Networking With the Top: Two Executive Information Services Launch
Posted On July 30, 2007
Social networking and visualized network data mining have come to people tracking—at least for tracking bosses. LexisNexis (www.lexisnexis.com) has introduced the ExecRelate service (www.execrelate.com), an independent subscription service tracking executives by title and by company. Leadership Directories (www.leadershipdirectories.com)—producers of the popular Yellow Book directories for the public and private sectors—has launched Leadership Networks, built around its Leadership Library database service. Both services claim a Web 2.0 component in their feature packages, but each takes a markedly different direction with their networking and visualization efforts. Sad to say for budget-strapped consumers, serious hunters of executive prey might need both.
Though the announcement of ExecRelate by LexisNexis emphasizes the Relationship Manager feature supplied by Visible Path (www.visiblepath.com), the real strength of the service lies in the breadth and depth of its coverage. According to Roderick Morris, vice president of business information solutions for LexisNexis U.S. Corporate Markets, all of the content in the ExecRelate service—except for the company newsfeeds—is proprietary to LexisNexis. In other words, it does not represent a recasting of content from aggregated databases supplied by other information providers. The content covers more than 700,000 unique personnel names and titles; more than 65,000 parent companies with more than 118,000 linked subsidiaries (mapped visually in tree structures); almost 200,000 leading U.S. and international public and private companies; and in-depth biographical data on almost 50,000 board members for companies traded on NYSE, NASDAQ, and AMEX. For board members, the service supplies side-by-side comparisons with display linkages built on current career or board memberships, career and board histories, educational background, association memberships, and certifications and awards. Alert services allow users to stay current on individual personnel changes or changes for an entire company. According to Morris, "Our analysts are updating and verifying thousands of pieces of data each day and scanning news sources for personnel changes."
Even a cursory look at the service shows a deep well of information on companies as well as individuals. Reed Elsevier, owner of LexisNexis, also owns the Directory of Corporate Affiliations (www.corporateaffiliations.com), which supplies much of the structural netting for the service. Searchers can use ExecRelate to identify names matching an array of criteria or use a name to open up layers and layers of detail on institutions connected to an individual. Peter Valli, product manager for ExecRelate, pointed out the ease of setting up "alert carts" to inform users of future changes in companies and individual executive changes.
The social networking module, ExecRelate Relationship Manager, can open opportunities for users to find access points to executives by networking their own contacts and mining until they reach a "friend of a friend" friendly enough to offer an introduction. Roderick described it, "The social networking component within ExecRelate brings a new dimension to the relationship development process. Business professionals can use this application to expand their sphere of influence and make more informed business decisions on who they want to work with."
Visible Path supplies a similar though not identical service through Hoovers Connect, as well as a free business networking service available to anyone with a company email address. The social networking algorithms from Visible Path rely on mining contact manager data and statistical analysis of email messaging through an Outlook plug-in. The maps it builds automatically rate relationship strength and path strength to help users choose the most effective and willing potential human links to a target executive. Mapping can encompass nonsubscribers to ExecRelate, according to Antony Brydon, CEO and co-founder of Visible Path. Individuals within a company, friendly colleagues, etc., can open their Outlook flow to Visible Path, which will link company employees and individuals. Users will even be able to tap network links from Visible Path’s own userbase. However, company networks have their own protections. If an individual leaves a company, for example, his or her personal Visible Path relationships stay intact, but access to the company network—and the company’s access to the individual’s network—ceases.
Lest you feel a cold wind blowing through your privacy, the Visible Path system supplies many cozy privacy controls. In general, Visible Path’s system does not read messages or calendar and meeting notes; it only applies statistical analysis to structural elements of your messages, calendars, appointments, and meeting requests for information to garner names and email identification for its linking. Individuals have a whole set of controls for setting the exposure acceptable to them and their network of contacts. One thing, however, if you don’t use Outlook or a leading contact manager, this ExecRelate feature may not work for you.
How much does it cost? Good question. Morris informed me that LexisNexis has a policy of not publicizing pricing for their products, although he assured me that the price range was "attractive." A colleague who had looked at a very similar LexisNexis offering indicated that the price for one to five users ran upward of $6,000 a year and for six to 10 users around $8,700. These are only possible ballpark figures. Though Morris indicated that the company wanted to use this product to open up new market opportunities, both with new clients and with departments not served within existing clients, it still relies on traditional sales-force interaction with customers, which usually leads to "the usual suspects" getting prices based, in part, on what else they buy from LexisNexis.
Leadership Directories, Inc. covers contact information for Congress; federal, state, and municipal agencies; judicial institutions; corporations; financial institutions; news media; associations; law firms; government affairs; foreign representatives; and the nonprofit sector. Overall it covers nearly 500,000 people leading more than 40,000 institutions across the U.S. The Leadership Library on the Internet (LLOI), around which Leadership Networks is built, integrates the 14 Yellow Book directories from the company. By the way, as posted on the Web site, LLOI costs $4,230 for five authorized users ($4,019, if you agree to automatic renewal) and $7,500 for enterprise access.
The Internet and its Web are strange and wondrous things. Their openness seems to favor smaller vendors, as well as customers everywhere. The price for the service I am about to describe appears on the same Web page that supplies basic product information (www.leadershipdirectories.com/products/ln.htm). It costs $7,500 for one concurrent user with enterprisewide access and $10,000 if you combine it with a subscription to the LLOI. By my calculation, that’s a $5,000 discount for joint purchase.
Now what does Leadership Networks bring to the table? The new service aims to identify "who knows whom" in the leadership. It covers 60,000 board affiliations for 51,000 individuals, educational data for 87,000 individuals, career histories for 116,000 individuals, current affiliation for 32,000 individuals, and primary employment for outside board members. Users can access names based on criteria such as board relationships, education, career history, and family ties, as well as perform keyword searches, personal and institutional name searches, and searches by title,
current employment or affiliation, job function, area of expertise, organization type, industry, and location. As board members and executives take new jobs, get promoted, and are replaced by new hires, Leadership Networks can track the new networks these changes create.
Unlike LexisNexis’ ExecRelate service, the visualization and networking done in this service concentrates on connecting names to other names within the service, much more than connecting to the user’s own network of contacts. Leadership Directories, Inc. has developed its own proprietary algorithms to conduct the relationship and matching functions. It can help individuals understand relationships between public and private sector organizations. The visualization establishes links using colored dots to identify types and strengths of relationships, e.g., a gray dot for connected by education, brown for family, aqua for career history, etc. You can export and print trees. The Map a Path feature calculates degrees of separation and relationship strengths between individuals.
‘New Sheriff in Town?’Both these services have a lot to offer. They certainly raise the standard for what an online directory should be able to do. As I finished writing this NewsBreak, I took a break to check out the Marquis Who’s Who directories (www.marquiswhoswho.com). Hmm. 1.3 million biographies. Nice. Daily updates. Of course. Targeted searching by name on up to 15 criteria. And? And? Where’s the bells and whistles? Where’s the social networking? Where’s the visualization? Where’s the party?!