• May 8, 2009
  • By Jessica Tsai, Assistant Editor, CRM magazine

Attensity Group to Tackle Unstructured Data

A merger that's been a few months in the making, Attensity, Empolis GmbH, and Living-e AG formally announced today that they have united as one software company. The solution seeks to help business users tap into their wealth of unstructured data (e.g., contact center notes, in-bound customer queries, reports, customer emails, web pages, discussion papers, text, sound and video) and use advanced semantic technology to deliver better products and services.

Since the end of last year, the companies have been working on integrating their respective solutions, with plans of full integration by the end of 2009. In North America, the company will be referred to as Attensity Americas, headquartered in Palo Alto. Given Empolis's well-established name in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), the company, headquartered in Kaiserslautern, Germany, will for now be referred to as "Empolis, an Attensity Group company." Attensity Group is waiting to purchase the remaining 2 percent share of Living-e; until then, the company is still technically a separate entity that will work with Empolis to cover the EMEA market.

The Attensity Group will employ approximately 300 people and now has over 500 customers in the Americas and EMEA, with an expected annual revenue of $40 million to $50 million. While there were few customer overlaps, the business style and vertical focus-retail, manufacturing, financial services, and media/publishing-remains much the same.

Aeris Capital AG, a privately held, Switzerland-based firm owned by Klaus Tschira, cofounder of SAP, is the primary investor in the new company. Attensity Group's Chief Executive Officer Ian Bonner and Global Chief Technology Officer Ian Hersey come from enterprise software giants IBM and SAP, respectively. "These are people who know what they're doing," says Seth Grimes, a principal of consultancy Alta Plana.

Attensity boasts its robust text analytics software for "First Person Intelligence," rooted in its focus on deriving intelligence from unstructured data to capture the "voice of the customer." Empolis brings its expertise in information management applications, with strong vertical capabilities, particularly in email management. Living-e supports intelligent multichannel communication as well as information management solutions. By combining the companies' offerings and technologies, explains Michelle de Haaff, chief marketing officer at Attensity Group, "companies can go out, get information, scrape it, analyze it, and feed it back into the service process."

The highlights of the solution include:

  • an e-service suite equipped with a knowledge base and workflows and automated response management;
  • voice of the customer analysis of customer feedback;
  • market voice listening capabilities to track and understand online buzz;
  • search and classification functions to aid in early detection of problematic issues; and
  • analytics to understand the content, context and connections between individuals, events, and places.

Together, Attensity Group is better positioned to compete on a global scale in the text analytics space. The union, Alta Plana's Grimes says, "will be more than the sum of the parts."

"Text analytics is a tremendously useful tool but it needs to be part of something larger-a larger application, a larger platform," says Sue Feldman, research vice president of search and discovery technologies at consultancy IDC. "It's just a piece of the puzzle and [Attensity Group]'s put a lot more pieces together."

While some growth will be organic, other companies will be pulled into the mix. Future additions to the group will depend on two overarching characteristics, de Haaff says:

  • technology that supports business applications that work in the unstructured world; and
  • focuses on the ability to solve business-user problems (e.g., research, data analysis, and customer support).

Competition is fierce in this space, with Attensity Group listing "meaning-based" computer software provider Autonomy as its closest competitor; other alternatives include point solutions in knowledge management, email, call center, voice of the customer, and research and discovery spaces. In the text analytics space, IDC's Feldman cites competition from smaller companies such as Lexalytics and Nstein, and from larger ones such as SPSS and SAS. Grimes says that SAP may also be a very strong competitor in the text analytics space, even though the German giant is also an Attensity Group partner. (One potential obstacle for SAP, Grimes says, are accusations that the company may be abusing customer relationships, charging more for maintenance that has yet to manifest into a better solution.)

Grimes also notes the head-to-head competition between Attensity Group and customer experience management vendor Clarabridge (which was recently profiled in the Washington Post). Despite what Grimes calls Attensity's strong "exhaustive extraction" capability, he says his observations indicate that Clarabridge is better integrated with business intelligence tools in the enterprise.

Going forward, Feldman believes the next big challenge for Attensity Group is to incorporate data in a way that creates a detailed, comprehensive view of the customer. Pulling data together into a single access point has consistently been a problem for business users Feldman has spoken to over the past few years. "The demand is there," she says. "But the ability to integrate all that from multiple vendors is not." Certainly large software vendors like Oracle, SAP, and IBM are aware of the problem, but even they only own pieces of the stack.

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

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