August 5, 2014

This Information Concierge Is Powered by Big Data

Alex Woodie

In a sea of big data, it can be nice to have a trusted hand to guide you. One firm that’s having success with its white-glove corporate intelligence service is FirstRain, which today announced it’s adapting the user experience of its big data-powered platform to better fit the needs of busy professionals who are increasingly inseparable from their mobile devices.

FirstRain makes a living by browsing the Internet in search of any piece of information that’s useful to its clients, who are typically executives, managers, and marketing and sales professionals at Fortune 500 and Global 2000 corporations. A collection of sophisticated algorithms extract meaning and determine relevance from the English language content published on news sites, social media sites, Twitter, company websites, countless blogs, regulatory filing, and other sources. The company then distills all the info down into what it believes is most pertinent for specific customers in specific industries, based on a graph model of global business, and delivers the results in a dashboard.

Hundreds of companies have subscribed to the service to give them a competitive edge in industries such as energy, telecommunications, IT, financial services, pharmaceuticals, and manufacturing. In January the San Mateo, California company received validation for its work when Dun & Bradstreet agreed to provide FirstRain-powered services through its various products.

Today FirstRain announced an update to its service that adds a twist to the general process. Instead of delivering insight via a PC-based dashboard, FirstRain is giving clients the option of using a mobile-optimized interface that integrates with users’ mobile calendars so that it can push the most pertinent info to users. This allows it to optimize information delivery according to a user’s schedule.first rain logo

It’s all about optimizing the flow of intelligence to extract the highest impact in corporate environments, says Faith Chiang, senior director of product and user experience at FirstRain.

“The information quality is stellar; we’ve never been anything but best-in-class there,” Chiang tells Datanami. “But we’re finding that as we’re trying to reach broader groups of users, that people who aren’t information junkies to begin with and people who don’t have that frame of mind, don’t know necessarily what to do with that information.”

In the emerging world of personal business analytics, software adapts to the user instead of requiring users to adapt to software. “In the attention economy, you don’t just need a resource but a proactive assistant, a trusted guide,” Chiang continues. “We really believe that FirstRain can be that…information concierge to provide you not just what you need to know, but maybe what you didn’t know you needed to know.”

FirstRain will be exploring other aspects of information delivery as part of its new FirstRain Labs initiative. The calendar functionality is the first product to come out of the Labs initiative, but there will be others, including potentially looking at less structured forms of data, such as TV, radio, and YouTube videos for intelligence, as well as ways to better optimize the delivery of that intelligence, says FirstRain COO YY Lee.

“The calendaring and other functions are really the tip of the iceberg across these types of …user analytics,” Lee says. “We know that if you’re somebody who just really focuses on single global major account, and you’re a sales person, you’re probably an expert at that company. We serve execs at GE that have literally multi-decade relationships with their customer…. Versus territory sales reps who might be looking at hundreds of companies.”

The company will look at all sorts of information sourcing and delivery mechanisms, but they must past certain criteria to be included in the service. “Across all the crazy paces we’re looking today, is there actually information that you can find [and] is it possible to pinpoint and deliver it to users in a way that’s usable at the right moments in their business day? Or are certain types of information only usable in certain contexts?” Lee says. “It’s about stepping down that ladder and becoming a really smart concierge that’s bringing that insight and analysis to you at the right moments.”

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