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Meet Seth Earley, CEO of Earley Information Science

Jerome Knyszewski

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Seth Earley, CEO of Earley Information Science

Seth Earley founded Earley Information Science to provide solutions to the world’s major brands in delivering state-of-the-art services to their customers through “integrated enterprise architectures.” At Earley Information Science, brands get to “leverage their information assets” to enhance customer experience.

For 25 years, Seth Earley and Earley Information Science have supported several businesses in achieving their desired outcomes through making data “findable, usable, and valuable.” Throughout the company’s history, Earley Information Science has devised and implemented effective methods to deliver results to its clients, which also scale and adapt to their enterprises as they expand.

Also, Seth Earley boasts of an extensive history of education and research in developing fields. Currently, he focuses on “artificial intelligence, cognitive computing, knowledge engineering, data management systems, taxonomy, ontology, and metadata governance strategy.”

Seth Earley has worked for a diverse set of organizations, helping craft and implement various advanced information management strategies. These organizations include “Fidelity Investments, Progress Software, the Internal Revenue Service, Progress Software, Abbott Laboratories, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Plymouth Rock Insurance, Gartner Group and others.”

During working sessions, Seth Earley combines his technical capabilities, business savvy, and ability to unite people to come up with unique and innovative solutions that follow a common vision.

Aside from his work at Earley Information Science, Seth Earley is also a writer, speaker, and influencer. He used to be an editor of IT Professional magazine, where he had a regular column covering data analytics and “information access issues and trends.” Besides, he has also written for the Harvard Business Review, CMSWire, Applied Marketing Analytics. He also co-wrote Practical Knowledge Management, which was published by IBM Press.

Check out more conversations with industry leaders here. You can also check out Seth Earley’s new book titled “The AI Powered Enterprise” here. Also, you can catch Seth speaking about becoming AI Powered in this video.

 

Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Seth Earley: I started Earley Information Science in the early 90’s. I had worked in technology previously and started the company because I saw the industry was on the cusp of some momentous changes. The internet was in its infancy and organizations were wrestling with knowledge processes and collaboration. We began as Lotus business partners — at the time the saying was “Lotus Notes did poorly what nothing else could do at all”. People were really trying to figure this stuff out and most organizations were beginning to see that they needed better ways of connecting their employees and reducing paper processes.

Jerome Knyszewski: What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

Seth Earley: I remember being in a taxi and a friend of mine turned to me and said “this internet thing, it’s going to be BIG!”. People were just starting to build websites and install email. I once came across a stack of business cards when cleaning out an old file. The cards looked very strange to me and I suddenly realized why: there were no email addresses or websites on them! Talk about a time capsule. I could see that organizations were going to need a great deal of help in figuring out internal collaboration and better ways of working with their customers and the emerging technologies were confusing and complex.

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Seth Earley: There have always been challenging times. An old saying about owning your own business is that you only work half days — and you get to pick which 12 hours. We have reinvented ourselves multiple times and continue to do so. When IBM bought Lotus and people did not know how the technology worked, they brought us in to help with their global deployments of Lotus technologies. But when the technology was at the end of its life, we shifted to new tools and approaches.

Sometimes we invested in emerging areas that were a bit too far ahead of the market, sometimes we invested in promising tools that did not have the staying power in the marketplace. I never considered giving up. I always felt like the business had more potential and my goal was to realize that potential. The challenges never really go away. It never becomes “easy” — at least not for me. I am always trying to do more and push things ahead. I guess that’s the way I am wired.

Jerome Knyszewski: So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Seth Earley: There are certainly market headwinds today But that said, our company is doing well and we are increasing our book of business. A few years back we started doing larger, longer engagements with our clients. This focus on larger customers and projects has served us well and raised our game quite a bit. Lots of smaller projects prepared us for the types of organizations and initiatives that are our bread and butter today — building out the data infrastructure to support challenging digital transformations. Our firm’s capabilities are quite advanced for a company our size and we have a fantastic team of people. I am very proud of the team and what they are able to accomplish — the success of our clients’ transformations costing tens of millions of dollars depends on what our teams can do and we have delivered.

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that? What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Seth Earley: We were called in to assist with the product information for a global industrial manufacturer. This was part of $25mm digital transformation. One of the big consulting firms was asked for a proposal and bid $250k to organize the products. This was a firm with 14 divisions and hundreds of thousands of products. One of the people on the project had attended a workshop of mine several years before when he was pursuing his PhD in library science. He could see that the $250k proposal vastly under scoped the problem and did not understand what was needed to solve the product information challenges, so called us in. Our part of the project ended up costing around $4mm.

