Last week I saw an interesting illustration of one way to make sense of ever-growing data volumes. 

Until the Web matured, just finding data was hugely time-consuming. Today, finding is easy; instead, we drown in Web and enterprise data. The challenge now is to distill meaning – to analyze and interpret.

I previously proposed “legal radar” for general counsel: software that scans blogs to identify emerging legal problems. Last week I saw an interesting demo for sophisticated, off-the-shelf software that does this and more. Datops, recently acquired by LexisNexis (press release), identifies problems and risks via semantic analysis. It classifies blog posts, news articles, and other content as positive, neutral, or negative. Companies can track their reputation, emerging product problems, customers, credits risks, and more.

Several visual interfaces give data meaning. Behind the scenes, the software normalizes multiple sources, extracts entity information (e.g., names of companies or people), summarizes documents, and allows drill down to see what’s behind the visual displays.

This class of software seems destined for wide-spread use by corporate marketing, public relations, credit, and compliance professionals. Inhouse lawyers have an opportunity to reduce both risk and legal service demand. In ten years, we may wonder how we survived just with search engines that merely find but don’t tell us what the results mean.

When I see demos, I usually stick to describing what I saw and my views. In this instance, LexisNexis (LN) explained the company’s strategic goals. Given the important role LN plays in the legal market, I thought readers would be interested as well. LN is moving from an information vendor to a solutions provider, seeking to differentiate itself from content aggregators on the one hand and software developers on the other. Datops will be one part of LN Intelligence Solutions, which will marry Web and proprietary news and legal content with analytical tools. Another example is the acquisition of Interaction CRM software, where LN now adds its proprietary content plus workflow tools to enhance the value of Interaction.

It will be interesting to watch this strategy unfold. Personally, I’d love to see Datops integrated with Applied Discovery EDD tools. I’ve frequently argued that the legal market needs to shift some of the work lawyers now do in reviewing documents to software.