|Competitive intelligence (CI) isn't something that I'm used to spending
a lot of time with in my academic library life, but it's a major concern
for information professionals in corporate and other special libraries.
In the corporate world, it's vital to know what's going on in your specific
industry and about other companies that are your rivals and partners. Having
a current stream of information of this type is important for developing
business strategies. A new product from Inmagic, named IntelliMagic, provides
a set of tools for discovering, acquiring, managing, and disseminating
competitive intelligence information.
While services abound for gathering CI, Inmagic has designed IntelliMagic
as an application that integrates all aspects of collecting, analyzing,
and disseminating competitive intelligence data. The product is geared
toward the corporate environment, and would likely be used by corporate
libraries and information centers to provide a customized CI interface
for use by analysts, staff, and executives. In this month's column, I'll
discuss some of the characteristics of this new product and offer some
background and perspective.
Since 1983, Inmagic, Inc. has been in the business of developing text-oriented
database products, focusing largely on the corporate library market. The
company's DB/TextWorks product is a database and text-retrieval system
that works under the various Windows operating systems and can be used
to manage many diverse types of information. While DB/TextWorks is especially
suited for text-based information, it can also manage images and other
forms of multimedia.
In addition, Inmagic offers DB/Text WebPublisher for providing access
to textbases created with DB/TextWorks on the Web. The DB/Text WebPublisher
Interactive module enables textbases to be updated and maintained through
the Web. A Library Module add-on for DB/TextWorks is available that supplies
the textbases and templates that allow it to function as a traditional
library automation system. Inmagic also offers the BiblioTech PRO library
automation software, a sophisticated, full-featured system it acquired
in 1999 from Comstow Information Services.
I've worked with Inmagic's DB/TextWorks for many years and have found
this database environment to be well-suited for managing text-oriented
information and for providing access to multimedia data, such as audio
files, digitized images, and video. My preferred approach to creating Web-enabled
databases involves the use of DB/TextWorks as a back-end database with
the ODBC (Open Database Connectivity Model)driver that's included with
WebPublisher Interactive to provide Web access through CGI programs written
in Perl. My Library Technology Guides Web site, for example, follows this
Recently, Inmagic has begun an initiative to provide services that automatically
deliver content to organizations that use its database products. The initial
phase, termed Inmagic.NET, supplies bibliographic records that can be automatically
fed into DB/TextWorks for materials purchased through online bookstores.
Taking this initial content-integration model a large step further, Inmagic
developed IntelliMagic to help organizations acquire and manage CI data.
IntelliMagic combines a number of Inmagic's products and services with
those of external content providers to form a turnkey competitive intelligence
product. IntelliMagic uses the XML-based content-delivery mechanisms of
Inmagic.NET to transfer information to the local site, while DB/TextWorks
serves as the local information repository and WebPublisher disseminates
information throughout an organization's intranet. IntelliMagic can also
be thought of as a CI toolkit. A corporate library staff would use IntelliMagic
to create Web-based CI pages that can be accessed by authorized individuals
throughout the organization to retrieve current information dynamically
on tightly focused areas of interest.
One of the major trends that I've observed in the last couple of years
is that library software companies are becoming more heavily involved in
the delivery of content services. In today's environment, it's not enough
to develop software products that are vessels for holding and managing
content. Those companies that create the vessel also seek opportunities
to provide content to help fill it. In the large-scale library automation
arena, for example, Endeavor has been very aggressive in its pursuit of
this goal through its ENCompass and LinkFinderPlus products. Practically
all the library automation vendors now offer Web-based online catalogs
that feature a dynamic enrichment of bibliographic records with tables
of contents, book jacket images, summaries, abstracts, and reviews. As
library automation software becomes mature, the next steps in creating
value often involve building technologies that link and integrate external
content, and in delivering streams of content. The Inmagic.NET and IntelliMagic
products from Inmagic embrace this trend.
Inmagic.NET's initial phase offers the ability to automate the acquisition
of cataloging records that correspond to books purchased online from selected
vendors. Beginning with DB/TextWorks version 4.2, customers who participate
in the InmagicADVANTAGE support plan can receive bibliographic records
corresponding to books purchased on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, barnesandnoble.com,
Baker & Taylor, and Fatbrain.com. Using XML, Inmagic.NET delivers the
records for import directly into DB/TextWorks. This delivery of cataloging
records was but the first foray into the realm of integrating DB/TextWorks
with content-delivery services. IntelliMagic greatly extends the technologies
of Inmagic.NET to a much more ambitious information-delivery architecture.
A Partnership with Northern Light
The content-delivery component of IntelliMagic involves the delivery
of news and other Web-based information through a partnership with Northern
Light Technology, taking advantage of the resources available in its Web
portal services. Northern Light features a variety of news and business
information resources that can be valuable for competitive information,
including Reuters, BizWire, AP, and over 7,100 print publications.
Though content from Northern Light forms a key part of this competitive
intelligence environment, many other sources can also be included and integrated.
Local resources such as existing DB/TextWorks textbases, online catalogs,
and SQL-based resources can also be part of the content streams that feed
DB/TextWorks as CI Repository
IntelliMagic builds on many of Inmagic's existing products. DB/TextWorks,
the company's core database product, serves as the repository for CI data.
