San Francisco-based Black Pearl Inc., an e-business software provider, and LogicSpan, a consulting firm, joined forces creating a strategic partnership at a Web seminar on July 18. Under this joint venture, LogicSpan will help companies move from "bricks and mortar" to "clicks and mortar" businesses by implementing Black Pearl's Knowledge Broker software into their Web systems. As a result, companies will be able to "leverage their vast expertise into the online channel," Lisa Hammitt, president and CEO of Black Pearl, says. Although the Knowledge Broker was not created for the financial services arena, Hammitt says it is an area where the technology would be a sure fit.
Knowledge Broker allows companies to view account information and activity on Web sites in addition to allowing companies, via their Web sites, to offer specific recommendations to customers. According to Hammitt, for example, if the Nasdaq were to fall, the Knowledge Broker would be able to track the event and offer an individual a series of sector or industry moves that could help restore balance to the portfolio.
"We'd like to offer the customers the ability to have the institution itself be an intermediary to help in the decision-making as they're going through investment decisions, possibly in helping maintain their financial health through portfolio checkups," Hammitt says.She also notes that she realizes that while Knowledge Broker is a horizontal technology that can be used for any company's e-business, it can be applied in very vertical sectors. In her view, LogicSpan has the necessary domain experience to implement Knowledge Broker for the financial services industry.
According to Alan Crowther, CEO of LogicSpan, integrating Knowledge Broker requires an in-depth look at the changing nature of the market, business rules and compliance issues as well. "We're very good at helping put the technology integration in underneath those pieces," he said, "and we also look at the whole business problem, whereas Black Pearl is best at creating the core infrastructure technology itself."
During the typically 30- to 60-day integration process, LogicSpan will send in a small team of systems integrators who will help the client by programming and integrating the software and hardware as well as offer business analysis in setting up rules and compliance guidelines. While LogicSpan will not maintain the product after its implementation, Crowther says it will remain a resource for a company should it need advice on molding the product to be compatible with changing business practices.
Integrating the software, primarily involves installing software from a CD-ROM into a company's main servers and work stations, either Windows NT or Sun Solaris. The system also links to the company's data sources including databases of client information, news feeds, research and changing market prices. According to Hammitt, the system and the server base runs on XML, thus the company does not need to build a data warehouse; rather, it can communicate directly with each data source.
Besides installing the Knowledge Broker as an extension of a company's existing trading application, systems integrators will have to focus on the core of the system, which allows the company to create an ontology of business objectives and goals. They will have to construct business rules and algorithms that reflect them. Recommendations are given as algorithms compare current market conditions with that ontology.