Synaptica talks with Jim Sweeney, Senior Product Manager for Taxonomy & Ontology Solutions at Synaptica LLC, where he leads on client relations and product management. In this edition of Insights, he talks about his role supporting customers and working with Synaptica’s products, Synaptica KMS and Graphite. Sweeney has over 20 years’ experience in the knowledge management sector, including 12 years with the Synaptica. Jim is based in Denver, Colorado.
Tell us about when you joined Synaptica LLC?
Sweeney: I originally joined in 2005 when the company was called Synapse. Prior to that I worked for an online directory company, which was a customer of Synapse. Synaptica KMS the software was available in 1995 and Synapse was one of the first organisations to provide enterprise class taxonomy management software tools.
Can you describe your role?
Sweeney: My role has evolved but the primary focus is sales, project management and our products. I work closely with our programmers and customers. In addition, I assist with marketing, communications. Plus I also get involved with product and UI/UX design. The role has always been varied so I need to be well-informed of our products and the direction we are heading.
Tell me what a typical day looks like?
Sweeney: Some days are spent responding to customer requests. This can vary looking at their specific requirements based on their interaction with the software and their use cases. We always do our best to enhance and upgrade our products. Many of the features in our product updates come from customer requests. Sometimes we take on more specific enhancements for individual clients. It’s about finding a balance between evolving technology, emerging industry standards, and most importantly our customers’ needs.
A typical day will also include product development and updates. Currently we are developing several products including Graphite. Talking with colleagues and partners as each product takes shape helps me stay aware of what’s going on across the company. This also helps my understanding of the direction our customers and the industry are heading to guide product development. Put it all together and it means we can respond to queries quickly and efficiently. As a team, we are all involved in some aspect of product development. We are always knowledgeable and able to respond rapidly.
What type of customer based queries do you receive?
Sweeney: Queries vary from day-to-day. Usually we need to provide some context or explain some of the latest developments. This helps people improve their product knowledge and internal processes. A lot of my work activities involve emails and managing different communications in different time zones as we have both clients and staff located around the world. Many of these relationships are long-term, not just with customers but also with colleagues whom I have known and worked with for over two decades.
Which parts of your role do you most enjoy?
Sweeney: I really enjoy the customer contact and building the stakeholder relationships. I like understanding and solving client needs. Contributing to product and UI/UX design plays into my strengths. Inspiration comes from many places but, like others, I am interested in how technology can help us find information, and in today’s world of “fake news” and “filter bubbles”. How technology can help people to deal with false or misleading information. Our CEO, Dave Clarke is doing a lot of work in this area. This conversation is topical, but its essential in the world of information overload. More than ever we need to be able to listen, understand, and interpret. Technology sometimes produces unintended consequences, but when technology is designed well, when it puts the needs of end-users first and adheres to proven industry standards, then it can be part of the solution.
What are you looking forward to in the future?
Sweeney: I am looking forward to sharing and working with new products such as Graphite. We took our time as a company before launching the next stage of our product portfolio and we wanted to make sure the software was ready. That our approach was sound. We want to add value to our existing suite of solutions and provide end-to-end Knowledge Management products and services to our new and existing customers alike.
Synaptica KMS is our flagship product with an international user community who rely on its rich feature set and robust scalability. In introducing Graphite we want to offer complementary and alternative methods for taxonomy and ontology management that are based on graph-database technology. KMS is often the best fit for many clients, and will continue to be the right choice for some new customers. We always have an eye on the future, discussing and exploring new features plus anticipating the needs of our customers.
Tell us about your favourite features?
Sweeney: Some of my favorite features are the drag and drop operations within KMS and Graphite. This type of user interface shows how simple, intuitive methods are powerful tools. Graphite also can produce outputs in some new and very interesting formats. An effective interface along with the ability to easily share Taxonomy and Ontology data make for quite an effective combination.
What advice do you have for others developing taxonomy management project?
Sweeney: Be aware of where you are in the overall process. Don’t rush in and try to accomplish everything at once. Awareness and understanding help to identify where to begin your project and what goals you wish to achieve. Also, think about the type of functionality you need and test the various products available. Finally, do some research and don’t be afraid to find out about the various vendors and how they interact with customers. Talk to them, ask questions, make sure the fit is best for you, not just technically, but also at a personal level. Individual and Company character matters. You will be working on this project together for the long-term.
What do you think are the biggest challenges for your sector, industry for the future?
Sweeney: I think that there are huge opportunities to solve problems that are surfacing in this age of immense data and communication overload. Using new technologies and ideas to develop products to meet these challenges will be a major test for the sector going forward.
Synaptica Insights is our regular series of case studies sharing stories and learnings from our customers, partners, influencers and colleagues.