Improvement to SharePoint Records Management

April 4, 2014

Early iterations of SharePoint records management were fraught with shortcomings. But the word has come that SharePoint 2013 offers an improvement on the failings of the past. Read more in the Search Content Management story, “SharePoint Records Management Spans New Forms of Content.”

The article begins:

“In prior releases, SharePoint records management was functional but nothing to write home about. But with SharePoint 2013, it’s time to get excited. The trends of mobile computing, social media in the enterprise, the cloud, and global search have converged and touched just about every business process that depends on IT. Records management is no exception.”

Stephen E. Arnold is a longtime leader in search and offers up his analysis and opinions on his Web site ArnoldIT.com. SharePoint gets a lot of coverage due to its prominence in the market. But, Arnold consistently finds that the huge platform of SharePoint lags behind the smaller more agile offerings on the market. Only time will tell if the improvements in mobile, social, and records management will increase the overall functionality and user experience of the product.

Emily Rae Aldridge, April 4, 2014

Innovation Tips for Information Management

April 1, 2014

Inmagic is an information management brand from Lucidea. Lucidea’s claim to fame is its development and implementation of social knowledge network for enterprise organizations. Social knowledge network is a new term for us and according to Lucidea it means mining information silos and creating knowledge-based communicates to improve productivity, collaboration, and better initiatives. In the recent white paper “Addressing The Innovation Imperative For B2B Companies,” Inmagic covered the topic of innovation.

The white paper explains that innovation is imperative to companies and highlights several key practices to make innovation work for a company. The first practice is to align innovation to strategy:

“Mapping innovation and product decision-making processes to business strategy ensures that product development efforts are consistent with your company’s goals. Since ideas from customers may not correlate with company strategy, this ensures that ideas – even good ideas – that are strategically misaligned are not inappropriately prioritized.”
The biggest problem with starting with this practice is assuming that a strategy exists in the first place. Many businesses have trouble focusing their goals into a conceivable strategy. Building a strategy should be the goal.

The second practice involves keeping product managers and other necessary employees in the loop. It is another practice that assumes the company already has products and product managers. What about organizations that do not have either, but instead offer a different type of service?

That leads to another question: what is innovation? We can always go by the dictionary definition, but would it not be better to define how Inmagic defines it in this white paper?

Whitney Grace, April 01, 2014
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

New Age Management and Search Vendors

March 30, 2014

I once saw a cartoon with the caption “Ready, Fire, Aim.” The artist showed the person with a handgun pointing the barrel at his head. I am not too keen on the Ready, Fire, Aim approach to walking my dog. When it comes to figuring out what to do for money, I eschew the Ready, Fire, Aim as well.

Not for some whizzy Silicon Valley type management theorists and practitioners. Navigate to “Tom Erickson of Acquia, on the Philosophy of Ready, Fire, Aim.” If the real journalists take the story down, you can find it in the dead tree edition of the New York Times, page 2 of the Sunday Business Section for March 30, 2014.

I like spontaneity, but I don’t want Max and Tess to chase after a poodle. My boxers like to play rugby. Poodles like to knit, do yoga, and bite socks. So, no Ready, Fire, Aim when I have to take my senior advisors for their daily constitutionals. With regard to money, I take the alleged Ben Franklin aphorism, A penny saved is a penny earned seriously. Ben, as you may know, went with the Ready, Fire, Aim approach to interpersonal relations and was sent home from France if I recall my history teacher’s anecdote correctly.

The New York Times, an outfit that has faced some management challenges, has in its files some data about one of its Ready, Fire, Aim ideas: The New York Times Online. If I recall that system, it was a flop. Coming on the heels of killing the exclusive with LexisNexis, not only did the gray lady real journalists blow off seven figures of easy money, the NYT floundered through multiple online systems. Will the real journalists get their money back on that Ready, Fire, Aim decision and its financial consequences? I don’t think the jury is in, but in my view, some accounting magic may be needed since that decision 30 years ago.

What’s Ready, Fire, Aim management?

According to the write up, nicely presented by the real journalists. I noted this sentence alleged spoken by Mr. Erickson of Acquia, a outfit that “Acquia gives organizations unparalleled FREEDOM [sic] to unify content, community and commerce.” In short, Acquia is a services firm based on open source technology. How much hotter a market sector is there?

Now Mr. Erickson’s statement, attributed to his farther:

“We need to be on the forefront of what’s next.”

