Longtime Dialog users must have wondered about the direction of the company during the past few months, as they watched it roll out a comparison shopping service for consumers and buy into OfficeShopper, which lets businesses buy their office supplies. The first week of February we were informed of a "realignment" of its operations into three divisions that separated its core online search services from its Web initiatives (see our February 8 NewsBreak, "Dialog Announces 'Realignment,' Management Changes, the Sale of CARL/Uncover, And ... "). The newly named Information Services Division (ISD) wasted no time in rolling out its latest product, just one week later, one aimed squarely at Dialog's core market of corporate information specialists. The product has just been launched in the U.S. and will be launched elsewhere in March.
The Intranet Toolkit enables information professionals in organizations to build customized search interfaces to search DIALOG for users on corporate intranets. The software allows information professionals to create interfaces either by using templates and ready-made search forms or by creating their own search forms. Complex search commands thus remain hidden to the end user. Over 200 search forms were created by Dialog's expert searchers and subject specialists, with some forms borrowed from other products, like DialogSelect. The Intranet Toolkit currently provides access to more than 300 DIALOG databases (out of the total of over 470 files).
"Intranet Toolkit gives information professionals the ability to fully leverage their expertise to create applications of unparalleled power and precision for their internal customers," said Jason Molle, Dialog's president of the Americas. "There is no doubt that intranets are an increasingly common part of organizational life. Recent findings from Zona Research indicate that at least 68 percent of U.S. businesses have installed intranets. Once installed, the intranet must be populated with content and useful applications for that investment to be realized. This, we believe, is where the information professional can utilize Intranet Toolkit to make a difference."
According to the company, with the Toolkit, information professionals can:
- Determine whether the user retrieves information in title, abstract or full-text format
- Build Custom Search Forms, predefining search criteria and databases relevant to users' information needs, so they only have to perform simple keyword searches at the desktop
- Utilize more than 200 ready-made search forms
- Save the results of a search as a title list, allowing end users to retrieve the information they want directly from the screen
- Use the Saved Strategy tool to incorporate search strategies developed while using DIALOG or DialogWeb in custom information sites
- Develop "Hot Topic" sites from predefined searches, so users only have to click on an icon to retrieve up-to-date information on their areas of interest
- Set up targeted alert profiles
- Take advantage of extensive help topics, HTML templates, and Sample Sites provided in the Intranet Toolkit
- Build the site with organizational "look and feel," using the organization's Web style guide, terminology, and logos.
Obviously, to take advantage of the Intranet Toolkit, an information professional needs to have an understanding of DIALOG's content and sophisticated searching techniques. The product can be used with no HTML experience, by working with the pre-built forms, but the real power of the product is tapped if the searcher has Web authoring skills or has access to someone else in the organization with this expertise. The product is an API (Application Program Interface) toolkit to access the command stream of DIALOG.
Dialog is also offering consulting services to organizations for the development and design phase. According to a company representative, the product is a natural for largescale corporate settings with intranets, but it also scales for much smaller clients, even those with under 10 users. Dialog will also host custom sites for those clients without an internal intranet.
With several existing products on the market from competitors (including The West Group and Dow Jones Interactive Publishing) with the same name, "Intranet Toolkit," searchers might be confused as to what the Dialog product is, or possibly just misconstrue the intended application for an intranet. Dialog's Toolkit is for creating interfaces and links that search DIALOG databases. It does not search or organize internal content on a corporate intranet. A product released by Dialog at the end of 1998, LiveIntranet, can take users to the next step, by providing technical solutions to searching and managing internal and external content for large enterprise clients.
According to a company representative, the Dialog product is distinguished by the "infinite flexibility" it offers, combined with an "unbeatable collection of content." For end users, the customization also breaks down the barriers of database definition, allowing searching at the source level. For information professionals, Dialog is promoting "empowerment." Molle said, "With the launch of Intranet Toolkit, we are putting the power to custom-build those solutions into the hands of information professionals. Its powerful features will enable them to leverage their expertiseómore than ever beforeóby creating search applications that give their companies a competitive edge and positively affect their profitability. The company wins and so do information professionals, who benefit from greater exposure and identification with the company's success."
Customers can choose from several Intranet Toolkit packages that include varying levels of development and design consultation from Dialog, and the price of Intranet Toolkit is dependent upon the number of users. The base price to license the software is $7,500. The same terms and conditions apply to the use of downloaded data, with the client responsible for copyright and use compliance. In other words, retrieval via an intranet does not necessarily permit wholesale distribution of results.
Dialog's Web site (http://www.dialog.com) offers a preview of how a sample site might look. The fictional ABC Pharmaceuticals company site is called ABC Seek, and shows examples of Hot Topics (Ibuprofen, NSAIDs), and search forms (for research reports and news). The home page also provides a link to Search the Web and to Departmental Links, for internal resources, so that, to a user, it appears to be seamlessly integrated. The Dialog site also includes the database list with file numbers that are available for site development using the Intranet Toolkit.