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

Short Honk: Buzzword Mania and the Internet of Things

August 14, 2014

Short honk: I don’t have too much to say about “Gartner: Internet of Things Has Reached Hype Peak .” Wow will have to suffice. The diagram in the article is amazing as well. A listicle is pretty darned limited when compared to a plotting of buzzwords from a consulting firm that vies with McKinsey, Bain, Boston Consulting, and Booz for respect. Another angle on this article is that it is published by a company that has taken a frisky approach to other folks’ information. For some background, check out “Are HP, Google, and IDC Out of Square.” I wanted to assemble a list of the buzzwords in the Network World article, but even for my tireless goslings, the task was too much. I could not figure out what the legends on the x and y axis meant. Do you know what a “plateau of productivity” is. I am not sure what “productivity” means unless I understand the definition in use by the writer.

One fact jumps out for me:

“As enterprises embark on the journey to becoming digital businesses, they will leverage technologies that today are considered to be ‘emerging’,” said Hung LeHong, vice president and Gartner fellow. “Understanding where your enterprise is on this journey and where you need to go will not only determine the amount of change expected for your enterprise, but also map out which combination of technologies support your progression.”

The person making this statement probably has a good handle on the unpleasantness of a legal dispute. For some color, please, see “Gartner Magic Quadrant in the News: Netscount Matter.”

Stephen E Arnold. August 14, 2014

Gartner Magic Quadrant in the News: Netscout Matter

August 11, 2014

I read “Gartner MQ under Fire—Netscout Alleges Unfair Practices in Pay to Play Lawsuit.”

The write up reports that “Netscout is suing research firm Gartner, accusing it of unfair practices in its construction of a Magic Quadrant, citing pay to play.” The magic quadrant lingo is important because it is different language than that used by Bruce D. Henderson in the early 1970s.

This is likely to be a contentious matter. You can find the court filing in the Diginomica story. The document is about 60 pages long and probably not suited for consumption on an iPhone whilst driving.

Who are the folks involved in the squabble?

Netscout offers what it calls “unified service delivery management solutions.” The company is publicly traded and reported revenue of about $400 million in revenue. You can get more information via Google Finance at http://bit.ly/1mCtlJI and information about Netscout at www.netscout.com.

Gartner is a consulting and services firm generating about $1.8 billion per year in revenue. You can get more information via Google finance at http://bit.ly/1kWiX4x. Details about Gartner’s products and services are available at www.gartner.com.

I don’t have any experience or dealings with either firm. Will the interaction end in a race track accident like that at Canandaigua Motorsports Park?

The Gartner Magic Quadrant, in my opinion, is a variation of the Boston Consulting Group’s diagram containing a star, cow, dog, and question mark. The BCG method, if I recall my Booz, Allen charm school lesson, is that a ton of expensive analytic work was presented to often sluggish corporate types in one simple chart.

Here’s an example of the BCG approach recreated by Marketing Health Online:

image

I remember that a “dog” was not good. Dogs should be sold, killed, or kicked to the side of the road. It  was definitely good to the a “star.” Stars generate revenue and illuminate the new BMW or yacht the manager of the star could buy with a bonus. The “cow” gave recurring revenues. When the cow stopped pumping out milk, then it morphed into a dog. A question mark required more analysis and, hence, more consulting work for our competitor.

The x axis reports the market share from high to low and the y axis represents market growth. High is good and BCG generated data and analysis to prove what was good. Low is bad and BCG displayed data that explained why something was a dog and should be treated with extreme prejudice.

The key to the BCG grid was its utter simplicity parked on top of hundreds of thousands or dollars invested in BCG time, analysis, and data crunching by fairly bright individuals from pretty good schools. My employer, Booz, Allen & Hamilton, was never able to create such a compelling graphic to drive business, but we did “invent” program evaluation and review techniques or PERT charts. You know our work as PERT charts. But that BCG method was a burr under the Booz, Allen saddles. We couldn’t rip off the approach. That was against the rules when I worked at the blue chip outfit. I have no idea what the rules are today.

Gartner’s chart is different, using words, lots of words when compared to the BCG chart looks similar. Here’s the graphic from Diginomica’s write up:

image

My hunch is that the legal eagles would take flight if an actual, 100 percent pure magic quadrant were reproduced in the article. (Note: you can download a representative magic quadrant from one of the companies included in the report. You will have to do some Googling to find a “real” MQ report. Have fun!)