For those who believe in the power of technology and innovation, this is an important lesson. “Forefront” and “what’s next.” The problem, of course, is that figuring out what’s next is tough. Money doesn’t do it. Brains in masses don’t do it. I am not sure what produces innovation. Elasticsearch, an open source search vendor built on the ashes of Compass, has sort of just happened.

The next component of Ready, Aim, Fire struck me as tucked into this statement allegedly made by Mr. Erickson:

“I learned that I could sell.”

Okay, the ability to solve a person’s problems, be spontaneously helpful, and function like a fraternity or sorority president are part of Ready, Fire, Aim. (Well, maybe selling and Ready, Fire, Aim are not exactly management, but let’s move forward, shall we?)

Ready, Fire, Aim and selling combine in this way:

People would try to tell me, “We need to do things differently here.” I’d say, “No, this is how you stay on message, on target.”

The formula worked in Australia, France, Japan, and obviously in the US of A.

With these tantalizing knowledge tchotchkes, the threads are stitched together into one seamless insight:

One thing I preach a lot about is the importance of “ready, fire, aim.” There are people in the world who are ready-aim-fire types. If I sense from an interview that they are a ready-aim-fire person, I’ll tell them: “I don’t think this is the right place for you.

Mr. Erickson does not want colleagues who are interested in a job “where precision matters and the ability to get the right answer will be valued.”

Let’s think about this searing notion. Mr. Erickson (hypothetically) has a medical problem. Does he seek out health care with a track record of performance, maybe based on excellent training, evidence based medicine, and in touch with modern devices? Or, does Mr. Erickson seek out a health care professional who does the “Ready, Aim, Fire” thing? My hunch is that the decision will lean toward a professional or system where precision and the ability to get the “right answer” are important. Guessing, hunches, and random medications—probably not in the cards I would suggest.

What’s this have to do with search and content processing?

In my view, Mr. Erickson’s management philosophy is likely to work sometimes. But what works for more companies is rather less loose and spontaneous. Products and services are offered. Contracts are signed. Stuff happens and the customer pays the bills. Government regulations are followed (at least one hopes). People get paid. These are routine management functions. Many venture funded companies are not particularly skilled in these administrative swamps.

In my experience, the work of whizzy open source and proprietary search and content processing companies is raising money, generating revenue via agility, and exiting with a profit for the founders. The disconnect between the objective of the customer and the goals of the employees is often visible for those who take the time to look for signs of a discontinuity. Chaos produces visible activity. Chaos does not lead to consistent results. Even Google hired an adult and has tried to become more businesslike.

My view is that Ready, Fire, Aim may result in feeding the lucky Kentucky hunter a dead squirrel for lunch. But for most activities from walking the dog to figuring out how to earn a living, Ready, Aim, Fire is a cartoon-like caricature of quite complex and subtle activities. Too much rigidity is as unproductive as too much looseness.

Remember that gun pointed at the cartoon figure? Is that your idea of a thoughtful, insightful, and responsible behavior? The woes of companies that take the Ready, Aim, Fire approach to business is the trail of failures documented in the profile at www.xenky.com/vendor-profiles.

For me, sales skill does not equal innovation. Ready, Aim, Fire does not equate to management expertise. For the New York Times and the funding entities pumping tens of millions into duplicative search and content processing vendors, where is that gun pointed? A company that has lost money for five, 10, or more years is likely to lose money next year? Ready, Aim, Fire is humorous except to those who want their money back, customers who want a problem solved, and employees who want to work in a stable organization.

Success is tough to plan, but should one manage using the methods of a drive by shooter?

Stephen E Arnold, March 30, 2014

Open Source Management: A Work in Progress

March 20, 2014

I have attended a couple of “open source” events over the year. Most of the attendees are male, serious, bright, and similar to the fellows in my advanced high school math class and our math club.

The few women present were notable because there were so darned few of them. I attended the first Lucene Revolution with two exceptionally competent females, one a law librarian and one a PhD in operations management.

My recollection is that no one from Lucid, the sponsoring organizations, or the general attendance group paid either much, if any, attention, even when I introduced them.

As I recall, one of the then-senior executives of Lucid Imagination (now Lucid Works) blew off suggestions made by my PhD colleague. It was not what the Lucid person said. It was the facial expression that communicated, “Wow, do I have to listen to yet another idea from a PhD from Kentucky. I have better things to do with my really valuable time.”

I found the meeting amusing.

