November 20, 2015
I read a spider friendly, link baitable article in a UK newspaper. You love these folks because each page view downloads lots and lots of code, ads, trackers, etc.
The story was “Can’t Believe It’s Almost Christmas? Technology Is Speeding Up Our Perception of Time, Researchers Say.” Heck of a title in my opinion.
The main point is captured in this quote from Wizard McLoughlin:
long monologue from a ‘real’ book.
‘It’s almost as though we’re trying to emulate the technology and be speedier and more efficient. It seems like there’s something about technology itself that primes us to increase that pacemaker inside of us that measures the passing of time.”
The “it” I assume means the way the modern world works.
I think the idea is valid. A good example is the behavior of search and content processing companies. Although many companies evidence the behaviors I want to identity, these quirks are most evident among the search and content processing outfits which have ingested tens of millions in venture funding.
The time pressure comes from the thought process like this statement which I recall from my reading of Samuel Johnson:
Nothing focuses the mind like a hanging.
The search and processing vendors under the most pressure appear to be taking the following actions. These comments apply to Attivio, BA Insight ,Coveo, and Lucidworks-type companies. The craziness of IBM Watson and HP Autonomy in the cloud may have other protein triggers.
Here we go:
- Big data. How can outfits which struggle to update indexes and process new and changed content handle Big Data? It is just trendy to call a company like Vivisimo a Big Data firm than try to explain that key word search has “real” value.
- Customer support. I don’t know about you, but I avoid customer support. Customer support means stupid telephone selections, dorky music, reminders that the call is being monitored for “quality purposes”, and other cost cutting, don’t-bother-us approaches. Where search and content processing fits in has little to do with customer service and everything about cost reduction.
- Analytics. Yep, indexing systems can output a list of the number of times a word appears in a document, a batch, or a time period. These items can be counted and converted to a graph. But I do not think that enterprise search systems are analytics systems. Again. If it helps close a deal, go with it.
- Business intelligence. I like this one. The idea that a person can look for the name of a person, place, or thing provides intelligence is laughable. I also get a kick out selective dissemination functions or standing queries presented as a magical window on real time data. Baloney. Intelligence is not a variation of search and content processing. Search and content processing are utility functions within a larger more comprehensive systems. Check out NetReveal and let me know how close an enterprise search vendor comes to this BAE Systems’ service.
When will enterprise search and content processing vendors alter their marketing?
Not until their stakeholders are able to sell these outfits and move on to less crazy investments.
The craziness will persist because the time available to hit their numbers is dwindling. Fiddling with mobile devices and getting distracted by shiny bits just makes the silliness more likely.
Have you purchased a gift using Watson’s app? Have you added a Watson recipe to your holiday menu? Have you used a metasearch system like Vivisimo to solve your Big Data problems? Have you embraced Solr as a way to make Hadoop data repositories cornucopias of wisdom?
Right. The stuff may not work as one hopes. Time is running out. Quickly in real time and in imagined time.
Stephen E Arnold, November 20, 2015
November 15, 2015
I read a wonky financial review of Lexmark. You know Lexmark. It was a unit of IBM which manufactured or assembled printers and sold ink. Ink is almost expensive as movie popcorn.
The write up is “Sunday Update for Lexmark international Incorporated.” If you are fortunate to have an unfiltered Internet connection, you may be able to view the write up. If not, buzz your financial advisor. These folks work on Sundays.
The main point of the write up is that the data in this chart provide a glimpse of the challenges Lexmark, owner of the ISYS Search Software, face. ISYS was crafted in the late 1980s, and it provides the basics of information access. The problem is that open source options and baked in search solutions make search and retrieval a utility, not a key feature.
Here’s the chart, which suggests that the August 2015 dip may be the new normal for the company.
Does this remind you of a profile of Table Mountain? I see some parallels. Sharp drop, big job to get back on top.
More interesting is that the summary of analysts expectations is that only two analysts have an opinion. One rates Lexmark as a hold. The other? Strong sell.