In the end the program was an enormous success. Had the company not fixed the underlying data issues, the program would have failed because the data was a huge mess. The transformation led to a multibillion dollar increase in the market capitalization of the company. We were not responsible for all of it, but had we not participated, that value would not have been realized.

So many digital transformations fail due to this one simple element — poor data. It’s not the fun, exciting or sexy part, but it is critical. Our customers realize that and invest in that necessary foundation. Digital transformations are data transformations. No data (or poor quality, missing or incorrectly structured data), no transformation. A client recently said “your reputation here is stellar. The perception is that, yes, you are expensive but you are worth it”. I like to say we are not expensive. Failure is expensive.

Another firm told me years after our engagement that “your deliverables were the only ones that had value” — another firm was brought in to execute on our recommendations and they failed. Another firm after that failed. They tried it internally and failed. Then the CIO and his leadership team lost their jobs. Had they stayed with us, it would have been faster and less expensive. When they did get it right, it was by following the playbook we created. Another firm told me that the 18-month roadmap and governance framework was still in use 5 years later. They called it “the bible”. Five years after that I learned that they still called it “the bible”. A deliverable in our world that lasts 10 years is unheard of, but this was a structure for roles, responsibilities, structures and metrics that allowed them to evolve and still use the same decision making approach to address their technology challenges and monitor ROI of technology investments.

Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a few examples of tools or software that you think can dramatically empower emerging eCommerce brands to be more effective and more successful?

Seth Earley: Customer Data Platforms (CDP’s) are becoming an essential part of the ecommerce stack. This class of technology aggregates “signals” — the electronic body language of on-site and digital behavior — click throughs, responses to campaigns, purchases, etc.

These come from a range of systems and the ecommerce platform uses a CDP to respond to the digital body language just as a sales person would read the physical body language and spoken communications. They enable the ecommerce system to present the correct information to the customer at the ideal time in their journey. This might include an offer, a specific product, a piece of supporting information to advance the decision and so on. The CDP works with content management and product information management systems to provide a seamless customer experience (assuming the supporting processes are mature)

Jerome Knyszewski: As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies an eCommerce business should use to increase conversion rates?

Seth Earley: Conversions happen when people find what they need quickly and without a great deal of effort. If they get stuck or frustrated or cannot do what they need to do, they leave. This comes back to the basics. If they can’t find it, they can’t buy it. Things to think about would be tree jack testing of the navigational taxonomy (the product hierarchy). We have seen 90% increases in findability, causing a very significant uplift in conversions by changing where a product is located and the context in which it is presented. Another is to test the effectiveness of product landing pages (containing a class of products) and product detail pages (containing the specific product version or configuration). If people are bouncing out on a landing page because they cannot find the exact product variations they need, it may be the way the product attributes have been designed or how the data is populated. If they are clicking through to the product detail page after the landing page and then not converting, the product detail page may not have enough information or may have missing or incorrect information. The state of data and data architecture is getting better on most sites but there are still surprising and straight forward to correct issues.

Jerome Knyszewski: Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that an eCommerce business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?

Seth Earley: By serving the customer well. Knowing what they want and providing it. Learning about customers in focus groups, ethnographic studies, in depth personas. Interview your top customer service and sales people and derive what it is about their magic and why customer love them. That secret sauce and those magic superpowers can be captured and replicated. It can be modeled and embodied in the technology. People may not believe that but at the end of the day, we can capture a lot of what people do in their interactions and emulate those interactions. But the systems and tools need to be trained to do so. In The AI-Powered Enterprise, I discuss how to do this in a scalable and repeatable way.

Jerome Knyszewski: You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Seth Earley: A renewed faith in and belief in science, fact and truth. I am especially disturbed by the lack of scientific literacy in this country. People do not understand the fundamentals of reality — physics, the make-up of matter, principles of energy, biology, how life works at a physiological and cellular level, our ecosystem and biosphere, the reality of how chemistry, biology and nature interact. Our world is possible because of science; physics, chemistry, engineering, quantum mechanics. Things that are difficult to understand. But it’s OK to not understand them. It’s not OK to not believe in them.

Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?

Seth Earley: My website and social media are:

Homepage

Twitter

Facebook

LinkedIn

Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

 

Jerome Knyszewski is the Reputation Management Expert with the most recommendations and endorsements on the professional network, LinkedIn. His specialties are Online Reputation Management & Marketing, Strategic Alliances, Business Growth Strategies, He is a best selling author and Professional Speaker.

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