My colleague Gene Leganza, who serves Enterprise Architecture Professionals, compiled the top 15 technology trends EA should watch over the next three years. He highlights technologies that are new or changing, have the potential for significant impact, and require an IT-led strategy to exploit.

He highlights text analytics technology in the report because understanding unstructured data plays a critical part in daily operations. Enterprises have too much content to review and annotate manually. Text analytics products from vendors like Temis and SAS mine, interpret, and add structure to information to reveal hidden patterns and relationships.  In my 2009 overview of text analytics, I cite the primary use cases for these tools: voice of the customer, competitive intelligence, operations improvements, and compliance and law enforcement.

But there are a few other sweet spots for text analytics tools in the enterprise:

Analytics and search: Analytics tools surface and visualize patterns; search tools return discrete results to match an expressed need. But these disciplines are blending. People want to drill in to high-level analysis to find the specific thing customers buzz about.  And many searchers don’t know how to articulate their need as a query and are looking for the big picture on a topic or trend. Forrester expects these solutions to come together, as search tools mainstream semantic features like entity extraction out of the box, and analytics vendors introduce new ways to investigate relationships and data output.  

Analytics and IT operations: IT professionals lack tools to discern what content is high value, and what content they can safely delete. My report “Take Control Of Your Content” outlines how a content professional can use text analytics tools to identify duplicate or irrelevant content before it is pushed from legacy systems to new systems. He or she can also prioritize which systems and repositories the search engine crawls, and determine which content will fill the gaps in the search index and which content to omit.

Social network analysis: My colleague Jim Kobelius published solid research on social network analysis about how companies are mining customers, employee, and stakeholder comments to find expertise and influence. Social network analysis is advanced analytics that is specifically focused on identifying and forecasting connections, relationships, and influence among individuals and groups. It mines transactions, interactions, and other behavioral information that may be sourced from social media, and/or just as often from CRM, billing, and other internal systems.

We welcome your comments on analytics as a top trend to watch in 2011.