Mid Tier Consultants Try the Turkey Tactic

November 27, 2014

Entering 2015, the economy is not ripping along like some of the MBAs suggest. Life is gloomy for many keyword search, content management, and indexing system vendors. And for good reason. These technologies have run their course. Instead of being must have enterprise solutions, the functions are now utilities. The vendors of proprietary systems have to realize that free and open source systems provide “good enough” utility type functions.

Perhaps this brutal fact is the reason that search “expert” Dave Schubmehl recycled our research on open source software, tried to flog it on Amazon without my permission, and then quietly removed the reports based on ArnoldIT research. When a mid tier consulting firm cannot sell recycled research taken without permission for sale via Amazon for the quite incredible price of $3,500 for eight pages of information garbling our work, you know that times are tough for the mid tier crowd.

image

Are the turkeys the mid-tier consultants or their customers? Predictions about the future wrapped in the tin foil of jargon may not work like touts who pick horses. The difference between a mid tier consulting firm and a predictive analytics firm is more than the distance between an art history major and a PhD in mathematics with a Master’s in engineering and an undergraduate degree in history in my opinion.

Now the focus at the mid tier consulting firms is turning to the issue of raising turkeys. Turkeys are stellar creatures. Is it true that the turkey is the only fowl that will drown itself during a rain storm. My grandmother told me the birds will open their beaks and capture the rain. According to the Arnold lore, some lightning quick turkeys will drown themselves.

For 2015, the mid tier consultants want to get the Big Data bird moving. Also, look for the elegant IoT or Internet of Things to get the blue ribbon treatment. You can get a taste of this dish in this news release: “IDC Hosts Worldwide Internet of Things 2015 Predictions Web Conference.”

Yep, a Web conference. I call this a webinar, and I have webinar fatigue. The conference is intended to get the turkeys in the barn. Presumably some of the well heeled turkeys will purchase the IDC Future Scape report. When I mentioned this to a person with whom I spoke yesterday, I think that individual said, “A predictions conference. You are kidding me.” An, no I wasn’t. Here’s the passage I noted:

“The Internet of Things will give IT managers a lot to think about,” said Vernon Turner, Senior Vice President of Research at IDC. “Enterprises will have to address every IT discipline to effectively balance the deluge of data from devices that are connected to the corporate network. In addition, IoT will drive tough organizational structure changes in companies to allow innovation to be transparent to everyone, while creating new competitive business models and products.”

I think I understand. “Every”, “tough organizational changes,” and “new competitive business models.” Yes. And the first example is a report with predictions.

When I think of predictions, I don’t think of mid tier consultants. I think of outfits like Recorded Future, Red Owl, and Haystax, among others. The predictions these companies output are based on data. Predictions from mid tier consultants are based on a wide range of methods. I have a hunch that some of these techniques include folks sitting around and asking, “Well, what do you think this Internet of Things stuff will mean?”

Give me the Recorded Future approach. Oh, I don’t like turkey. I am okay with macaroni and cheese. Basic but it lacks the artificial fizz with which some farmers charge their fowl.

Stephen E Arnold, November 27, 2014

Mid Tier Consultants Scratch One Another’s Back

November 14, 2014

I received at my Yahoo email account an email from IDC. That’s the outfit that published content with my name on Amazon’s book store without my permission. Yep, that IDC.  Here’s what I received on November 14, 2014:

image

The key line is “Magic Quadrant: Key Players in the WCM Market.” I clicked that link and was redirected to this page:

image

So what we have is IDC, employer of the “expert” Dave Schubmehl, pointing to Gartner and one of its fascinating, mostly marketing oriented Magic Quadrants. When I clicked the “Get this now” button, here’s what appeared:

image

If this url will not resolve, contact the mid tier consultants. Perhaps one of the “experts” will provide you access.

This is one of those tony consultant reports. I recall reading that no one—and I mean no one—is supposed to reproduce, republish, recycle, or reinvent this quadrant thing. After all, it includes really clear information asserting that some companies are niche players, some challengers, some visionaries, and some leaders.

