by Bob Thomas
How do you pick the “right” link analysis software platform? Which link analysis software product is right for your organization depends on your requirements and usage model. Based on our work with customers and partners worldwide, we pulled together the following as key criteria for evaluating link analysis software:
• Single User or Enterprise: Is your link analysis work restricted to a single user, perhaps working off of a single spreadsheet? Or, do multiple users need to share data, results, and cases?
• Collaboration: Will each user independently work with this link analysis software? Do users need to occasionally exchange link charts? Or do you need link analysis software that can enable multiple users to collaborate on the same link charts in real time?
• Amount of data: Is all of your data small enough to fit on a desktop computer? Or do you require a repository…and if so, for how much data?
• Type of repository: Do you just need to store data you specifically want to use in link analysis, or do you need a true repository where you can store ALL your data and access/share that data in various ways?
• Drawing vs. Analysis: Do you need link analysis software to simply draw link charts to visualize and communicate relationships? Or do you need link analysis software to do analysis, to not only visualize relationships, but to discover/identify new relationships?
• Complementary functionality: Do you just need link analysis software to draw and/or analyze link charts, or do you require complementary functionality for managing data, reducing data, displaying in other formats/reports, or exporting the results?
• Budget: Setting a realistic budget is important to ensure all users are properly supported and outfitted with the necessary capabilities to generate fast, reliable, and auditable results.
The feature sets of individual link analysis software products change over time, as vendors deliver new software releases with new capabilities. Requirements vary by customer, but a few key link analysis features to consider are:
• Reading data from different formats and sources
• Process and time for preparing the data each time you draw a link chart
• Built in transformation features to clean-up, standardize, and format the data
• Ability to save and retrieve link charts
• Ability to share link charts with other users
• Ability to visualize and analyze data on a map
• Ability to visualize and display flows between entities (e.g., money flows between organizations)
• Social Network Analysis (SNA) to automatically identify key nodes in a network
• Incorporation of Natural Language Processing (NLP)
• Appropriate security and permissions on the data, charts, and reports
Popular link analysis software solutions include:
• Microsoft Visio: Though not link analysis software, it’s a tool to manually draw link chart visualizations and create diagrams, without the use of a dataset.
• Gephi: An open source product, without cost, often used by researchers, academics, and journalists.
• IBM i2 Analyst Notebook (ANB): Commercial desktop-based link analysis software to visualize spreadsheets and fixed files. Can optionally be coupled to IBM i2 iBase, a proprietary data structure.
• IBM i2 Enterprise Insight Analysis (EIA): IBM integrated the original i2 Analyst Notebook with other IBM software, to access shared repositories, external data sources, analyze text, and handle larger volumes of data. IBM EIA is an enterprise class product that requires configuration.
• Palantir Gotham: Enterprise-class link analysis software, Palantir Gotham handles multiple users and large amounts of data. Palantir is a server-based system and requires configuration.
• DataWalk: A “data-centric” Enterprise-class software product, DataWalk is for multiple/many collaborating users and is capable of handling very large amounts of data and includes robust link analysis capabilities. Importantly, DataWalk pre-integrates all data in a shared repository, which eliminates time-consuming data preparation required by standalone link analysis products, and which enables data in this repository to be accessed and analyzed for a variety of uses. DataWalk also provides powerful capabilities for reducing data, analyzing text, transforming data, accessing external sources, and basic case management. DataWalk is entirely browser-based and does not require the installation of any client software or plugins.