One of the characteristics of IntelliMagic that differentiates it from
the CI-retrieval services is its use of DB/TextWorks to store and manage
the streams of relevant content. Content streams from the external resources
retrieved via Query Builder are transferred through the XML-based Inmagic.NET
technologies into a DB/TextWorks textbase. As news stories and other documents
are fed into the system, they're incorporated into DB/TextWorks so that
they can be made accessible via its search-and-retrieval engine. Through
WebPublisher, this information can then be further distributed on a company's
An XML-Based Approach
XML currently dominates as the preferred method for moving data among
or within applications. Inmagic.NET takes advantage of XML-based technologies
for the transport of information between online booksellers and customers
with DB/TextWorks. XML is used to integrate external content into DB/TextWorks
from companies that have established relationships with Inmagic through
In itself, DB/TextWorks does not rely on XML; its architecture predates
this standard. In the broader database and Web applications arena, XML
has grown to be the standard approach for moving data from one application
to another, or even for dealing with data within applications. Inmagic
has adopted XML as its approach for distributing content related to its
Inmagic.NET and IntelliMagic services. The use of XML for this product
is a positive step for Inmagic in that it paves the way for other content-integration
Another key component of IntelliMagic is a special Query Builder utility
that can be used to construct and store queries that can be executed on
demand to retrieve current information. Query Builder retrieves information
from external sources automatically. Rather than having to manually visit
a Web site and formulate a search, Query Builder presents a simple link
that works automatically.
Query Builder can be used to build a set of links that each deliver
current information about specific business sectors, companies, or issues.
One need not be an expert in search and retrieval to initiate these predefined
queries and view up-to-the-minute relevant information. Using Query Builder,
a librarian can construct a reusable, highly focused, and complex search
query that specifies the terms, operators, and sources that match a particular
business concern. Multiple queries can be built to address each of the
issues to be tracked. A link could be created that checks for any activity
in mergers and acquisitions for the general business arena of interest.
Links could be ready that deliver current news from specific companies,
and other links might track political news in a geographic area of interest.
Once configured, these pre-built query links dynamically retrieve current
information from selected sources with a single click.
Inmagic's Query Builder operates much like the LiveQuery service offered
by Northern Light as part of its RivalEye competitive intelligence product
The Query Builder component of IntelliMagic is an example of the growing
array of dynamic linking systems. Dynamic linking involves finding ways
to extend the static model where a single URL represents a single Web page
to one where a single hyperlink can represent a unit of content, regardless
of which physical Web server hosts it. Dynamic linking can also be used
to probe deeply into databases to retrieve specified information. As more
of the content resides in databases that are not available to the standard
Web search engines, dynamic linking grows in importance.
One of the most sophisticated dynamic linking applications is the SFX
Reference Linking product from Ex Libris, Inc. SFX uses dynamic linking
in conjunction with the OpenURL construct for generating links that offer
a number of useful functions, such as linking from citations to corresponding
full-text documents, displaying local holdings information from the library's
online catalog, providing related services like finding other works by
the same author, ordering the document from a document delivery service,
and purchasing the book from an online bookseller. SFX aims to provide
only relevant links, connecting users only to information for which they
have access and making use of a local database that identifies the resources
to which the library subscribes. Through OpenURL, SFX is able to establish
dynamic links among a very large array of information resources. OpenURL
is currently under consideration by NISO for adoption as a national standard
While Inmagic's Query Builder adds an important component of functionality
to its new IntelliMagic product, in the initial version it operates only
with a limited number of external resources—primarily the Northern Light
portal. It would be interesting to see how much versatility could be added
to the application through the use of OpenURL.
Information Management Cycle
According to Gerry Brown, Inmagic's vice president for new product
development, the company designed IntelliMagic around an information management
cycle based on four phases: discovery, acquisition, cataloging, and dissemination.
IntelliMagic channels content through each of these four phases, resulting
in a competitive intelligence application that presents focused information
to the corporate desktop in an efficient and user-friendly manner.
The discovery phase will tap numerous content sources, some provided
as part of the product and combined with sources already available to the
organization. Relevant content sources will include Internet search engines,
news services, online book sellers, and library catalogs, as well as any
existing corporate knowledge bases. Through its partnership with Northern
Light, IntelliMagic will gain access to up-to-date news content.
The acquisition of content happens throughan XML interchange. News items
and other retrieved results are packaged in XML so that they can be easily
delivered over the Internet and automatically imported into DB/TextWorks.
Cataloging provides accessibility to information. In a dynamic system
such as IntelliMagic, a manual cataloging process would impede the flow
of information. Under IntelliMagic, the information delivered will come
with its own metadata, making cataloging an automatic process.
The dissemination of information is made easy through the integration
of DB/TextWorks and WebPublisher. As information is channeled into these
applications, the search-and-retrieval capabilities of DB/TextWorks can
then be used to facilitate the local collation and distribution. WebPublisher
allows the application to be used through a Web interface, avoiding the
need to provide all users of the system with a copy of the Windows-based
Pricing and Availability
Inmagic will license IntelliMagic for $6,995. Software prerequisites
for IntelliMagic include DB/TextWorks and WebPublisher, which are priced
separately. Current pricing for DB/TextWorks and related products are as
IntelliMagic is expected to be available for general release this month.
DB/TextWorks (single-user license), $1,250
DB/TextWorks (multi-user license for five simultaneous users), $3,900
DB/Text WebPublisher Lite (allows only one textbase to be available on
the Web), $3,000
DB/Text WebPublisher (allows an unlimited number of textbases to be available
on the Web), $6,000
DB/Text Interactive WebPublisher (allows textbases to be updated and maintained
through the Web), $11,000
Marshall Breeding is the technology analyst at Vanderbilt University's
Heard Library and a writer and speaker on library technology issues. His
e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.