If the information in the Diginomica write up is accurate, it seems that BCG’s legendary rigor may not be exactly duplicated by Gartner’s “experts.” I am skeptical of the saucisson generated by any consulting firm, but some saucisson is judged by gourmands as better than others.

Diginomica notes:

Vendors regard analyst services as part of their marketing, which in turn supports sales. The lawsuit makes this very clear. Buyers view the Gartner MQ as a validation point. Gartner plays on this, selling it to the the vendors on the basis that no-one buys technology without making a decision based upon a Gartner MQ. It’s a subtle form of implied blackmail that discriminates against the smaller vendors. When a mega vendor cuts a $1 million check to Gartner, no-one notices. But when an early stage business find itself having to stump $50-100,000 then that’s an altogether different matter that gets sucked out of limited marketing resource.

The Diginomica analysis points out that another company tried to sue Gartner in 2009 and “lost their fight with Gartner.”

Is this legal dust up different? Who knows.

Several observations:

  1. Analysis and consulting opinions are often pretty wild and crazy. I remember the analysis that preceded our implementation of the Marketing Analysis and Reporting System (MARS) for Bellcore in 1985 as quite the cat’s pajamas. Well, we know how the IBM MVS TSO environment worked out for end users who were not into green screens, or fans of keyboards with lots of extra keys.
  2. The BCG matrix is now part of the intellectual woodwork for anyone with an MBA. It just makes it so easy to explain why some products and companies are losers. It is an SU 35 for selling more consulting work for companies other than BCG, a firm which still adheres to the old fashioned analysis, analysis, and more analysis method of consulting.l .
  3. Who cares what today’s mid tier third party advisors say?For the hourly worker at Wendy’s, a graphic with lots of words is probably less compelling than a snapshot of a Kardashian. Content marketing is the name of the game today. Clicks, sales leads, and revenue—the Red Bull for success.

Take a look at the Diginomica article. This interaction will be fun to watch. I wonder if it will be possible to plot the matter using a BCG matrix?

Stephen E Arnold, August 11, 2014

The Knowledge Quotient Saucisson Link: Back to Sociology in the 1970s

August 5, 2014

I have mentioned recent “expert analyses” of the enterprise search and content marketing sector. In my view, these reports are little more than gussied up search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing plays. See, for example, this description of the IDC report about “knowledge quotient”. Sounds good, right. So does most content marketing and PR generated by enterprise search vendors trying to create sustainable revenue and sufficient profits to keep the investors on their boats, in their helicopters, and on the golf course. Disappointing revenues are not acceptable to those with money who worry about risk and return, not their mortgage payment.

Some content processing vendors are in need of sales leads. Others are just desperate for revenue. The companies with venture money in their bank account have to deliver a return. Annoyed funding sources may replace company presidents. This type of financial blitzkrieg has struck BA Insight and LucidWorks. Other search vendors are in legal hot water; for example, one Fast Search & Transfer executive and two high profile Autonomy Corp. professionals. Other companies tap dance from buzzword to catchphrase in the hopes of avoiding the fate of Convera, Delphes, or Entopia. The marketing beat goes on, but the revenues for search solutions remains a challenge. How will IBM hit $10 billion in Watson revenues in five or six years? Good question, but I know the answer. Perhaps accounting procedures might deliver what looks like a home run for Watson. Perhaps the Jeopardy winner will have to undergo Beverly Hills-style plastic surgery? Will the new Watson look like today’s Watson? I would suggest that some artificiality could be discerned.

Last week, one of my two or three readers wrote to inform me that the phrase “knowledge quotient” is a registered trademark. One of my researchers told me that when one uses the phrase “knowledge quotient,” one should include the appropriate symbol. Omission can mean many bad things, mostly involving attorneys:

 

Another one of the goslings picked up the vaporous “knowledge quotient” and poked around for other uses of the word. Remember. I encountered this nearly meaningless quasi academic jargon in the title of an IDC report about content processing, authored by the intrepid expert Dave Schubmehl.

According to one of my semi reliable goslings, the phrase turned up in a Portland State University thesis. The authors were David Clitheroe and Garrett Long.

image

The trademark was registered in 2004 by Penn State University. Yep, that’s the university which I associate with an unfortunate management “issue.” According to Justia, the person registering the phrase “knowledge quotient” was a Penn State employee named Gene V J Maciol.

