Machine learning platform helps IT workers find experts at their firm
Comment from Susan: It is good to hear about innovative new products that can help employers with the skills gap in creative ways. As importantly, I can see this being useful when dealing with virtual, gig, freelance or contract employees. An employer would be able to understand the skills these folks offer without having them in the physical office. It could also support diversity and inclusion.
This article is part of our Editors’ Choice for Innovation series
Collokia from Montevideo, Uruguay runs on top of a browser and uses machine learning to understand the skills of IT workers and allow employees to find colleagues with the most expertise on a topic.
Each quarter, the editors of SearchFinancialApplications recognize new software for innovation or market impact. This quarter, that product is Collokia Acumen. Collokia has netted $1.8 million in funding, including money from Globant, a technology services giant, and is receiving some buzz in the business press.
What it does
Collokia Acumen, which can be cloud-based or on premises, is aimed at helping application developers and other IT workers stay informed about each other's skills and experience, share knowledge and tips, and rate technical information found on the internet.
Collokia Acumen uses machine learning to build profiles of employees based on their visits to technology-related internet sites, technical articles they've read on the web or software they've written. It then recommends experts to co-workers, said Pablo Brenner, CEO and co-founder of Collokia, which is based in Montevideo, Uruguay. The machine learning platform analyzes the complexity of the technology sites visited by an employee, the frequency and length of the visits, and how much interaction occurs.
The machine learning platform is plug-in software for browsers Google Chrome, Firefox and soon, Microsoft Edge, Brenner said. Collokia Acumen also allows users to comment with an annotation on a webpage or internet link, he said.
A "big differentiator" is that the machine learning platform is added on top of the browser, Brenner said. The product does not require employees to tap into another tool when they already routinely use Google Chrome, for example.
Why it matters
One of the top features of Collokia's machine learning algorithms is that it knows "who knows what in an organization," helping solve a major challenge for big companies, Brenner said.
If an employee is searching to learn something about big data, for example, the machine learning platform will automatically display workers who are researching the same topic and will recommend best search results, he said.
"In many cases, they are researching the same thing as somebody else [who] could be two meters away or 15,000 miles away," he said. "The machine learning understands these people are doing a similar thing."
The machine learning platform also provides context-sensitive information, meaning people get information at the right moment and right place as an overlay on top of search results and don't need to switch among windows. Communications are not separate from the context in which they take place, he said.
A CTO, for example, can add an annotation on a page on the internet, alerting workers that the technology on the page should be avoided, Brenner said. Employees would get the warning on top of their search, preventing them from making a mistake.
Also, outdated or wrong links and articles will appear highlighted based on previous feedback from co-workers.
The machine learning platform allows collaboration and sharing of information and provides the best answers in Stack Overflow, a question-and-answer site for programmers. Employees can follow a co-worker or trait and get notifications when a co-worker adds recommendations, according to Collokia's website.
As with any machine learning system, it may make mistakes, but in most instances, it will improve with time and employees can help the system learn faster by adding or removing skills or traits, according to the website.
With annotations and overlays on search results, Collokia Acumen adds a company's "collective intelligence" to the browser.
"When somebody searches in Google, we know he may need help, so we can either show him tips, show him colleagues who may have expertise in the subject he is looking for, or even bring information from the company knowledge management system, even when he is looking outside," Brenner said.
What a user says
Javier Minhondo, vice president of technology at Globant, a Luxembourg-based technology services provider, said Collokia Acumen "is a very cool way" of searching for people by skill.
Minhondo, who leads a cognitive computing studio, said the software provides an easy way to find employees with the right expertise needed for a team to work on a certain project. He said he can open a new tab in his browser and search in the "find people by skills" page on Collokia Acumen and the software will provide a list of Globant employees who have been searching or otherwise working on a topic and how long they have been working on the subject.
Collokia allows IT workers to 'search skills' to find co-workers with that expertise. The bar graph shows an employee’s skill level compared to the rest of the company.
Minhondo said he will double check with possibly a phone call or chat with an employee. He said he might be looking for an employee with skills using H20.ai, an open source machine learning platform, for example, or Natural Language Toolkit, a platform for building Python programs to work with human language data.
"We work with very high-end companies in the U.S. and all over the world," Minhondo said. "Sometimes the technology they are demanding is very new or top notch. You need to make sure the people you are assigning to projects have the right skills. It is the core of our business."
Developers are constantly refining their skills and Collokia Acumen stays current with these changes, he said.
Acumen Community is free and Acumen Enterprise with enhanced privacy is $3 per month, per user.