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Lost data? Just AskGordy

Gordon Flesch Co. partners with IBM to integrate Watson AI and natural language processing capabilities to solve a challenging business problem and allow users to search any electronic content management system.

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These days, for just about anything you want to know — but don’t — the answer is invariably: Google it.

Unfortunately, if you’re searching for a document, file, or other piece of electronic information in your company’s enterprise content management system, Google won’t get you very far. So, instead, why not AskGordy?

That’s what Madison-based office technology solutions provider Gordon Flesch Co. is hoping everyday workers in any organization will start doing. Gordon Flesch unveiled its brand new AskGordy application July 16 to help solve one of the thorniest problems in document management — how to make the exploding volumes of data buried in corporate electronic content management platforms searchable, accessible, and more useful.

Mike Adams, development manager for Gordon Flesch, was the brains and driving force behind the project, which utilizes the power of IBM’s Watson, perhaps the world’s most notable artificial intelligence platform.

Adams says Gordon Flesch has been hearing from customers for a long time that they have invested a lot of time, money, and energy into enterprise content management systems, but that they weren’t getting the expected value out of them. “And according to research, 80% to 85% of the data in these kind of data collections is ‘dark data,’ which means it never gets found or used after it disappears into the database,” Adams notes.

“We have also been watching the development of Watson and other AI tools, and realized that we could bring the new cognitive capabilities to our customers’ historic document management solutions,” continues Adams. “I don’t know that there was any single ‘aha’ moment, but it became obvious to us that Watson’s cognitive capabilities could help organizations discover the knowledge trapped in their document collections.”

Because Gordon Flesch has enjoyed a long application integration relationship with IBM, the company had early access to some of the Watson development tools as they started to become available for use. Adams says Gordon Flesch built a preliminary pilot with those tools in 2017, and then showed IBM the concept and working model to get additional technical assistance.

“IBM got excited about the project because their own internal Watson-based applications are geared for very specific, high-investment applications, such as the Watson Oncology project,” says Adams. “Gordon Flesch was taking the same base functionality and applying it to a much wider range of users that IBM doesn’t often reach. Most of our customers are probably not big enough to collaborate with IBM on a Watson-based tool, but with us in the middle working on the development of AskGordy, we could deliver Watson’s capabilities to just about any sized organization.”

Throughout the development, IBM offered technical, marketing, and administrative assistance, says Adams, and 24 separate IBM employees are currently assigned to the AskGordy Success Team.

Combining search with intent

The public first became aware of Watson with appearances on Jeopardy! several years ago. Massive investments in time, development, and acquisitions followed, improving the natural language understanding and cognitive response capabilities daily.

AskGordy attempts to take Watson’s intelligence to another level, to the point where users help train and refine the quality of both query and responses.

“The fact is, no cognitive system is perfect out of the box,” explains Adams. “But the advantage is that it gets better and more accurate with every search. In essence, the system learns and becomes more accurate with each additional data set and user interaction.”


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