I assume it is really good to be a visionary. In this sort of odd ball collection of vendors, HP and IBM are leaders in content management. Well, that does not square with my perception of either company. IBM is like a waif, wandering from business explanation to Watson application in an almost random way. HP is busy splitting itself in two, explaining to various legal eagles why its purchase of Autonomy has become a two year old’s finger painting, not a work of financial art, and jumping back into mobiles and tablets as it tries to become a leader in cloud computing.

Let’s set aside the arbitrary classification of companies. I have explained numerous times that the original BCG matrix was based on data. The Gartner matrix is based on secondary information, mostly from companies who have some type of relationship with magic.

My point is that IDC, a mid tier outfit, is promoting another mid tier outfit. Does one scratch the back of a stranger on the R train at 11 35 pm Saturday night? Nope, back scratching stakes me as a somewhat personal, connected relationship.

I am getting nervous thinking about this familiarity, particularly when some folks may accept the mid tier firm’s work as objective, independent, and unbiased. Perhaps I am wrong, but this coziness is an indication that marketing may be more important than information.

Stephen E Arnold, November 14, 2014

Amazon: Not Right for Some Authors

November 8, 2014

I wanted to call this write up Godforsaken ID. But you might plug in the letter “C” or you might not. I suggest you track down a dead tree edition of the still dog paddling New York Times. Check out the business section and look for the Google pleasing headline “Prominent Editor’s Exit a Setback for Amazon Publishing Unit.” I quite like the juxtaposition of prominent, setback, and everyone’s favorite online WalMart.” You may be able to view a version of the story at this link, but I make no promises in this money oriented era.)

The write up has a great quote or two.

  • “His [Ed Park, a literary luminary unknown to me] departure reflects the challenges that Amazon faces in a publishing ecosystem that largely views the online retailer as a rapacious competitor.”
  • “Some literary agents  say Amazon’s publishing operation seems to be retreating.”

In my view, I don’t want my work sold on the Amazon system. I have enough experience writing and selling monographs that appeal to maybe 300 people in the world. These folks are not reached via WalMart.

You views, like those of Dave Schubmehl and IDC, may differ from mine. As you know, without a written agreement, Mr. Schubmehl (an alleged expert in information retrieval) and his employer (the large mid tier consulting firm, IDC) reworked my research, put their names and brand on the material, and attempted to sell the result for $3,500 on Amazon.

Is that clueless? I don’t know. I am relatively confident that whatever executive decision lead to that move may suggest some management challenges. You can read about the “surfing on Arnold” play and the IDC hopes Amazon can move 10 pages for $3500 at these links:

Several observations:

First, Amazon obviously did not check with the authors on the IDC report that permissions were in place. What’s this say about Amazon?

Second, who at IDC perceived Amazon as a way to move 10 pages of my recycled content for $3,500?

Third, how desperate are companies like Amazon and IDC to earn monikers like rapacious and name surfer?

We live in interesting information centric times. As I reveal my research results about the new direction in content processing, how long will it take for this information to surface with the name of a person who did not do the nitty gritty work? I should emulate the NCAA basketball gambling craze start a pool for this digital publishing sport?

Oh, I like old fashioned bookstores too.

Stephen E Arnold, November 8, 2014

MarkLogic: Banging a Drum in Hopes of Drowning Out Open Source NoSQL Reggae Beat

October 3, 2014

I read “MarkLogic Positioned as a Leader in NoSQL Document Databases Report by Independent Research Firm.” The research firm is the mid tier outfit Forrester Research Inc. Forrester creates “wave” reports. These are Forrester’s response to various grid, quadrants, and tables cranked out by Gartner, Ovum, Butler, Kelsey, and a life boat stuffed with consulting firm shakeout survivors. Dated October 2, 2014, the MarkLogic news release will be the first of a half dozen or more issued by companies in this “independent research firm’s” report. The mid tier analyses are crafted so that negatives are swathed in high density, low impact foam like the spray on insulation.