So we are considering a chunk of academic jargon cooked up to fulfill a requirement to get an advanced degree in sociology in 1972. That was about 40 years ago. I am not familiar with sociology or the concept knowledge quotient.

I printed out the 111 page document and read it. I do have some observations about the concept and its relationship to search and content processing. Spoiler alert: Zero, none, zip, nada, zilch.

The topic of the sociology paper is helping kids in trouble. I bristled at the assumptions implicit in the write up. Some cities had sufficient resources to help children. Certain types of faculties are just super. I assume neither of the study’s authors were in a reformatory, orphanage, or insane asylum.

Anyway the phrase “knowledge quotient” is toothless. It means, according to page 31:

the group’s awareness and knowledge of the [troubled youth or orphan] home.

And the “quotient” part? Here it is in all its glory:

A knowledge quotient reflects the group’s awareness and knowledge of the home.

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The Cloud: Flecked with Scattered Twinkie-Like Information

August 4, 2014

I read “Cloud Revenue Jumps, Led by Old Computing Titans.” If you have a hard copy of the “real” journalism Mt. Parnassus, you can find this story in the August 4, 2014 version delivered to Kentucky. Online, the story carries an August 3, 2014 date and, if you are quick, you may be able to locate it at http://nyti.ms/1xUXLw9.

I found the write up fascinating because the guts of the story pivot on three firms engaged in selling consulting services: Synergy, Gartner, and IDC. The facts of the article appear to come from the financial reports and other public statements of Amazon, IBM, and Microsoft. As real news goes, relying on “experts” and somewhat broad groupings of financial information continues to make the wheels of commerce go round. I like it. The confection is an excellent Twinkie-like approach to a diaphanous, hard to define topic—the cloud.

image

This cookbook does not explain how to whip up interest in consultant reports, the activities of large companies, or the specifics of some ingredients. An oversight it seems.

There were a couple of passages in the write up that I found thought starters.

Here’s the first item, a quote from a Synergy expert:

It’s not just talk—they are backing it up with a lot of investment.

I presume this is a reference to Amazon’s spending which seems to have put the company in the company of bears, IBM’s bet the farm approach to its tactics to keep the company an investment my grandmother would love, and Microsoft which is fresh from its knock-it-out-of-the-park mobile phone and Windows 8 initiatives.

A second passage begins “The so called magic quadrant…” and ends with the paragraph beginning “Amazon is still the star.” In between this atta boy for Gartner’s work is an interesting grammatical construction:

This year, helped by the [IBM] acquisition of Soft Layer, a cloud start up, and its own internal investment, it [IBM] has moved sharply to the right and higher thought it is not yet in the leaders area—the vision is strong, according to Gartner, but the executive still lags a bit.”

I am not trained in poetry, although I think some of the search analysts are, indeed, English majors. But I find these points remarkable:

  1. In a report by experts, IBM has moved. Now did IBM move or did an expert move IBM. The suggestion that IBM can move its $100 billion hulk around a “magic quadrant” drew a yellow highlight from me. I suppose I could have written, my yellow highlighted moved from the table to the paper and marked a yellow line, but that leaves out the who doesn’t it?
  2. I like the idea that an acquisition and internal development trigger the movement of IBM.
  3. In a moment of hedging, the New York Times’ writer added that Gartner analyzed IBM and found that its execution lagged. Okay, so IBM cannot deliver cloud whatever very well.

Third, I noted the disclaimer paragraph:

Measurements in the cloud marketplace are tricky. Companies define their cloud businesses differently. And the big companies do not report their cloud revenue or profit separately, although they do occasionally make statements.

High fives all around because no one knows much about what “cloud” means and the companies are not particularly generous with facts. The flow of baloney, however, appears to have caught the attention of the “experts” and the real journalists.

Please, read the original because it is a tribute to the public relations folks who labored to create this cloud stuff.

My interest is, as you may know, search. Now search has moved to the cloud, and there are some examples. The problem is that hard data about the ease with which the services can be deployed, the costs of the system over time, and the amount of customization required to deliver an acceptable service are sparse, not available, or made up.

Two observations:

Search from the cloud seems to be small potatoes. Sure, there are search services available from Amazon, and I suppose one can assume that the billion dollar bet on Watson will be cloud friendly someday. Microsoft cloud search is best experienced first hand. Fire up Windows 8.1 and run a query. You can see how the system deals with local, SkyDrive (once OneDrive), and Web content. A money maker for sure I assume.