The write up points out that Lexmark is in the buzzword business; for example:
The Company operates in the office printing and imaging, enterprise content management (ECM), business process management (BPM), document output management (DOM), intelligent data capture and search software markets. Lexmark’s products include laser printers and multifunction devices, dot matrix printers and the associated supplies/solutions/services, as well as ECM, BPM, DOM, intelligent data capture, search and Web-based document imaging and workflow software solutions and services.
Maybe acronyms are not selling? I hope they do. Lexmark is based about one hour from the hollow in which I reside in rural Kentucky. A healthy Lexmark keeps the trailers in my trailer park rented. Perceptive, right?
Stephen E Arnold, November 15, 2015
November 14, 2015
I am not sure if this balloon ride is sponsored by Fabasoft Mindbreeze. I am not sure why an enterprise search vendor would market information access with a balloon. Even Google, in its fascinating Googley world, uses balloons as a mechanism for delivering high speed internet access to those lucky enough to live in Sri Lanka and other urban conclaves.
The write I read is titled “Mindbreeze: Ballonfahrt für 5 Personen zu gewinnen.” I think this means something like, “You can win a balloon ride for five people in Salzkammergut.” A blog post captures some of the thrill of the blog post.
If you are interested in enterprise search, you might want to check out Mindbreeze’s solution. If you are, like me, happier sitting in a chair contemplating the craziness of enterprise search vendors, you will skip the balloon ride.
This idea ranks with Northern Light’s sponsorship of an Indianapolis 500 race car. How many sales did that produce? If the balloon ride is unrelated to the search Mindbreeze, perhaps Mindbreeze’s attorneys will want to check out the use of the Mindbreeze name because it is blowing in the wind.
Stephen E Arnold, November 14, 2015
November 7, 2015
If you believe in search, you will not feel nervous that a 10 year old information access company has required $67.7 million in capital. I don’t believe in search as a million dollar business. I struggle to understand how Coveo will generate enough sales to pay back the $67 million and change.
I read “Coveo Grabs $35 Million Series D.” Here’s a passage I highlighted:
The funding will fuel the expansion of Coveo’s operations and its strategy to become the de facto technology that businesses and enterprise platforms use to recommend the most relevant information, people, products and services for customer and employee engagement. The funding will help speed the launch of additional intelligent search apps for large enterprise technology ecosystems where contextual insights from outside the platform are critical to delivering unified, engaging experiences. Coveo also plans to make further investments in sales and marketing, R&D and product groups, and will also grow its team in those strategic areas of the business.
Yep, intelligent. Search based apps. Customer support. Rah rah.
I also circled this passage:
Coveo is experiencing an extended period of hyper growth, recently announcing many consecutive quarters of record-breaking growth and recent industry recognition. Growth stats include quarterly records for new customers signed, and quarterly revenue bookings that have more than doubled over prior years. In Q3, and for the second consecutive year, Coveo was recognized as the most visionary leader in Gartner’s 2015 Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Search. The company was also named a leader in Big Data Search and Knowledge Discovery by Forrester Research in September.
The write up invokes the Coveo Cloud and uses Attivio’s phrase “unified search.” There are references to content management. There are nods to the mid tier consultants who opine about search technology often without context or hands on experience.
But the subtext is clear: Coveo is in the same game as IBM Watson. But Watson is hitting the same barriers as its search precursors. Making money from a utility function is tough. With open source options, the business proposition supports a consulting business. But cranking out hundreds of millions from search technology remains a very tough job.
The search challenge is meaningful because enterprise search continues to drag around several financial albatrosses. There is the implosion of Convera which not even Allen & Co. could push to supersonic speeds. There is also the small matter of Fast Search & Transfer, its financial missteps, and the $1.2 billion that Microsoft paid for a company which has the distinction of a founder found wanting in the eyes of the law. And I have to mention
Autonomy. Yikes, Autonomy.