Why not?

Like Heaven’s Gate’s media event, any publicity is good publicity. At least, that’s the public relations mantra. Look at IBM Watson and its BBQ sauce recipe with tamarind. I mention that innovation as frequently as possible.

Well, let me do my part for this report:

The write up asserts:

“MarkLogic offers the most mature and scalable NoSQL document database. Unlike other NoSQL document databases, MarkLogic has been offering a NoSQL solution for more than a decade,” stated Forrester in the report that evaluated select companies against 57 criteria. “MarkLogic has the most comprehensive data management features and functionality to store, process, and access any kind of structured and multi structured data.” Forrester’s evaluation of NoSQL document database vendors scored factors like performance, scalability, integration, security, high availability, workload management and form factor. MarkLogic was cited as a Leader in the evaluation, receiving its highest score in the go-to-market category.

Okay. The news release provides a link so the reader can get a copy of the “independent research firm’s” report. If you want to skip the original document and go to the registration form so you can download the “independent research firm’s” report, navigate to http://bit.ly/1oGQCvf. In my experience, some follow up by the “leader” MarkLogic may take place.

In my view, content marketing covers these “independent” reports. The idea makes clear that attention is required in order to kindle interest in a product or a service. Now MarkLogic is an Extensible Markup Language data management system. The company has been in business since 2003. The firm has ingested more than $70 million in venture funding. The firm has experienced the same type of revolving door for senior management that other ageing starts up experience; for example, Lucid Imagination (now Lucid Works, which I write as Lucid Works. Really?). MarkLogic, in order to meet stakeholders’ expectations, has to find a growth bull, get it in a corral, and covert the animal to high value revenue.

Several observations:

  1. Proprietary XML systems positioned as NoSQL alternatives have to find a way to convince a prospect that proprietary is a better value than open source. The impact of Hadoop, a variant of Google’s Big Table, is long in the tooth and faces some of its own value challenges.
  2. Companies like Oracle are providing some of its clients with the comfort of a proprietary system with compatibility with open source technology. Thus, some large companies may be reluctant to dismount one old nag and climb on another. IBM also does some anti open source marketing but that’s another story. For some insights, run a query for Watson on the Beyond Search index.
  3. The noise surrounding NoSQL is creating some confusion. This means that firms that are neither big or small have to find a way to make their size into a positive. Enter content marketing and reports that present a group of companies in a simplified table.
  4. Do the “independent” experts use the products included in a variant of the Boston Consulting Group’s matrix? You know: Install, optimize, customize, and utilize with their own brain, fingers, and eyeballs? My hunch is that none of this “real” experience stuff is germane to cranking out an “independent” report. Just my uninformed opinion, you understand.

If a company requires a NoSQL solution, how do those firms select vendors? Based on the research that IDC used to skip Dave Schubmehl to expert status, large companies are more likely to try open source for a new project. Smaller firms often look for brand name software in order to show investors that base technology has a brand name.

Forrester-type firms (Gartner, IDC, Ovum, etc.) generate “independent” reports to inflate the balloon. The French have a delightful verb for this: “se gonfler”. So, nous [MarkLogic] gonflons notre ballon. (If the translation is poor, blame Google, the inventor of Big Table more than a decade ago.)

Stephen E Arnold, October 3, 2014

Hewlett Packard Autonomy: A New 3D Printer Will Not Distract Litigation Scrutiny

September 28, 2014

I read “Hewlett Packard Autonomy Lawsuit Accord Questioned by Judge.” I marked this passage as an indication that HP’s announcement about a new 3D printer is not distracting US District Judge Charles Breyer. The write up states:

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco, who earlier held up approval of the settlement over how much lawyers would be paid, Friday told company attorneys he’s concerned the deal would rob investors of the right to sue management over matters unrelated to the purchase.

