IBM Disputes Bain Claim

January 12, 2018

I don’t read the Poughkeepsie Journal very often. However, I made a delightful exception this morning. The story “IBM Disputes Report of Redeploying Staffers” reminded me of Robert X Cringely’s The Decline and Fall of IBM and its subsequent hoo-hah. My recollection is that IBM suggested that Mr. Cringely (whom I think of as X) was off base. I am not sure he was.

The Poughkeepsie article reported:

An IBM spokesman disputed an article reporting the company plans to reassign roughly 30 percent of Global Technology Services staffers through attrition this year.

A British online publication reported that Bain was likely to help IBM on its road to recovery.

IBM, according to the Poughkeepsie source, said:

“It’s not accurate,” said Clint Roswell, spokesman for IBM’s Global Technology Services business. He did not give specifics on what information was inaccurate. “The company did not make any announcement and we don’t comment on speculation,” Roswell said. He said IBM hires “many consultants, many of whom make recommendations. It’s as simple as that.”

Okay, where did the British publication’s story originate?

Another question: If IBM hires lots of consultants, why did this particular Bain report trigger a response in the estimable Poughkeepsie newspapers?

My hunch is that a kernel of truth resides in the British report and the IBM denial.

IBM is going to have to do some fancy dancing. Whether Bain, BCG, Booz, McKinsey, or another of the blue chip consulting firms get the job of fixing IBM, the system and method will lead to the same changes I described in “IBM Watson: Fresh Out of Correct Answers?

For those who have made it through advanced degree programs, the blue chip consulting firm charm schools, and the on the job training with Type A “experts”—the thought processes lead to:

  • Reassessment of internal financial data
  • Calculations to identify cost savings and money making opportunities
  • Ranking of units and their people
  • Reorganizations
  • Sales of certain business units
  • Embedding of consultants in place of existing managers
  • An effort to work directly with the Board of Directors

These types of changes are ones that people working for a company rarely make without the help of outside expertise.

Maybe IBM is on its way to sustainable revenues and impressive growth dusted with healthy profits?

On the other hand, IBM admits it works with lots of advisers. One of those outfits will get the job to fix IBM. The result will be the same sequence of actions identified in the dot points above.

The third quarter earning come out during the week of January 15, 2018. Has IBM returned to its glory days? If so, forget the consultants with repair kits. On the other hand, if the numbers are not exciting, maybe the Bainies or another blue chip outfit will be able to flip on the chain saw and do what has to be done. I think I can safely assert that asking Watson will not be Job One.

Stephen E Arnold, January 12, 2018

IBM Watson: Fresh Out of Correct Answers?

January 11, 2018

As a former laborer in the vineyard of a blue chip, bit time, only slightly misunderstood consulting firm, I know when a client throws in the towel.

I read allegedly accurate write up “Black & Blue: IBM Hires Bain to Cut Costs, Up Productivity.” Let’s assume that the story has the hiring of the Bainies 100 percent correct. (If you see me at one of the law enforcement and intelligence conferences at which I will be speaking in 2018, ask me about the Holiday Inn and Route 128 meetings from the late 1970s. That’s an interesting Bain anecdote in my opinion.)

The write up informed me:

IBM has indicated to senior Global Technology Services management that that a third of the global workforce will be “productively redeployed” in 2018 with tens of thousands of personnel “impacted”. Insiders told The Reg that Big Blue had hired consultant Bain & Company to help it plot a way forward for GTS, bringing in external business consultants despite spending $3.5bn to buy PWC in 2002

Interesting.

Let me share my view of what will happen:

  1. Hiring a big time, blue chip consulting firm will lead to upper management changes. I would not be surprised to see a Bainie become the shadow CEO of the company with other Bainies advising the Board of Directors. The reason? In order to book revenues, one moves up the food chain until the blue chip outfit is at the top of the heap and has a way to punch the cash register keys.
  2. Lots of people will lose their jobs. The logic is brutal. If your unit is not making money or hitting its targets, you are part of the problem. The easiest way to solve the problem is to show the underperformers the door with a friendly “find you future elsewhere, you lucky devil.”
  3. Divestitures will play a role in the remediation effort. If the incumbent management cannot turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse, polish it up, whip out some nifty future value diagrams, and sell what Boston Consulting folks once called “dogs.” Bain, like the Boozer, borrowed the BCG quadrant thing, and it will play a part in the Bain solutions.
  4. The stock price will go up. Hey, Bain is like magic dust. Those buy backs should have been used to generate new, sustainable revenue. Now with the Bainies reanalyzing the data, some Wall Street MBAs will see gold in them thar terminations, sell offs, and reorganizations.