The point of these examples is to underscore several points:
- Investment in search and content processing seems to have a pattern of falling short of the revenue mark or the expectations of the purchasers of these gussied up outfits. Hey, it is history, folks.
- Open source search alternatives exist and are gaining wider acceptance. The business model of Elastic is to provide value added services, but the “customer” essential sells himself or herself.
- Wild and crazy IBM wants to reinvent search as cognitive computing. The bet is in the billion dollar range, and I think it faces insurmountable odds because the IBM model is somewhat similar to HP’s plans for search. How many big dogs fit in this kennel?
So what does a company do with tens of millions in funding after 10 years in business?
My hunch is that the investors want Coveo spiffed up and sold to a larger company. Once that deal goes through, the investors will breathe a sigh of release and move on to the next big thing—maybe investing in luxury safari resorts in Africa.
My hunch is that Coveo, like Attivio, BA Insight, Recommind, and X1, will have a very difficult time hitting Endeca’s revenue number of about $140 million when the company sold to Oracle. Talk about hundreds of millions in revenue is easy. Delivering sustainable, organic revenue requires more than buzzwords, pivots, and incantations from mid tier consulting firms.
In today’s market, selling Coveo and moving on may be the golden egg a decade old goose might be able to lay.
Stephen E Arnold, November 6, 2015
November 5, 2015
Ziplip opened for business in 1999. That works out to 16 years ago. I looked at the company’s archiving technology when I did a comparison between Ziplip and Index Engines, an outfit which has some tendrils originating at the post Judge Green Bell Labs.
I took another look at Ziplip, respoitio0ned as ZL Technologies, in 2009. ZL had a bone to pick with a mid tier consulting firm. Complaining about mid tier consulting firms, their approach to analysis, and the business models is a game some vendors play. The vendor believes it should be a highly rated, but the vendors gets low marks. Aggrieved the vendor complains about the mid tier consulting firm.
I thought about ZL when I read this item, “ZL Technologies to Establish the ROI of Information Governance at Enterprise Search and Discovery Conference 2015.” What I found interesting is that Ziplip has allegedly solved a problem which has given headaches to licensees of search and content processing systems; namely, laying out a method for calculating “true ROI.” I assume that regular MBA ROI is not going to do the job. Hence, we have the “true value” angle.
This paragraph caught my attention as well:
For enterprise-scale organizations, the difficulty in calculating true numerical ROI for data management initiatives has traditionally posed a major roadblock to planning and securing funding for governance architecture. This has been especially true for firms driven by quarterly performance; given specific requirements and constrained budget, this has often resulted in an ad hoc “point solution” approach, spawning multiple data silos and paradoxically increasing the overall long-term cost of information governance. The session hosted by ZL Technologies takes a strategic approach to calculating true ROI, examining oft-neglected factors and broad interdepartmental benefits of holistic governance practices.
I am old fashioned and think that ROI can be a slippery fish. Here’s a basic definition:
A profitability measure that evaluates the performance of a business by dividing net profit by net worth .
The key seems to be how one captures cost, converts the fuzzy notions into more numbers, and then using a mathematical procedure baked into Excel. Hey, it’s not perfect, but it is close enough for horses shoes.
The key, of course, is the assumptions for the calculation, the process for capturing and verifying the data, and the methodology to pin down the “worth” and “value” generalities. In short, spending money on search requires that a wide range of direct and indirect costs be captures, diligence to ensure that downstream costs are collected, and that the assumptions line up with the numerical recipe.
What has baffled me about ZLTech’s approach is that the approach is based on “information governance.” I don’t know what that means. Furthermore, I am not sure how an archive converts to enterprise search. What happens to the social media, the videos, and the images.
My hunch is that ZL is mounting a marketing campaign and using as many buzzwords as possible. Will MBA classes embrace the ZL approach to “true worth”?
Nope. After 16 years, a revolutionary value method has had plenty of time to filter into the mainstream of ROI methodology.