The female PhD did not share my point of view. Eighteen months later, that male Silicon Valley “superstar” was sucked by Lucid’s revolving door and spit into the ever sunny Silicon Valley job market. My team and I moved on, concluding that at least one open source search company was pretty much like my high school classmates in the math club. Others? Who knows? Who cares?

So what?

Well, I read a fascinating East Coasty article in the April Harper’s Magazine. The story is “The Office and its Ends”, a book extract from Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace. Harper’s is into the Trotula recycling approach to content. Nikil Saval and his publisher Doubleday are, no doubt, thrilled by the East Coasty endorsement. Book sales are the name of the game.

Here’s the passage I noted. The extract is describing the workplace at GitHub, where much search source codes resides. The GitHub begins on page 14. You will have to snag a hard copy of the library on a newsstand, even though these are getting hard to find in rural Kentucky. Good hunting, gentle reader.

GitHub seems to be a case example of how to do the workplace.

The hook is in my opinion:

Chacon [the GitHub CIO and a founder] described this [the GitHub workplace approach] as having developed from the open source model: ‘You have all these projects that you can work on, and people choose the crossover of what they’re good at… Leadership can be ephemeral.’

No doubt about leadership ephemerality in open source companies. The whizzing of the revolving door can be discerned in Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky.

This passage struck me as one to underline:

Yet Scott Chacon, one of the company’s founders and its current CIO, kept referring to the value of employees’ being able to ‘serendipitously encounter’ one another throughout the workday. When I [Mr. Saval] asked Chacon how this was supposed to occur if most of the staff wasn’t actually required to come into the office, he explained that he wanted these encounters to be rare, once every month or two, and to ‘deeper interactions.’…’That’s way more valuable to me that ‘I saw this person when I was going to the bathroom,’ or ‘I had to wait in line behind them when I was waiting for food.’ It seemed to me [Mr. Saval] a valid rebuke to the lazier ideas the proliferated in office-design-speak around the world.

I think Mr. Saval sees GitHub as a model for other companies to emulate. There you go. A model for alleged harassment.

By chance, I came across a CNNMoney article “GitHub Suspends Founder over Gender Harassment Claims.” I have no idea if CNN was able to put sufficient resources into researching GitHub because most of the “news” efforts are directed at a missing airplane story. Nevertheless, I will assume the write up is semi-accurate. Here’s the snippet I noted:

“I’ve been harassed by ‘leadership’ at GitHub for two years,” she wrote. “I’m incredibly happy to moving to join a more healthy work environment, with a team who doesn’t tolerate harassment of their peers.”

I circled this passage as well:

It’s hardly the first time a female entrepreneur has pointed out sexism in tech. Last year, tech developer Adria Richards posted to Twitter after taking offense to a sexual reference made by male attendees at tech conference PyCon. One of the men who made the reference was fired, and in a bizarre twist, Richards was also fired for “publicly shaming the offenders.” In another incident at annual tech conference TechCrunch Disrupt, entrepreneurs came under fire for pitching controversial apps…

Several observations:

  1. I wonder how Mr. Saval perceives this situation. I am not sure the GitHub workplace is where I want my daughter to work. If Mr. Saval has a daughter, a wife, a female cousin, I wonder if he would use his connections at GitHub to get one of these females a job.
  2. I wonder if the Lucid Imagination former executive is aware that my PhD colleague could have interpreted his treatment of her as untoward behavior. My hunch is that the disconnect between this Silicon Valley warrior an an African American PhD was so great that bridging the gap was impossible. I wonder if the fellow from Lucid Imagination even knew there was a gap.
  3. What does this Janus-like approach at GitHub say about open source management methods? I have a few ideas, but I will tuck them in my pocket for now.

To wrap up, the East Coasty approach to open source is intriguing. How will other open source companies manage. Will the guy-centric math club approach change? At my 50th high school reunion, the math club folks sat by themselves. Some behaviors are consistent through time I believe.

The major challenge open source faces is management. I will clutch this assertion until someone demonstrates that whiz bang, I’m too busy, my plane is late methods really do deliver value to stakeholders and employees. With venture funding pouring into “open source plays”, how will these companies generate sufficient revenue to pay off the investors? Do Facebook, Google, IBM, and Yahoo have sufficient resources to buy every open source start up?

A decade ago even Google was smart enough to admit that it needed adult supervision. Even with an adult on the job, Google is a case study cornucopia; for example, the alleged relationship between a Google founder and a Glass marketer. Ample evidence appears to exist that high tech management has not found its sweet spot outside of the high school math club. If tech is the future of America’s industrial performance and open source software is the heir to proprietary software, when will management manage? One hopes in time to prevent the alleged unfortunate problems at GitHub from becoming more widespread.