Worth watching. If Bain is not on board, at some point another blue chip outfit will like McKinsey & Company could implement the same game plan.

In short, IBM is over. I suppose I could ask IBM Watson, but why bother? Time might be better spent trying to land a top job at Big Blue. Are you on Bain’s radar?

Stephen E Arnold, January 11, 2018

Filtered Content: Tactical Differences between Dow Jones and Thomson Reuters

December 5, 2017

You may know that Dow Jones has an online search company. The firm is called Factiva, and it is an old-school approach to finding information. The company recently announced a deal with an outfit called Curation. Founded by a former newspaper professional, Curation uses mostly humans to assemble reports on hot topics. Factiva is reselling these services, and advertising for customers in the Wall Street Journal. Key point: This is mostly a manual method. The approach was more in line with the types of “reports” available from blue chip consulting firms.

You may also know that Thomson Reuters has been rolling out machine curated reports. These have many different product names. Thomson Reuters has a large number of companies and brands. Not surprisingly, Thomson’s approach has to apply to many companies managed by executives who compete with regular competitors like Dow Jones but also among themselves. Darwin would have loved Thomson Reuters. The point is that Thomson Reuters’ approach relies on “smart” software.

You can read about Dow Jones’ play here.

You can read about Thomson Reuters’ play here.

My take is that these two different approaches reflect the painful fact that there is not clear path forward for professional publishing companies. In order to make money from electronic information, two of the major players are still experimenting. The digital revolution began, what?, about 40 years ago.

One would have thought that leading companies like Dow Jones and Thomson Reuters would have moved beyond the experimental stage and into cash cow land.

Not yet it seems. The reason for my pointing out these two different approaches is that there are more innovative methods available. For snapshots of companies which move beyond the Factiva and Thomson methods, watch Dark Cyber, a new program is available every Tuesday via YouTube at this link.

Stephen E Arnold, December 5, 2017

Natural Language Processing: Tomorrow and Yesterday

October 31, 2017

I read “Will Natural Language Processing Change Search as We Know It?” The write up is by a search specialist who, I believe, worked at Convera. The Search Technologies’ Web site asserts:

He was the architect and inventor of RetrievalWare, a ground-breaking natural-language based statistical text search engine which he started in 1989 and grew to $50 million in annual sales worldwide. RetrievalWare is now owned by Microsoft Corporation.

I think Fast Search acquired a portion of Convera. When Microsoft purchased Fast Search, the Convera technology was part of the deal. When Convera faded, one rumor I captured in 2007 was that some of the Convera technology was used by Ntent, formed as the result of a merger between Convera Corporation and Firstlight ERA. If accurate, the history of Convera is fascinating with Excalibur, ConQuest, and Allen & Co. in the mix.

In the “Will Natural Language Processing Change Search As We Know It” blog post, I noted these points:

  • Intranets incorporating NLP, semantic search and AI can fuel chatbots as well as end-to-end question-answering systems that live on top of search. It is a truly semantic extension to the search box with far-reaching implications for all types of search.
  • With NLP, enterprise knowledge contained in paper documentation can be encoded in a machine-readable format so the machine can read, process and understand it enough to formulate an intelligent response.
  • it’s good to know about established tool sets and methodologies for developing and creating effective solutions for use cases like technical support. But like all development projects, take care to create the tools based on mimicking the responses of actual human domain experts. Otherwise, you may run into the proverbial development problem of “garbage in, garbage out” which has plagued many such expert system initiatives.

Mr. Nelson is painting a reasonable picture about the narrow use of widely touted technologies. In fact, the promise of NLP has been part of enterprise search marketing for decades.

What I found interesting was the Convera document called “Accurate Search: What a Concept, published by Convera in 2002. I noted this passage on page 4 of the document:

Concept Search capitalizes on the richness of language, with its multiple term meanings, and transforms it from a problem into an advantage. RetrievalWare performs natural language processing and search term expansion to paraphrase queries, enabling retrieval of documents that contain the specific concepts requested rather than just the words typed during the query while also taking advantage of its semantic richness to rank documents in results lists. RetrievalWare’s powerful pattern search abilities overcome common errors in both content and queries, resulting in greater recall and user satisfaction.

