Firms' e-mail metadata offer valuable insights
WITHIN business analytics, a new and fast-growing area of specialisation is "message intelligence". This focuses on making sense of the valuable information that resides within the millions of e-mail messages sent and received by employees in enterprises around the world.
The constraint in mining this information, until now, has been privacy laws which prevent the tracking of e-mail content unless there has been outright fraud or libel.
As a result, almost all traditional analytics (business intelligence or Big Data) solutions focus on things like customer data and content, and ignore e-mail traffic.
Message intelligence takes a different approach and does not compromise on privacy.
Instead of looking at e-mail content, the tool uses complex algorithms to look at the metadata generated by e-mail messages, like who sends e-mail messages to whom and at what frequency, who gets e-mail messages from whom and at what frequency.
Manish Goel, chief executive of TrustSphere, a Singapore-based firm which is one of the pioneers in this field, said the metadata contains incredible insights, which can help prevent things like fraud and help understand missed market opportunities.
He said traditional e-mail mining platforms typically analyse content and potentially encroach on individuals' privacy.
"TrustSphere's stand is that privacy is a fundamental right of every employee. Our technology complies with the European Union Privacy Directive, which is considered above par for privacy guidelines around the world.
"We access only the metadata of enterprise communications. It is akin to us looking only at the outside of the envelope and choosing not to see what is inside. This way, we are focused on the 'context', not the 'content'."
He added that the TrustSphere solution ignores employees' personal e-mail accounts, which they may access via the corporate network.
"Analysing metadata allows an organisation to gain important insights into their business while respecting individual privacy."
TrustSphere is a privately held company that was launched in 2011. Based in Singapore, it has offices in New York, London, Sydney and Wellington. It has a core team of around 30 people, and was one of the winners of the National Infocomm Award in 2012.
Mr Goel said its relationship-analytics solutions help organisations manage and understand their internal and external relationships. Message intelligence helps improve business performance by providing deep insights into important behavioural patterns, he added.
"For instance, we identify patterns of positive behaviour across the organisation so they can be replicated, or ensure that existing client relationships are not inadvertently forgotten, thereby improving customer retention."
He makes an important point - our true social network is much greater than that defined by social media platforms such as Facebook or LinkedIn.
It is based on who we interact and communicate with regularly, not just the people we have linked to. This will vary at different points in time.
He added that the company's analytics focuses on mapping the "real" social network - the relationship network.
"Corporations can take actions resulting from the insights to become more efficient and more cohesive - in short, improve competitiveness and reduce risk."
Mr Goel noted that the company's clients include government agencies, Internet service providers, and large and medium-sized enterprises. They include SingTel/Optus in Asia, GibTel in Europe, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States and Doctors.net in Britain.
"Clients use our messaging intelligence technology to solve a variety of problems, including sales effectiveness, governance, risk and compliance, collaboration and fraud detection."
Giving some examples of client scenarios, he said that one partner in human capital management used the company's analytics to better understand employee engagement and identify key influencers across their whole organisation.
THE BUSINESS TIMES