Stephen E Arnold, March 20, 2014

Cleaning up SharePoint with Records Management

March 5, 2014

Few people would claim that clean up of any variety is their favorite task, but it seems all the worse when dealing with old SharePoint material. CMS Wire meets the challenge head-on in their recent article, “Clean Up SharePoint Legacy Content.”

The article begins:

“The idea of cleaning up legacy SharePoint content is daunting. Organizations often place cleanup under the ‘Nice to Do’ column as opposed to the ‘Must Do’ column. Why not leverage in-house resources? Legacy SharePoint cleanup is a perfect task for the Records Management (RM) department. Reviewing data and applying retention to it are two of our key responsibilities.”

While devoting resources to cleanup can seem impossible, the fact remains that old or badly organized material that lingers on a SharePoint infrastructure is damaging to workflow and efficiency. Stephen E. Arnold is a longtime leader in search and often covers the intricacies of SharePoint on his Web site, ArnoldIT.com. He finds that a clean, lean infrastructure improves user experience, so a spring-cleaning may be just the right thing for your organization.

Emily Rae Aldridge, March 5, 2014

IBM Watson Staff Changes: Off to a VC

March 2, 2014

I was traveling when the Wall Street Journal story “Watson Head’s Departure Raises Questions About IBM Moonshot” appeared. (This story may be behind the WSJ paywall, gentle reader.)

Nevertheless, I wanted to post my view of this interesting staff change. The main point of the story is that Manoj Saxena, once “head” of the Watson project, allegedly abandoned IBM Watson for greener pastures.

According to the write up, IBM said:

Creating an ecosystem of applications based on Watson is a linchpin of IBM’s strategy to turn it into a multi-billion business. Last fall, IBM announced it would open up the Watson technology to software developers in a bid to turn it into a platform much like  Apple did with its App Store.

The article pointed out that 20 weeks ago, Manoj Saxena allegedly said:

“In my mind, this is the key to growing Watson to $10 billion,” said Saxena on the October conference call. “It is a tall order, but I think we can do it.”

Perhaps it is easier to assist IBM from outside the company? Perhaps someone in Manoj Saxena’s circle of acquaintances pointed out that it took Autonomy 15 years to generate about $850 million in revenue. IBM wants to beat this goal by a factor of 10 in five years?

Search and content processing are markets ripe with opportunities. From the user’s point of view, systems have become obsessed with graphics. But the precision and recall of the niftiest of today’s systems are not much better than technology available 20 years ago. In fact, some of the 20 year old systems are still in use and being sold today. Even Google is getting on towards 15 year old systems and methods for its Google Search Appliance.

My view is that if Palantir, IBM Watson, and Hewlett Packard are able to hit their revenue goals for their next generation technology—the market with money in hand is going to have to change significantly. Add in the pressure from outfits like Elasticsearch and once promising technologies like those from Coveo, Digital Reasoning, and Lexmark (ISYS Search). There are quite a few companies chasing after available deals. Even Kentucky teens are nosing into the chase. See, for example, http://bit.ly/1gM0j86. Even IBM’s non Watson units like i2 Group are likely to be competing for projects as well.

In a big company, one can get paid to research. When it comes time to sell, suddenly the job shifts from the “ideal” to the “really hard.” This Watson drama is one worth watching. In the case of  Manoj Saxena, the better perspective is one from outside IBM.

Stephen E Arnold, March 3, 2014

 

Tech Entrepreneur Shares Lessons Learned

January 28, 2014

I’m all for learning from the mistakes of others, and blogger Sergio Schuler shares some of his with remarkable candor in, “Startup Lessons Learned from my Failed Startup.” Of his attempted business, he writes:

“Two years ago, on December 2011, I was generating ideas for a business that would help team managers to not suck so much at managing their teams. I came up with this idea because I had some pretty terrible managers in my life. At the same time I worked for about 5 years with leadership development and had some pretty great teams and team experiences. Exactly January 1st 2012 I registered the domain teamometer.com.”

That seems like a good start; management can always use better tools. However, Schuler outlines some of the rookie moves that doomed his project. He began by trying to assess interest through his website, but mis-translated passing interest into probable sales. He also wishes he had researched user needs before developing his idea, and that expectations had been clearer when he brought in partners.