I find the shift from a broad solution to a more narrow solution interesting. In the span of 15 years, the technology of search seems to be struggling to deliver.

Perhaps consulting and engineering services are needed to make search “work”? Contrast search with mobile phone technology. Progress has been evident. For search, success narrows to improving “documentation” and “customer support.”

Has anyone tried to reach PayPal’s customer support or United Airlines’ customer support? Try it. United was at one time a “customer” of Convera’s. From my point of view, United Airlines’ customer service has remained about the same over the last decade or two.

Enterprise search, broad or narrow, remains a challenge for marketers and users in my opinion. NLP, I assume, has arrived after a long journey. For a free profile of Convera, check out this link.

Stephen E Arnold, October 31, 2017

Google: What For-Fee Thought Leader Love? And for Money? Yep

July 13, 2017

Talk about disinformation. Alphabet Google finds itself in the spotlight for normal consulting service purchases. How many of those nifty Harvard Business Review articles, essays in Strategy & Business (the money loser published by the former Booz, Allen & Hamilton), or white papers generated by experts like me are labors of thought leader love.

Why not ask a person like me, an individual who has written a white paper for an interesting company in Spain? You won’t. Well, let me interview myself:

Question: Why did you write the white paper about multi-language text analysis?

Answer: I did a consulting job and was asked to provide a report about the who, what, why, etc. of the company’s technology.

Question: Is the white paper objective and factual?

Answer: Yes, I used information from my book research, a piece of published material from the “old” Autonomy Software, and the information gathered at the company’s headquarters in Madrid by one of my colleagues from the engineers. I had a couple of other researchers chase down information about the company, its products, customers, and founder. I then worked through the information about text analysis in my archive. I think I did a good job of presenting the technology and why it is important.

Question: Were you paid?

Answer: Yes, I retired in 2013, and I don’t write for third parties unless those third parties pony up cash.

Question: Do you flatter the company or distort the company’s technology, its applications, or its benefits?

Answer: I try to work through the explanation in order to inform. I offer my opinion at the end of the write up. In this particular case, the technology is pretty good. I state that.

Question: Would another expert agree with you?

Answer: Some would and some would not. When figuring out with a complex multi-lingual platform when processing text in 50 languages, there is room for differences of opinion with regard to such factors as [a] text through put on a particular application, [b] corpus collection and preparation, [c] system tuning for a particular application such as a chatbot, and other factors.

Question: Have you written similar papers for money over the years?

Answer: Yes, I started doing this type of writing in 1972 when I left the PhD program at the University of Illinois to join Halliburton Nuclear in Washington, DC.

Question: Do people know you write white papers or thought leader articles for money?

Answer: Anyone who knows me is aware of my policy of charging money for knowledge work. I worked at Booz, Allen & Hamilton and a number of other equally prestigious firms. To my knowledge, I have never been confused with Mother Teresa.

Mother Theresa A Person Who Works for Money
Image result for mother teresa seajpg02

 

I offer this information as my reaction to the Wall Street Journal’s write up “Google Pays Scholars to Influence Policy.” You will have to pay to read the original article because Mr. Murdoch is not into free information.The original appeared in my dead tree edition of the WSJ on July 12, 2017 on the first page with a jump to a beefy travelogue of Google’s pay-for-praise and pay-for-influence activities. A correction to the original story appears on Fox News. Gasp. Find that item here.

Google, it seems, is now finding itself in the spotlight for search results, presenting products to consumers, and its public relations/lobbying activities.

My view is that Google does not deserve this type of criticism. I would prefer that real journalists tackle such subjects as [a] the Loon balloon patent issue, [2] Google’s somewhat desperate attempts to discover the next inspiration like Yahoo’s online advertising approach, and [3] solving death’s progress.

Getting excited about white papers which have limited impact probably makes a real journalist experience a thrill. For me, the article triggers a “What’s new?”

But I am not Mother Teresa, who would have written for Google for nothing. Nah, not a chance.

Stephen E Arnold, July 14, 2017

Booz Boo Boo: Blue Chip? Maybe Not

June 1, 2017

I read “Booz Allen, NGA Probe Intel Leak.” Let’s assume that the information in the write up is “sort of” accurate. I suggest this because the article invokes the name of “Edward Snowden” and the name of “Hal Martin.” Both of these individuals allegedly behaved with a bit of professional “looseness.”