Also, one big bucks outfit expressed some concern that certain aspects of HP management behavior may need some sunlight. Navigate to “CalPERS Says HP/Autonomy Shareholder Settlement Needs More Work.” I noted this passage in the article:

In a letter to U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer dated Tuesday, CalPERS said the judge should not approve the deal before both sides disclose the amount of fees plaintiff attorneys would recover. As it stands, the proposed civil settlement would leave shareholders “in the dark” about one of its key terms, CalPERS said in the letter.

Now about that 3D printer? “Market Brands HP’s 3D Printing Comments “Worrisome.” As long as a mid tier consultant explains HP’s 3D printer play in this way, HP will have to deal with the buzz about Autonomy:

In the end, HP will target the 3D printer opportunities that align with its technology and overall strategy. And as the company has said but which has been misunderstood by many people, HP will make technology announcements this fall only to make its 3D printers available later.

Does HP have control of its communications or will tweets from an outfit like IDC turn the tide? The September 22, 2014 tweets about HP are similar in the impact to the “In the end” statement above:

Dave Schubmehl @dschubmehl  ·  Sep 22  HP #IDOL and #Vertica power #HPHAVEn to deliver new insights from structured and unstructured information to impact marketing #HPEngage2014 Replied to 0 times

I quite like the zero times.

Stephen E Arnold, September 28, 2014

IDG Nukes Macworld Magazine

September 11, 2014

I love IDG, the publishing / services company founded by Pat McGovern in 1964. Mr. McGovern spoke to me about joining the company. I was an executive at Ziff Communications Co. He seemed like a nice guy. I recall he had on a plain blue suit, white shirt, and red tie. I think that every time I saw him at a conference or in a snapshot, he had on that attire.

I decided to deflect his interest in me. I did not get happy vibes from him. Bill Ziff, on the other hand, emitted a presence and triggered singing and dancing vibes. So what da ya think? Culture maybe? Integrity radar beep?

IDG owns IDC, an outfit that has used my content over the years. Most recently, one of the IDG/IDC “experts” surfed on my name, selling a heavily modified version of a report I wrote about Attivio. Did I get paid? Nah. Did the expert, Dave Schubmehl, I believe sign a contract with me? Nah.

Does this provide some insight into the pressure on IDG / IDC to make money without thinking too much about the methods? Hmmm.

When I read “IDG Shutters Macworld Magazine, Much of the Editorial Staff Let Go,” I had three thoughts race through my admittedly small mind:

  1. There will be more cost reducing measures. This is not the dropping of a single shoe. It may signal a semi carrying print titles that is losing its load.
  2. Too bad for the IDGers who have to look for work elsewhere. Leaving a company that seems to be starting a slim down plan to deal with cost issues is not the blue ribbon it was in the triage years after the crash in 2008. There’s a recovery, right?
  3. Are there other examples of rising pressure causing interesting business decisions? Surfing on my name by selling a report that puts some sparkle on the Las Vegas dancer’s costume is different from blue chip consulting methods. See this story for some color.

The article points out that the Macworld Web site will not be killed off. Some staff have been sent packing.

Not too surprising.

Stephen E Arnold, September 11, 2014

Fixing US Government Information Technology

August 29, 2014

Short honk: I found this item amusing: “America’s Tech Guru Steps Down—But He’s Not Done Rebooting the Government.” Let’s see. There was Healthcare.gov and then the missing IRS emails. I heard about a few other minor glitches, but these are not germane. The notion is that a “tech guru” can fix government IT from outside the government. I think this means getting into the consulting and engineering services game.

Optimism is evident; for example:

Park wants to move government IT into the open source, cloud-based, rapid-iteration environment that is second nature to the crowd considering his pitch tonight. The president has given reformers like him leave, he told them, “to blow everything … up and make it radically better.”

Okay, I suppose some folks are waiting. Will Booz Allen, CSC, SAIC, SRA, and IBM Federal lose sleep tonight? Nope. Some will probably be chuckling as I did.

