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Penetrating the invisible web improves business

Penetrating the invisible web improves business outcomes

Knowledge workers spend on average 15 percent of their time looking for business information or research on the web - but half of their searches are unsuccessful.

The reason for this, say Suzanne Jones and Judy Owen, the directors of Wellington-based IQPro, a business information service which specialises in providing business intelligence, is that much of the really useful information is only to be found on what is known as the “invisible web. Approximately 50 percent of information on the net is hidden – and for businesses, this is often the most valuable 50 percent.”

Take this scenario, says Suzanne Jones. “Your company wants to move into a new area of business or develop a new product. You need background information, find out which companies are already players, and what business and other research has already been carried out in this area. As manager, do you search the web for information and act on what you come up with?”

It might sound a good option, but Suzanne Jones says there are a number of reasons this might not be the best one for your business.

Fellow director Judy Owen explains: “The web does contain vast amounts of authoritative information that is accessible, but you have to know where to find it ahead of time. When you search for something and come up with 100,000 results, hours of time can be spent online and you still don’t know if you’ve done the research properly.”

Judy Owen says many private companies take the view that by providing all staff with internet access anyone can find the information they need to make sound decisions or otherwise help them to do their job. “There’s a general perception that everything is on the internet.”

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She says this has led to knowledge workers who are not professionally trained in accessing information or who are not familiar with the invisible web or cannot access it being asked to search important information. Often, they may not be looking in the right places for the higher quality information. “On a daily basis business decisions are made, based on information that may not be accurate or substantial.”

The valuable information that is hidden in the “deep” web is generally in chargeable databases, within websites in files that don’t get picked up by search engines, or hidden in other ways, according to Judy Owen and Suzanne Jones.

In recent years, they say, there has also been acceleration in a trend towards charging for web content which is effectively erecting barriers to searchers and search engine users. It can be very costly for companies to purchase access to proprietary databases for staff who may infrequently use the databases.

IQPro offers a specialist business intelligence service enabling companies to outsource their information research and receive high quality results. Their work ranges from researching new products to preparing submissions to government. Their subject specialists work with clients to help them define what information they require to meet their needs before beginning their research for them.

Suzanne Jones says the kind of service they are offering is relatively new in New Zealand and Australia but is an established business model in the United States. An international organisation, the Association of Independent Information Professionals (AIIP) supports the industry.

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