this regard can become be lipstick on a pig. Mark counters that Endeca discovery “describes” data for users, enabling them to multiselect from points of interest. This “amazes customers; they can still explore their data and select what’s important”, he says.
New Interactions for Discovery
Mobile is a big opportunity for Endeca information discovery, especially for tablets Mark feels because of their form factor and the gestures and other device capabilities possible. Exploring a heat map with your fingertips, for example. Those Minority Report movie customer experience (CX) references that everyone likes to use, and offer so much promise, can now be brought to life in your hand, if you like.
Start Discovering Endeca
Developers and user experience aficionados who want to get started with Oracle Endeca Information Discovery should go to the YouTube channel and to the learning information on OTN. To find out more about Endeca applications check out oracle.com.
Thanks to Mark for the magical insights, and for tell us how Oracle Endeca makes information discovery easy and fun. Watch this space…