Kona Data Search Bets on Salesforce as Salesforce Swims Against the Current

August 27, 2012

One-size-fits-all search has become a tough sale. Presumably clever enterprise search vendors have embraced wordsmithing in order to boost sales. Examples range from converting a deduplicating technology into big data, shifting an entity extraction program to business analytics, and presenting XML as a “new” content manipulation tool which slices, dices, and chops with ease.

I learned via a random LinkedIn message that a copy called Kona Data Search. I pinged the company, was promised information, and even followed up (a rare action for the addled goose). After some dithering, I checked out the company’s Web site (which created some choking and stumbling for my so-so Chrome browser) and learned:

Kona Search [for Salesforce] is a relevancy-based text search application for Salesforce, with a Search Results page and a pop-up sidebar, or “Search Gadget,” for persistent display. Relevancy is a way of sorting search results based on how well they match the terms in a user’s query. You may be familiar with relevancy from public web search applications like Google search. KonaSearch applies the same principals to Salesforce objects. Also like the web search applications, KonaSearch highlights the words that match in the results so you can see why an object was included. The current release can search text, dates, and numbers for the main Sales Cloud objects. Immediately following this release will be more Salesforce products, Chatter®, and Microsoft Outlook.

Searching for information on Salesforce is okay. There are problems when one has quite a few employees using Salesforce and a super user needs to pinpoint a specific email or contact interaction chain for something like eDiscovery or checking up on a sales professional who has just resigned.

Kona asserts that it delivers such functionality as:

  • Auto suggestion
  • Field specific search
  • Date and number search
  • Entity extraction
  • Facets
  • Nested Boolean
  • Phrase detection
  • Spelling correction
  • Stemming
  • Synonym expansion
  • Term biasing (weighting)
  • Wildcards

The service costs about $240 per user per year.

In short, Kona includes the basics of what might be called traditional enterprise search. Google’s original search appliance intentionally trimmed such functions from its user interface. The assumption was that enterprise users don’t know how to formulate complex queries and are more interested in slamming in a word or two and getting relevant results. We know that neither traditional enterprise search nor the Google approach has hit home runs over the last few years.

What makes Kona interesting is that it is approaching the market with what appears to be an initial  focus on Salesforce. (Versions of Kona for other systems is promised, however.) Now Salesforce is an interesting company, but I heard a rumor that Google considered purchased Salesforce seven years ago. But Google passed. Now Salesforce has to fight the likes of Oracle and smaller companies’ iPad apps to stay in the game. Salesforce has the same cost control problem that is gobbling Amazon’s margins.

According to “Salesforce Losses Swell, Despite Rise in Sales,” high flying Salesforce may have sucked some errant geese into its jet engines. The Register said:

Software-as-a-Service pin-up Salesforce.com reported growing losses despite increased sales. The hosted CRM provider reported a loss of $9.82m on a 34 per cent increase in net sales to $73.6m for the three-month period to 31 July.

Then added, “The company’s costs are increasing as it adds more staff to sell to the enterprise, against rivals such as Oracle and SAP.”

Here in Harrod’s Creek, the river dogs say, “Rising water lifts them boats.” What happens when the water level falls? Will Kona be able to float the Salesforce boat or will Salesforce get stuck in the mud and drag down Kona? We are monitoring the revenue flow gauge.

Stephen E Arnold, August 27, 2012

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