I like certain time sharing services. However, I do not like Hollywood style naming and I do not like unsubstantiated assertions presented as fact. If you find this type of Twinkie satisfying, gorge yourself on the mid tier consulting firms’ outputs. Let me know how reality matches up to a sector where measurements are tricky and facts are not available.

Stephen E Arnold, August 4, 2014

Are HP, Google and IDC “Out of Square”?

August 2, 2014

Editor’s note: These three companies are involved in search and content processing. The opinion piece considers the question, “Is management unable to ensure standard business processes working in some businesses today?” Links have been inserted to open source information that puts some of the author’s comments in context. Comments about this essay may be posted using the Comments function for this blog.

Forgetting to Put Postage on Lots of Letters

I read “HP to Pay $32.5 Million to Settle Claims of Overbilling USPS.” (Keep in mind you may have to pony up some cash to access this article. Mr. Murdoch needs cash to buy more media properties. Do your part!)

The main point of the story, told by “real” journalists, is that the company failed “to comply with pricing terms.” The “real” news story asserts:

The DOJ also alleged H-P made misrepresentations during the negotiation of the contract with the USPS regarding its pricing and its plans to ensure it would provide the required most favored customer pricing.

I suppose any company can overlook putting postage on an envelope. When that happened to me in my day of snail mail activity, my local postmistress Claudette would give me a call and I would go to the Harrod’s Creek post office and buy a stamp.

I am no big time manager, but I understood that snail mail required a stamp. If you are a member of the House or Senate, the rules are different, but even the savvy Congressperson makes sure the proper markings appear on the absolutely essential missives.

My mind, which I admit is not as agile as it was when I worked at Halliburton Nuclear Utility Services, drew a dotted line between this seemingly trivial matter of goofing on an administrative procedure and the fantastic events still swirling around Hewlett Packard’s purchase of Autonomy, a vendor of search and content processing software.

A number of questions flapped slowly across my mind:

  1. Is HP management becoming careless with trivial matters like paying $11 billion for a company generating about $800 million in revenue and forgetting to pay the US post office?
  2. Is the thread weaving together such HP events as the mobile operating system affair, the HP tablet, the fumbling of the Alta Vista opportunity, and the apparent administrative goofs like the Autonomy purchase and this alleged postage stamp licking flawed administrative processes?
  3. What does the stamp sticking, Autonomy litigating, and alleged eavesdropping say about the company’s “git ‘er done” approach?

Larry the Cable Guy for President!!!

The attitude may apply to confident senior managers with incentives to produce revenue. Image source: http://profileengine.com/groups/profile/420722222/larry-the-cable-guy-for-president

I don’t think too much about Hewlett Packard. I do wonder if HP is an isolated actor or if companies with search interests are focusing on priorities that seem to be orthogonal to what I understand to be appropriate corporate behavior. One isolated event is highly suggestive.

But what do similar events suggest? In this short essai, I want to summarize two events. Both of these are interesting. For me, I see a common theme connecting the HP stamp licking and the two macro events. The glue fixing these in my mind is what seems to be a failure of management to pay attention to details.

But first, let’s go back in time for a modest effort penned by Edmund Spenser.
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Gartner and Enterprise Search 2014

July 31, 2014

At lunch yesterday, several search aware people discussed a July 2014 Gartner study. One of the folks had a crumpled image of the July 2014 “magic quadrant.” This is, I believe, report number G00260831. Like other mid tier consulting firms, Gartner works hard to find something that will hook customers’ and prospects’ attention. The Gartner approach is focused on companies that purport to have enterprise search systems. From my vantage point, the Gartner approach is miles ahead of the wild and illogical IDC report about knowledge, a “quotient,” and “unlocking” hidden value. See http://bit.ly/1rpQymz. Now I have not fallen in love with Gartner. The situation is more like my finding my content and my name for sale on Amazon. You can see what my attorney complained about via this link, http://bit.ly/1k7HT8k. I think I was “schubmehled,” not outwitted.

I am the really good looking person. Image source: http://bit.ly/1rPWjN3

What the IDC report lacks in comprehensiveness with regard to vendors, Gartner mentions quite a few companies allegedly offering enterprise search solutions. You must chase down your local Garnter sales person for more details. I want to summarize the points that surfaced in our lunch time pizza fest.

