TR: How will software like this evolve over the next few years?
KK: There are some interesting projects in data mining and analysis of data that isn’t nicely searchable, such as those in databases. We’re developing software that’s better at looking through “unstructured data,” such as e-mails, and parsing them for patterns. For instance, the e-mails received by a customer-service center could lead to a change in the call-center menu or [could] change the training of call-center agents to better accommodate the questions that people ask.
Another major trend is the rise of social software, collaborative software, and support of knowledge-based communities. What we are finding is [that] the power of communities is very strong, and leveraging it within an enterprise actually works to increase productivity. We have found a lot of interest in our social software, wikis, and blogs.
In addition, one of the trends that we feel may be coming is the 3-D Internet. Virtual worlds, such as Second Life, are gaining relevance. I wouldn’t say that everyone in the future is going to conduct their business meetings online, but we’re seeing an increase in it. Years ago, when I was developing work-flow software in Germany, I was dealing with a business partner from a university who was trying to simulate the interaction between people in a visual way. At that time, 10 years ago, the technology was kind of pitiful; it looked rather clumsy and quaint. But today, we may be getting there.
TR: What will be the biggest challenges in dealing with all this data and making it usable?
KK: The questions are, how do you protect enterprise data? and, as a user, how can you trust that data? For instance, we’re working on digital-rights technology: when you put something on the Internet, how do you specify the rights?
There are still questions of how to make sure that all of the complex data is manageable, and users stay in control of it. And importantly, it needs to be done quickly and affordably.