But the write up does more than remind me that the once highly regarded blue chip management consulting firm has become an example of how not to manage its own employees and contractors.

Too bad. I worked at Booz, Allen & Hamilton when the firm’s reputation was reasonably well regarded. Today I am not so sure I would place the Booz Allen outfit identified in the FCW article in my “I want to work their” Top 10.

The main point of the write up seems to me to be:

Edward Snowden, Hal Martin and now another Booz Allen Hamilton employee could be involved in the leak of sensitive intelligence data — though in the latest case, it appears it could be accidental.

The information, according the FCW, was sensitive. The error was a result of a misconfiguration error.

Nevertheless, a company charged with working within the constraints set forth by the client should have management procedures in place to prevent alleged security issues.

Booz, Allen & Hamilton once kept a low profile. Now the firm finds itself making headlines.

FCW is not the grocery store tabloid-type of “real news” outfit, of course. However, I ask myself, “Management or mismanagement?”

And from an outfit which once provided management consulting services to the world’s leading organizations.

Interesting.

Stephen E Arnold, June 1, 2017

Forrester: Enterprise Content Management Misstep

April 14, 2017

I have stated in the past that mid tier consulting firms—that is, outfits without the intellectual horsepower of a McKinsey, Bain, or BCG—generate work that is often amusing, sometimes silly, and once in a while just stupid. I noted an error which is certainly embarrassing to someone, maybe even a top notch expert at mid tier Forrester. The idea for a consulting firm is to be “right” and to keep the customer (in this case Hyland) happy. Also, it is generally good to deliver on what one promises. You know, the old under promise, over deliver method.

How about being wrong, failing, and not delivering at all? Read on about Forrester and content management.

Context

I noted the flurry of news announcements about Forrester, a bigly azure-chip consulting firm. A representative example of these marketing news things is “Microsoft, OpenText, IBM Lead Forrester’s ECM Wave in Evolving Market.” The write up explains that the wizards at Forrester have figured out the winners and losers in enterprise content management. As it turns out, the experts at Forrester do a much better job of explaining their “perception” of content management that implementing content management.

How can this be? Paid experts who cannot implement content management for reports about content management? Some less generous people might find this a minor glitch. I think that consultants are pretty good at cooking up reports and selling them. I am not too confident that mid tier consulting firms and even outfits like Booz, Allen has dotted their “i’s” and crossed their “t’s.”

Let me walk you through this apparent failure of Forrester to make their reports available to a person interested in a report. This example concerns a Forrester reviewed company called Hyland and its OnBase enterprise content management system.

The deal is that Hyland allows a prospect to download a copy of the Forrester report in exchange for providing contact information. Once the contact information is accepted, the potential buyer of OnBase is supposed to be able to download a copy of the Forrester report. This is trivial stuff, and we are able to implement the function when I sell my studies. Believe me. If we can allow registered people to download a PDF, so can you.

The Failure

I wanted a copy of “The Forrester Wave: ECM Business Content Services.” May I illustrate how Forrester’s enterprise content management system fails its paying customers and those who register to download these high value, completely wonderful documents.

Step 1: Navigate to this link for OnBase by Hyland, one of the vendors profiled in the allegedly accurate, totally object Forrester report

image

Step 2: Fill out the form so Hyland’s sales professionals can contact you in hopes of selling you the product which Forrester finds exceptional

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Note the big orange “Download Now” button. I like the “now” part because it means that with one click I get the high-value, super accurate report.

Step 3: Click on one of these two big green boxes:

image

I tested both, and both return the same high value, super accurate, technically wonderful reports—sort of.

Read more

You Do Not Search. You Insight.

April 12, 2017

I am delighted, thrilled. I read “Coveo, Microsoft, Sinequa Lead Insight Engine Market.” What a transformation is captured in what looks to me like a content marketing write up. Key word search morphs into “insight.” For folks who do not follow the history of enterprise search with the fanaticism of those involved in baseball statistics, the use of the word “insight” to describe locating a document is irrelevant. Do you search or insight?

For me, hunkered down in rural Kentucky, with my monitors flickering in the intellectual darkness of Kentucky, the use of the word “insight” is a linguistic singularity. Maybe not on the scale of an earthquake in Italy or a banker leaping from his apartment to the Manhattan asphalt, but a historical moment nevertheless.