First, the Gartner “study” includes 18 or 19 vendors. Recommind is on the Gartner list even though a supremely confident public relations “professional” named Laurent Ionta insisted that Recommind was not in the July 2014 Gartner report. I called her attention to report number G00260831 and urged her to use her “bulldog” motivation to contact her client and Gartner’s experts to get the information from the horse’s mouth as it were. (Her firm is www.lewispr.com and its is supported to be the Digital Agency of the Year and on the Inc 5000 list of the fastest growing companies in America.) I am impressed with the accolades she included in her emails to me. The fact that this person who may work on the Recommind account was unaware that Gartner pegged Recommind as a niche player seemed like a flub of the first rank. When it comes to search, not even those in the search sector may know who’s on first or among the chosen 19.

To continue with my first take away from lunch, there were several companies that those at lunch thought should be included in the Gartner “analysis.” As I recall, the companies to which my motley lunch group wanted Gartner to apply their considerable objective and subjective talents were:

  • ElasticSearch. This in my view is the Big Dog in enterprise search at the moment. The sole reason is that ElasticSearch has received an injection of another $70 million to complement the $30 odd million it had previously gather. Oh, ElasticSearch is a developer magnet. Other search vendors should be so popular with the community crowd.
  • Oracle. This company owns and seems to offer Endeca solutions along with RightNow/InQuira natural language processing for enterprise customer support, the fading Secure Enterprise Search system, and still popping and snapping Oracle Text. I did not mention to the lunch crowd that Oracle also owns Artificial Linguistics and Triple Hop technology. This information was, in my view, irrelevant to my lunch mates.
  • SphinxSearch. This system is still getting love from the MySQL contingent. Imagine no complex structured query language syntax to find information tucked in a cell.

There are some other information retrieval outfits that I thought of mentioning, but again, my free lunch group does not know what it does not know. Like many folks who discuss search with me, learning details about search systems is not even on the menu. Even when the information is free, few want to confuse fantasy with reality.

The second take away is that rational for putting most vendors in the niche category puzzled me. If a company really has an enterprise search solution, how is that solution a niche? The companies identified as those who can see where search is going are, as I heard, labeled “visionaries.” The problem is that I am not sure what a search visionary is; for example, how does a French aerospace and engineering firm qualify as a visionary? Was HP a visionary when it bought Autonomy, wrote off $8 billion, and initiated litigation against former colleagues? How does this Google supplied definition apply to enterprise search:

able to see visions in a dream or trance, or as a supernatural apparition?

The final takeaway for me was the failure to include any search system from China, Germany, or Russia. Interesting. Even my down on their heels lunch group was aware of Yandex and its effort in enterprise search via a Yandex appliance. Well, internationalization only goes so far I suppose.

I recall hearing one of my luncheon guests say that IBM was, according the “experts” at Gartner, a niche player.Gentle reader,  I can describe IBM many ways, but I am not sure it is a niche player like Exorbyte (eCommerce mostly) and MarkLogic (XML data management). Nope, IBM’s search embraces winning Jeopardy, creating recipes with tamarind, and curing assorted diseases. And IBM offers plain old search as part of DB2 and its content management products plus some products obtained via acquisition. Cybertap search, anyone? When someone installs, what used to be OmniFind, I thought IBM was providing an enterprise class information retrieval solution. Guess I am wrong again.

Net net: Gartner has prepared the ground for a raft of follow on analyses. I would suggest that you purchase a copy of the July 2014 Gartner search report. You may be able to get your bearings so you can answer these questions:

  1. What are the functional differences among the enterprise search systems?
  2. How does the HP Autonomy “solution” compare to the pre-HP Autonomy solution?
  3. What is the cost of a Google Search Appliance compared to a competing product from Maxxcat or Thunderstone? (Yep, two more vendors not in the Gartner sample.)
  4. What causes a company to move from being a challenger in search to a niche player?
  5. What makes both a printer company and a Microsoft-centric solution qualified to match up with Google and HP Autonomy in enterprise search?
  6. What are the licensing costs, customizing costs, optimizing costs, and scaling costs of each company’s enterprise search solution? (You can find the going rate for the Google Search Appliance at www.gsaadvantage.gov. The other 18? Good luck.)

I will leave you to your enterprise search missions. Remember. Gartner, unlike some other mid-tier consulting firms, makes an effort to try to talk about what its consultants perceive as concrete aspects of information retrieval. Other outfits not so much. That’s why I remain confused about the IDC KQ (knowledge quotient) thing, the meaning of hidden value, and unlocking. Is information like a bike padlock?

Stephen E Arnold, July 31, 2014

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