Stephen E Arnold, November 5, 2015
November 4, 2015
I have been watching the flow of information from companies which are in the enterprise search business. Some of these firms are ones you may recognize; for example, Elastic and LucidWorks. Others may be off your radar; for instance, Attivio, BA Insight, and Coveo. Some are essentially “hidden” outfits; for example, Diffeo.
The question I pondered when I was making my return from yet another remote location, “What is enterprise search disappeared?” (This is not a grammatical error. Disappeared is one of those jargon terms which add spice to certain government professionals’ life or the opposite.)
I jotted down a list of 10 reasons. I am not sure these are particularly humorous, but the list captures my thoughts on a 17 hour airplane flight.
- Enterprise search burned its bridges with over promising and under delivering decades ago. As a result, search is a utility. Enterprise search as an enterprise application lacks credibility.
- It is easier to talk about finding information in an enterprise and embarrassing with customers cannot locate a memo they wrote 24 hours earlier. Indexing remains the weak spot in many enterprise search systems.
- The cost of normalizing information is far greater than even the most unicorn worshiping financial wizards can stomach. Changing the oil in a La Ferrari is a deal compared to the ever escalating costs of content processing.
- Users get darned annoyed with enterprise search systems which are supposed to do everything, including squeeze the Big Data forest down to a bonsai grove on a marketer’s desk. Revolt takes the form of installing a local solution and keeping the alternative off management’s radar.
- Even the simplest solutions like an appliance requires lots of baby sitting. Free and open source solutions reduce the license fee. The other costs remain.
- Smart systems are still generally stupid and humans have to get involved to make sure the automatic processes do not return increasingly off point results.
- Specialists who can make an enterprise search system actually work are tough to find and keep on the job. Hiring a search specialists ensures one thing: Ever increasing costs for engineering support.
- The darned indexing misses the names of key customers, companies, and products. No matter how many times the system is tweaked, the notion of 85 percent accuracy guarantees 15 percent frustration. Toss in videos and images and most enterprise search systems have no way to process these file types without licensing more technology.
- Many enterprise search vendors are coding the system as they are trying to close deals. Instead of a hardened product, the vendor has delivered a demonstration which has to be configured, tuned, optimized, and updated. Translated: We are writing the software as we are billing the customer.
- The security and permissions settings require a full time person. Even then, incorrect permissions can cost a company a government contract or create legal exposure.
What’s the fix? I guarantee you that reading the recommendations of mid tier consulting firms, the analysis of frustrated academics, and failed webmasters who have morphed into search gurus will not help you out.
Check out the profiles of failed vendors at www.xenky.com/vendor-profiles. These are case examples of how search tuna salad became business health hazards.
Stephen E Arnold, November 4, 2015
October 30, 2015
I read “A Series of Firsts: How X1 Sets the Standard for the New Enterprise Search Market.” I am interested in firsts. I like a series of first even more.
According to the write up the first first is:
X1 is ready for the IT reality of always-on, virtual, cloud, and hybrid environments and business mobility. This is evidenced by two “firsts” that X1 is proud to announce. First, X1 is the first search application with an app publicly available in an Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) app store.
The second first is:
The second “first” that X1 is proud of is the listing of X1 Rapid Discovery in the Amazon AWS Marketplace. Again, this is no small feat – this is the first enterprise-grade search and eDiscovery application to be available in the AWS Marketplace.
The article points out:
X1 will continue to provide solutions that work in the infrastructures that organizations utilize today. The traditional approach to search will not work, but with X1, companies will have the flexibility to deploy into any environment and give users a powerful search experience on any device. That is a powerful productivity tool – and businesses require worker productivity the same way humans require oxygen. It is a new enterprise search market out there and X1 is uniquely positioned to lead the charge.
According to Crunchbase, X1 was founded in 2003 and has received $12.2 million in three rounds from several investors. If you search for the company, be aware that hits may be returned to the X1 platform by Xfinity, which is an interactive TV system. There is a company offering the X1 orgasmatron. I also spotted links to the Bell aircraft labeled X-1.