Let me recap some of my perceptions of the three companies mentioned in the headline to this tsunami of jargon in the Datanami story:

  • Coveo is a company which developed a search and retrieval system focused on Windows. With some marketing magic, the company explained keyword search as customer support, then Big data, and now this new thing, “insight”. For those who track vendor history, the roots of Coveo reach back to a consumer interface which was designed to make search easy. Remember Copernic. Yep, Coveo has been around a long while.
  • Sinequa also was a search vendor. Like Exalead and Polyspot and other French search vendors, the company wanted manage data, provide federation, and enable workflows. After a president change and some executive shuffling, Sinequa emerged as a Big Data outfit with a core competency in analytics. Quite a change. How similar is Sinequa to enterprise search? Pretty similar.
  • Microsoft. I enjoyed the “saved by the bell” deal in 2008 which delivered the “work in progress” Fast Search & Transfer enterprise search system to Redmond. Fast Search was one of the first search vendors to combine fast-flying jargon with a bit of sales magic. Despite the financial meltdown and an investigation of the Fast Search financials, Microsoft ponied up $1.2 billion and reinvented SharePoint search. Well, not exactly reinvented, but SharePoint is a giant hairball of content management, collaboration, business “intelligence” and, of course, search. Here’s a user friendly chart to help you grasp SharePoint search.

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Flash forward to this Datanami article and what do I learn? Here’s a paragraph I noted with a smiley face and an exclamation point:

Among the areas where natural language processing is making inroads is so-called “insight engines” that are projected to account for half of analytic queries by 2019. Indeed, enterprise search is being supplanted by voice and automated voice commands, according to Gartner Inc. The market analyst released it latest “Magic Quadrant” rankings in late March that include a trio of “market leaders” along with a growing list of challengers that includes established vendors moving into the nascent market along with a batch of dedicated startups.

There you go. A trio like ZZTop with number one hits? Hardly. A consulting firm’s “magic” plucks these three companies from a chicken farm and gives each a blue ribbon. Even though we have chickens in our backyard, I cannot tell one from another. Subjectivity, not objectivity, applies to picking good chickens, and it seems to be what New York consulting firms do too.

Are the “scores” for the objective evaluations based on company revenue? No.

Return on investment? No.

Patents? No.

IRR? No. No. No.

Number of flagship customers like Amazon, Apple, and Google type companies? No.

The ranking is based on “vision.” And another key factor is “the ability to execute its “strategy.” There you go. A vision is what I want to help me make my way through Kabul. I need a strategy beyond stay alive.

What would I do if I have to index content in an enterprise? My answer may surprise you. I would take out my check book and license these systems.

  1. Palantir Technologies or Centrifuge Systems
  2. Bitext’s Deep Linguistic Analysis platform
  3. Recorded Future.

With these three systems I would have:

  1. The ability to locate an entity, concept, event, or document
  2. The capability to process content in more than 40 languages, perform subject verb object parsing and entity extraction in near real time
  3. Point-and-click predictive analytics
  4. Point-and-click visualization for financial, business, and military warfighting actions
  5. Numerous programming hooks for integrating other nifty things that I need to achieve an objective such as IBM’s Cybertap capability.

Why is there a logical and factual disconnect between what I would do to deliver real world, high value outputs to my employees and what the New York-Datanami folks recommend?

Well, “disconnect” may not be the right word. Have some search vendors and third party experts embraced the concept of “fake news” or embraced the know how explained in Propaganda, Father Ellul’s important book? Is the idea something along the lines of “we just say anything and people will believe our software will work this way”?

Many vendors stick reasonably close to the factual performance of their software and systems. Let me highlight three examples.

First, Darktrace, a company crafted by Dr. Michael Lynch, is a stickler for explaining what the smart software does. In a recent exchange with Darktrace, I learned that Darktrace’s senior staff bristle when a descriptive write up strays from the actual, verified technical functions of the software system. Anyone who has worked with Dr. Lynch and his senior managers knows that these people can be very persuasive. But when it comes to Darktrace, it is “facts R us”, thank you.

