Northern Light (http://www.northernlight.com) is known to many of us for offering a quality search engine that provides access to Web resources for free and to proprietary content for a reasonable pay-per-view fee that we can charge to a credit card. Its business enterprise search site (http://www.nlresearch.com) has also been a boon for corporate environments that want to provide subscription-based access for their employees. Now the company has officially launched its SinglePoint enterprise information portal, which will also search a company's internal documents and other information resources along with all the Web and Special Collection documents provided by Northern Light (NL). This represents an important development for NL in providing businesses with information-management solutions.
The SinglePoint solution includes a set of capabilities, tools, and methods for integrating and searching content according to the specifications of the customer, and is typically installed as an intranet-based service within a corporation. Unlike turnkey products for enterprise knowledge management or software development products that are licensed and run by a corporation's IT department, SinglePoint is an outsourced solution, run on dedicated hardware at NL.
The product evolved from a custom-development project that NL did for Agilent Technologies. Now, NL is working to develop SinglePoint implementations for a half-dozen major corporate clients. According to Susan Stearns, NL's director of marketing, a standard implementation takes about 3 to 4 months, which should be quite attractive for companies that have struggled to develop a custom information management solution on their own. Users access SinglePoint through their Web browser interface, which can look similar to NL or can be customized. NL can also provide a licensed API to customers that want to develop their own interface.
Stearns noted that an important advantage for users is the content integration offered across a broad range of material, including subscription-based resources, such as those from market research companies. Customers won't have to remember 15 separate logins and passwords, and perform separate searches on all the information they might need. SinglePoint will provide a single logon for users and handle the logons that are passed to third-party content providers. Searches are integrated across all material that the customer specifies. NL can handle most common file formats, including Adobe PDF and PowerPoint.
SinglePoint builds on the search, content-integration, and classification technologies that have distinguished Northern Light's services. The company's patented classification technology includes a taxonomy of over 20,000 terms that can be customized for a specific industry or business specialty. Using the NL classification taxonomy can save a company a lot of time, effort, and development costs.
Fees depend on the initial development requirements, including how many custom content filters need to be developed, and ongoing maintenance. Stearns said that pricing for most enterprise clients has run between $100,000 and $400,000 per year, with the average being about $250,000.
"The Northern Light enterprise information portal business model is an intriguing one," said industry analyst Susan Feldman, who recently wrote "Northern Light: A New Model for the Enterprise Information Portal," a White Paper for IDC. "It is one part ASP, one part outsourced service." In describing SinglePoint, she said: "Northern Light provides an advanced information system that has confronted the technical challenges of retrieval, categorization, and usability successfully. Outstanding search and relevance ranking, together with careful classification and a host of customizable features, make Northern Light a worthy competitor in the enterprise information portal market."
Northern Light is not alone in targeting the information needs of the enterprise business market. Along with solutions offered by traditional providers like LEXIS-NEXIS and Dow Jones, some of the other search engines, such as AltaVista, are introducing enterprise search solutions, hoping to snag some of the annual fees that corporations are willing to pay. Moreover has just announced its Business Intelligence Solution (see the other December 18, 2000 NewsBreak), though without the proprietary content included by Northern Light, and Inktomi has licensed the Moreover database for its search platform for enterprises. However, Northern Light already has a strong foothold since it has been selling into the enterprise market for the past 3 years or so, licensing both its Special Collection and search technologies. In addition, the company has been rapidly expanding its enterprise sales force.
Northern Light also introduced a Technology Integrator Program and announced the signing of its first three partners to the program. The program was developed to allow system integrators to work alongside NL to develop sophisticated knowledge management systems, enterprise information portals, and corporate Web sites. The first three partners to sign on—NexusGroup, Knowledge Management Associates, and iSeer—have already begun the process of developing customer implementations that combine their strengths with those of NL.
"By complementing Northern Light's proven expertise in content aggregation and search and retrieval with the strengths our integrators have in knowledge management, collaboration, and Web design, we are able to offer the absolute best-of-breed solutions to our clients," said David Seuss, Northern Light's CEO.
Additional information about Northern Light's Technology Integrator Program can be found at http://www.northernlight.com/docs/b2b_TechnologyIntegratorProgram.html.