Vendors of search and content processing systems may want to attend to making certain that a query for “X1 search” returns links to their brand. I have noted that a number of search vendors have lost control of their “name”; for example, Thunderstone and Smartlogic, to name two.
To locate X1, the search and discovery outfit, navigate to www. x1.com. Web searches can offer some first hand discovery excitement to the uninformed.
Stephen E Arnold, October 30, 2015
October 29, 2015
A less-than-enthusiastic reader called out attention to Datafari, a new explorer of the enterprise search jungle. The software uses Solr and contains “the heart of a CMS.” The Datafari Web site explains:
A CMS allows for organizing collaboration within a company. But it is never monolithic, and only a federated search engine can fin the data wherever they are.
Datafari, Version 2.0 is explained in a video at this link. The system permits key word search and offers a point-and-click sidebar to facilitate exploration of the content.
A user can save a particular document to a Favorites folder. The system administrator can view log file data in a graphical format. Hit boosting is available as well.
A live demonstration is available at this link. When I visited the site, it appeared that I needed to load my own content into the system. I decided against taking this step.
If you are looking for an enterprise search system that can double as a content management system, Datafari may be for you. The company is located in France, so a trip for training could be an added bonus.
Stephen E Arnold, October 29, 2015
October 26, 2015
Most users key in 2.8 words and let the system do the heavy lifting. What millennial has time to do old fashioned research? Apparently lots. I read “Top 3 Tips to Improve Document Search.” The source of the information is a wizard at dtSearch, a vendor which offers a solution to SharePoint search woes.
Here are the tips. Note that these are useful when using the dtSearch system.
- Use Boolean AND, OR, and NOT operators. Yes, even millennials can learn about George Boole’s better idea
- Use quotation marks around phrases. Note: This still sort of works on Google too.
- “Store OCR output in searchable PDF format.” Raise your hand if you know how to create a searchable PDF. The remainder of the folks answering this question may find this link helpful.
See how easy it is to improve one’s ability to search.
Stephen E Arnold, October 26, 2015
October 22, 2015
I read “Letting Go Of Technical Debt.” The argument makes sense to a person developing software or other high technology product or service. The conclusion to the write up is, “Let it go.”
Is the conclusion rock solid?
The answer depends on one’s point of view. Google has a handful of staff who think about technical debt in terms of high interest credit card charges. The idea is that if you don’t accelerate your payments, the debt just keeps on growing. Bad for the debtor. Bad for the credit card company.
There is an interesting variant to the notion of non financial debt. Consider intentional debt. The idea is that a marketer hypes a product or service. The reality is different. The customer and the company end up in the hole.
When I think of search and content processing, a number of case examples come to mind. These range from HP’s and IBM’s assumption that by betting big on information access, these ageing businesses can generate substantial, sustainable, organic revenue to search start ups funded by friends and family.
The challenge is to produce enough money from whatever sources are available to:
- Create, bug fix, enhance, and support the search product or service. The costs incur what I believe should be called technical debt. Do search vendors get out of the red? The trials and tribulations of Fast Search and HP Autonomy warrant some study. I think this is technical debt.
- Market the product so that sales and revenues flow so that continuous transfusions of cash are not required for the search vendor to operate. I call these and related money issues financial debt.
- Build a consistent message for prospects, customers, employees, and stakeholders. Search vendors flip flop from keyword search to Big Data search to customer support services. The lack of a consistent, meaningful presentation of the company and its products or services underscores what I call credibility debt.
Net net: Search and content processing companies incur several types of debt. It is easy to say, “Let it go.” Is that approach fair to investors, ethical in the sense of trying to build a sustainable business, and practical in today’s somewhat soft economy?
For me, I think dealing with debt is essential. Obviously some folks do not agree.
Stephen E Arnold, October 22, 2015