Second, Recorded Future takes a similar hard stand when explaining what the Recorded Future system can and cannot do. Anyone who suggests that Recorded Future predictive analytics can identify the winner of the Kentucky Derby a day before the race will be disabused of that notion by Recorded Future’s engineers. Accuracy is the name of the game at Recorded Future, but accuracy relates to the use of numerical recipes to identify likely events and assign a probability to some events. Even though the company deals with statistical probabilities, adding marketing spice to the predictive system’s capabilities is a no-go zone.

Third, Bitext, the company that offers a Deep Linguistics Analysis platform to improve the performance of a range of artificial intelligence functions, is anchored in facts. On a recent trip to Spain, we interviewed a number of the senior developers at this company and learned that Bitext software works. Furthermore, the professionals are enthusiastic about working for this linguistics-centric outfit because it avoid marketing hyperbole. “Our system works,” said one computational linguist. This person added, “We do magic with computational linguistics and deep linguistic analysis.” I like that—magic. Oh, Bitext does sales too with the likes of Porsche, Volkswagen, and the world’s leading vendor of mobile systems and services, among others. And from Madrid, Spain, no less. And without marketing hyperbole.

Why then are companies based on keyword indexing with a sprinkle of semantics and basic math repositioning themselves by chasing each new spun sugar-encrusted trend?

I have given a tiny bit of thought to this question.

In my monograph “The New Landscape of Search” I made the point that search had become devalued, a free download in open source repositories, and a utility like cat or dir. Most enterprise search systems have failed to deliver results painted in Technicolor in sales presentations and marketing collateral.

Today, if I want search and retrieval, I just use Lucene. In fact, Lucene is more than good enough; it is comparable to most proprietary enterprise search systems. If I need support, I can ring up Elastic or one of many vendors eager to gild the open source lily.

The extreme value and reliability of open source search and retrieval software has, in my opinion, gutted the market for proprietary search and retrieval software. The financial follies of Fast Search & Transfer reminded some investors of the costly failures of Convera, Delphes, Entopia, among others I documented on my Xenky.com site at this link.

Recently most of the news I see on my coal fired computer in Harrod’s Creek about enterprise search has been about repositioning, not innovation. What’s up?

The answer seems to be that the myth cherished by was that enterprise search was the one, true way make sense of digital information. What many organizations learned was that good enough search does the basic blocking and tackling of finding a document but precious little else without massive infusions of time, effort, and resources.

But do enterprise search systems–no matter how many sparkly buzzwords–work? Not too many, no matter what publicly traded consulting firms tell me to believe.

Snake oil? I don’t know. I just know my own experience, and after 45 years of trying to make digital information findable, I avoid fast talkers with covered wagons adorned with slogans.

Image result for snake oil salesman 20th century

What happens when an enterprise search system is fed videos, podcasts, telephone intercepts, flows of GPS data, and a couple of proprietary file formats?

Answer: Not much.

The search system has to be equipped with extra cost  connectors, assorted oddments, and shimware to deal with a recorded webinar and a companion deck of PowerPoint slides used by the corporate speaker.

What happens when the content stream includes email and documents in six, 12, or 24 different languages?

Answer: Mad scrambling until the proud licensee of an enterprise search system can locate a vendor able to support multiple language inputs. The real life needs of an enterprise are often different from what the proprietary enterprise search system can deal with.

That’s why I find the repositioning of enterprise search technology a bit like a clown with a sad face. The clown is no longer funny. The unconvincing efforts to become something else clash with the sad face, the red nose, and  worn shoes still popular in Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky.

Image result for emmett kelly

When it comes to enterprise search, my litmus test is simple: If a system is keyword centric, it isn’t going to work for some of the real world applications I have encountered.

Oh, and don’t believe me, please.

Find a US special operations professional who relies on Palantir Gotham or IBM Analyst’s Notebook to determine a route through a hostile area. Ask whether a keyword search system or Palantir is more useful. Listen carefully to the answer.

No matter what keyword enthusiasts and quasi-slick New York consultants assert, enterprise search systems are not well suited for a great many real world applications. Heck, enterprise search often has trouble displaying documents which match the user’s query.

And why? Sluggish index updating, lousy indexing, wonky metadata, flawed set up, updates that kill a system, or interfaces that baffle users.

Personally I love to browse results lists. I like old fashioned high school type research too. I like to open documents and Easter egg hunt my way to a document that answers my question. But I am in the minority. Most users expect their finding systems to work without the query-read-click-scan-read-scan-read-scan Sisyphus-emulating slog.