This is a get funding, bill, submit engineering change order, bill, get funding, etc. etc. world. Improvement is usually a lower priority task whether one is inside or outside the entity.

Stephen E Arnold, August 29, 2014

Radicati Group: Yet Another Quadrant

August 28, 2014

Every time I see my story about Dave Schubmehl’s surfing on my name, I think about the paucity of innovation among the low- and mid-tier consulting firms. It is not sufficient to lack creativity. Success appears to require surfing on the insights of others. For more on the Schubmehl surfing angle, please, navigate to “ “Meme of the Moment” and “IDC and Reports by Schubmehl.” For ethical issue related to some firms’ actions, see “Are HP, Google, and IDC Out of Square.

Please review the Marketwired story “The Radicati Group Releases Enterprise Content Management – Market Quadrant, 2014.” This analysis is not like the original Boston Consulting Group’s grid analysis from the late 1970s. That method was based on such data as market share, return on investment, revenue, and other “hard” information.

This “quadrant” seems quite similar to the Gartner Group’s “quadrant” now the subject of a legal action by Netscout. For the details of the Netscout allegation, you will find Netscout’s view of the situation at http://wp.me/pf6p2-aAo.

The Radicati approach eschews dogs, stars, cows, and question markets for:

  • Mature players
  • Specialists
  • Trail blazers
  • Top players.

Are these categories connotative and subjective? Can a trail blazer be a top player or mature player? Oh, what’s a player? Hmm.

The idea is that the Radicati analysts have created a way to map enterprise content management vendors against these categories. The hope, I assume, is that a potential licensee of one of these systems will use the Radicati’s research as a guide to purchases.

I also find it interesting that the “Radicati Market Quadrants” phrase is a service mark. Like the IDC surfing on my name issue, the inspiration from BCG’s notion is not referenced. Will potential purchasers confuse low- and mid-tier consulting firm’s quadrants with those produced by blue-chip Boston Consulting?

Nah. Just another example of the challenges consulting firms face in today’s business climate. If you are interested, there is a helpful explanation of the BCG approach at http://bit.ly/1pa5m4A.

That’s what many of these “quadrants” suggest: The work of a student trying to improve a mark. In today’s environment, doing what is expedient seems to be a popular approach. Content marketing is one way to become visible I assume.

Another, more difficult path, is to craft an original question to answer and then perform research and analysis to help answer that question.

Wow. What consulting firms have time and the expertise to tackle investigations in this manner? I can name some who avoid this approach like the plague.

Stephen E Arnold, August 28, 2014

Public Relations Worker Density

August 19, 2014

I read “PR Workers Outnumber Journalists in the US.” This write up surprised me for two reasons. I thought that the ratio for PR people to “real” journalists was higher than five PR types to one “real” journalist types. Second, the sample does not seem to include low tier and mid tier consultants who may be PR folk wearing the garb of shaman.

Qualifications for PR professionals vary widely. I recall the halcyon days when I was supposed to provide oversight to a company’s PR outfit. The firm was Ketchum, Macleod. The PR professionals I encountered were friendly sorts and very good at billing. How does one bill a client for 160 hours and handle several other accounts? Magic, I assumed. The pros were adept at bridge, offering to take me out, and confusing my deadlines with other people’s deadlines. It all ended happily. I met with a former Marine and chatted about the magic of billing. Happiness ensured. Did I mention that the PR pros had worked at college newspapers, rock radio stations, and interpersonal networking. Interesting work indeed.

Are PR professionals engaging in a variant of All Hallow’s Day festivities. Image source: http://bit.ly/YtNmwU

The data on which the article is based does not appear to include “rentals.” These are folks who are positioned as experts and generate content. I suggest you read the rather interesting legal document about Gartner Group at http://slidesha.re/1pPsY21.

