Providers: how accessible is your meta-information?

I’ve been doing research to update an InformationSpan coverage report on Business Intelligence. I’m struck by the different approaches of providers that help, or hinder, this task.

Remember – I’m not trying to read the content necessarily (though some elements of it are useful). I’m coming at it from the perspective of an enterprise trying to find the best insight services provider for their needs. So I’m trying to find out the depth of their coverage, how important the topic is for them, and how up to date they are. What I really want is meta-information: information about information.

To show what I mean, here are a handful of case studies.

Analyst firm A – a well known global specialist – offers me a guest account. Even without this, I can explore in reasonable depth just using the search box on the home page and the About section of the website. Then, when I sign in, I can see the whole structure of their website as a paying client would see it. I can browse the analyst biographies, undertake searches, and in fact do pretty much anything a client would do except read the premium content research. So I have a pretty good idea how many analysts cover this area, which of them I’ve heard of or encountered, and from the abstracts of the published reports I can see at least some of the companies covered in their writing. I think I can make a pretty good assessment of their coverage, based on what I’ve seen.

Company B has a similar model, and their guest login provides a lot of offers of complimentary access to the full text of quite recent reports – cleverly, using a Flash Player presentation which means there’s no downloadable version but you can see the whole thing. Even better!

Analyst firm C – a global generalist – has a great deal of good content. In fact, BI is one of their primary coverage areas. But if I didn’t know, I might well not realise it. I can see a fully featured non-client home page. But there’s no search box on it, so it’s rather difficult to assess what they’ve got. It turns out that the best route into the information I need is to browse the Analysts section, because their people are indexed by coverage area; or to go through Events. There are links there to reports, but only the barest abstract is visible as a non-client. I did find a key report via a vendor’s website (though I had to use Google to find it) and in the end, from prior knowledge and reasonably successful online research, again I have a fair idea of their coverage. But it was a lot harder work!

Provider D may or may not have content. But since the only information I can find from their web pages, as a non-member, is about the structure of their service and the highest level information about content, and there’s no search function without a login, I simply don’t know!

So if I’m an enterprise trying to find specific coverage, across the marketplace of four hundred or so general and specialist providers, guess which providers simply aren’t going to figure? They can’t be assessed, and they won’t make the cut.

Providers – please, at least, provide a search box so that we can see what you do!

PS – you can see the report via the InformationSpan website. Click the new tab section for Reports. No other links on this posting!

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