Image result for sisyphus

Ah, you are thinking I have offered no court admissible evidence to support my argument, right? Well, just license a proprietary enterprise search system and let me know how your career is progressing. Remember when you look for a new job. You won’t search; you will insight.

Stephen E Arnold, April 12, 2017

The Uncertainty for Beltway Bandits: Billions at Stake

January 17, 2017

I don’t find CNBC a source of useful information. I did notice a write up with a title which caught my attention; specifically “Trump’s Rift with Intelligence Community Is Spooking US Spy Agency Contractors.” The business of some intelligence agencies boils down to information access, search, and content processing. With digital content readily available, the Beltway Bandits (contractors, consulting outfits, and body shops which provide “services” to the US government have been, are, and should be in hog heaven. Successful Beltway Bandits wallow in money, not mud, I wish to point out.

The CNBC story asserts:

The changing political landscape in Washington and friction between President-elect Donald Trump and the U.S. intelligence community could have major implications not only for the spy agencies but for the shadow private contractors such as Booz Allen Hamilton that support them.

Yikes. The Boozer!

The idea is that

Booz Allen, which gets 97 percent of it revenue from U.S. government agencies, provides everything from cyber and IT services to work designed to enhance the nation’s intelligence capabilities.

CNBC notes:

Overall, the U.S. budget for the national intelligence program was $53 billion in fiscal 2016 and another $17.7 billion for the military intelligence program.

My view from rural Kentucky is that the “total” is probably different from what CNBC reports. One example: What about the budget for projects for the White House, what about entities with one innocuous name which perform “interesting” work. Are these figures tallied?

CNBC notes that despite the uncertainty which accompanies any new president taking office, spending for information and intelligence is likely to go up.

My thought is that Booz, Allen and similar firms are going to chug along. Information access is a tough problem. Who is the president and his appointees going to rely upon? A Yandex query? Experts in Cairo, Illinois? Nope. The Beltway crowd, a tradition for decades.

Stephen E Arnold, January 17, 2017

Gartner Wants to Change Its Tint: From Azure to Blue

January 7, 2017

Is it possible for a mid tier consulting firm to change into a blue chip firm with a splurge of money, stock, and PR?

The idea is that there is a hierarchy of consulting firms. At the top are outfits like McKinsey, Bain, BCG, SRI, and a handful of others are blue chip outfits. These outfits deliver the blue ribbon winning bacon to their clients. Then at the bottom of the hierarchy are the drab gray chips held by former middle school teachers and unemployed journalists who embrace freelance consulting. You can find some of these folks at search engine optimization conferences or via gig Web sites. In the middle are consulting firms which are generating revenue and have some clients. These outfits either try to move up to the blue chip sector and compete head to head with the blue chip folks. or they are drifting down to Fiverr.com territory where “services” begin at $5 per job. In the middle are the azure chip outfits. Many of these firms purveying expertise embrace LinkedIn and do their best to become the talk of the town. The talking heads on many TV news programs come from the azure chip brigade.

Why are the color thing and the consulting hierarchy relevant?

Gartner Group, if the information in “IT Research Firm Gartner Is Buying CEB for $2.6 Billion” is on the money, is making a beeline to the paint store. From azure to blue chip with a bit of cash and Moxie.

The write up points out that Gartner is paying $2.6 billion for a services firm. I learned:

Gartner is offering $54 in cash and 0.2284 of its shares for each CEB share. The deal represents a premium of about 25 percent to CEB’s Wednesday close. CEB’s shares were up 16.4 percent at $72.05 in premarket trading, below the implied offer price of $77.25 per share. Gartner’s shares, which closed at $101.79 on Wednesday, were untraded.

Well, that’s a bit underwhelming for shareholders. “Untraded.” Hmmm.

The Washington Post reported that one CEB executive was “excited” by the deal. The CEB top dog is heading for the kennel. The Post noted:

CEB has grown more slowly than Gartner recently, making some investors worry whether the combined company can maintain the double-digit revenue growth rates Gartner has boasted in recent years.

What happens if more of the CEB professionals check out?

Will the respray deliver the growth and revenue Gartner desires? I have no crystal ball, but if there are some show dogs at CEB, why not see if the McKinsey- or Booz Allen-type outfits are hiring. More money and maybe more prestige?

The big question for me is the new blue chip paint going to hold up in the tough business climate?

Stephen E Arnold, January 7, 2017

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