Another thought that struck me is that outfits like IDC use third party content, edit it, and put their “experts” name on them are engaged in quasi PR. See http://bit.ly/1thUZAJ. In the case of the Schubmehl affair, IDC sold edited and cheerful versions of my research for $3,500. (My attorney was able to stop the sale of these documents carrying the name of the IDC expert, Dave Schubmehl in July 2014.) Are these documents gussied up PR? Are these documents sweetened to facilitate sales? Are these documents the work on which Pat McGovern built his company? PR? You figure it out.

The point is that if one includes the data set in the “Outnumber” article and mix in the “experts” who sell third party endorsements, the number of PR purveyors goes up. Five to one is, in my view, conservative. A different methodology might inflate the ratio. Seven to one? Nine to one? I don’t know. Five to one seems conservative.

The point is that when organizations and individuals need money, almost anything goes. Heroin? No problem. Failing to pay postage? No problem. Surfing on another’s reputation to further one’s own career? No problem. Generating PR dressed up like the All Hallow’s Eve celebrants? No problem.

Stephen E Arnold, August 19, 2014

Even Content Marketers React to Pay to Play Allegation

August 18, 2014

I find CMS Wire quite interesting. A number of the articles are by consultants and some seem quite vendor centric. In general, it is a useful way to keep track of what’s hot and what’s not in the world of content management. Like knowledge management or anything with the word “management” in its moniker, I am not sure what these disciplines embrace. Like the equally fuzzy notion of predicative analytics, I find that the aura of meaning often at odds with reality. Whether it is the failure of certain professionals to “predict” problems with the caliphate or whether it focuses on predicting which start up with be the next big thing, the here and now are often slippery, surprising, and, at times, baffling.

Not in “How Vendors learn to Play the Gartner Game.” This is a darned good write up and it introduces a bound phrase I find intellectually satisfying: “the Gartner Game.” I understand Scrabble and checkers. More sophisticated games are beyond my ken. I am not able to play the Gartner Game, but I can enjoy certain aspects of it.

The article explains the game clearly:

Now, in fairness, just because someone gives you a wad of cash — even in the form of extra business — it’s no guarantee you’ll write something favorable. Trust me on this: Back when news was still reported in daily papers and reporters were wooed with more insincerity than a contestant on The Bachelor, it was customary for sources to send gifts.

My own brush with Gartner-like firms was a bit different. I did not expect to see a report with my name on sold on Amazon from late 2012 to July 2014. Why? I provided content/research to IDC, a Gartner competitor. IDC took the information, created reports, and sold those reports. I received no contract. No sales reports. When one of the documents turned up on Amazon, I realized that an IDC expert named Schubmehl was surfing on my work.

I wrote a short commentary about the apparent erosion of certain business practices. In that article, I found a thread connecting the HP problem with the post office, the Google executive’s brush with heroin and a female not involved in Kolmogorov analyses, and IDC’s Schubmehl. In each case, executives made decisions that probably seemed really good at the time. Over time, the decisions proved to be startling. I mean the post office and postage. Horrific. I mean the Google wizard who ended up dead on a yacht while his wife took care of the kids. Professionally clumsy. I mean an “expert” who writes reports taking another person’s information and using it to close information centric deals.

I don’t know much about the world of mid tier consulting firms. I worked for a number of years at a pretty good outfit, Booz, Allen & Hamilton. I did some work for other consulting firms as well. I do not recall a single instance of a failure to pay postage, a colleague flat lining from heroin, or a professional on our team using another’s work or name to make professional hay.

None of these actions surprise me. I am getting older and I suppose I am able to cruise forward in Harrod’s Creek without worrying about the situational decisions that produce some interesting business situations. Exciting stuff this world of mid tier consulting and the unbounded scope of action some executives enjoy. Wow. Postage, heroin, and using another’s name to look informed. Amazing.

I will expand on this notion of “loose governance” in one of my columns. This notion of “governance” is an intriguing topic in knowledge management.

As Einstein said:

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”

Stephen E Arnold, August 15, 2014

Next Page »