We were particularly interested in his take on using social media to build a brand. He tells us:

“I wrote a [darn] article every effing day. It made us jump to the first page of Google in several important keywords. How did that translate to sales? Zero. So the lesson is (unless your product is a multi-sided business like Facebook, where users are not paying customers) do not invest time and money to get more traffic. If you do, make sure to TALK to those people, because validating the product is more important than vanity metrics like how many likes you got on Facebook.”

A very good point—clicks are not, in themselves, communication; the goal is to better understand potential customers and help them better understand the product. As this entrepreneur found, courting clicks can actually be a time- and effort-sucking distraction. (We hate to say we told you so….)

Cynthia Murrell, January 28, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Start Up Flops: No Search Vendor Examples

January 21, 2014

I read a quite interesting article, “51 Startup Failure Post-Mortems.” The links in the story point to source documents. The article presents a summary of the principal take away from a crash-and-burn experience.

The lessons are fascinating and include:

  • Spreadsheet fever; that is, making assumptions about how many customers a start up will capture and how much each customer will pay
  • Users don’t want what the company is selling
  • Misallocating time; that is, buying stuff, not selling stuff
  • Management errors; that is, hiring, spending, marketing.

I recommend this article. I want to point out that none of the examples came from the deep pool of search-and-content processing failures. Outfits involved in information retrieval face some hurdles that put some spin on the problems outlined in 51 Startup Failure Post-Mortems.

Let me highlight three:

First, search is assumed to be over with Google the winner. Furthermore, most individuals assume that their search skills are quite good, even excellent. As a result, a new information retrieval vendor has to find a way to capture the potential customers’ interest. Indifference combined with a perception that the potential customer has good enough tools produces unconscious resistance to a new search system. Search is ubiquitous and works reasonably well for finding a phone number, a pizza joint, or news about a celebrity.

Second, search and content processing has a cash appetite that has continued to surprise innovators, entrepreneurs, and acquirers. As digital information becomes more plentiful, more resources are required to process the information. Search is expensive and over time only gets more costly. Even the “winner” Google is taking steps to control its Web search costs. Money is a problem for search vendors from Day One and continues to be a problem for the lifetime of the search vendor. Exponential information growth requires exponential investment in resources.

Third, search does not work. Sure, on the surface, a quick look at Bing, Google, or Yandex provides results that answer most  users’ questions. However, when one tries to dig into a subject, search in its present form is often unwieldy if not broken. For example, research a topic through time and one finds that content is no longer available. Commercial databases are fraught with gaps. Free services skip content due to latency problems or a desire to process certain low hanging fruit. In short, finding information today is getting more difficult by the day. Online content is not comprehensive, but users assume search systems have “everything.” Wrong.

These three characteristics contribute to the quiet and often noisy failures of search and content processing systems. Search is so disappointing that marketers find it easy to over promise and the systems then under deliver. Some of the lessons about actual companies that have failed in the search sector appear in the Xenky profiles.

Perhaps the next version of “51 Startup Failure Post-Mortems” will tap into the search and content processing sector.

Stephen E Arnold, January 21, 2014

Enterprise Content Management Tips

January 20, 2014

The release of SharePoint 2013 was the top headline in enterprise content management in 2013. But the release of a new product often creates more questions than it answers. For this reason, Search Content Management wrote the article, “The Top Enterprise Content Management System Tips of 2013.”

The article begins:

“It’s no surprise that some of the top ECM tips this year concern how to script in SharePoint 2013, new features in SharePoint 2013 and whether to migrate to on-premises SharePoint or whether to consider SharePoint Online. Check out SearchContentManagement’s top learning content on enterprise content management for 2013 below.”

Stephen E. Arnold, a longtime leader in enterprise search, is also the mastermind behind ArnoldIT.com. Topics like the new features of SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint on-premise versus SharePoint Online are issues he has also addressed this year. The verdict seems to be that while SharePoint is certainly the most dominant ECM system, it is also in need of the most customization to produce a product that aids productivity and increase efficiency.

Emily Rae Aldridge, January 20, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Xooglers and Management Expertise

January 16, 2014

Two items warranted posting on my white board.

The first was the somewhat ungainly local news service Patch. I noted this version of the action: “AOL Gives Up Control of Money-Losing Patch as Shares Rise.” Patch was invented by Tim Armstrong. AOL then bought Patch and hired Mr. Armstrong, a Xoogler. Or, maybe it was hired Mr. Armstrong and then bought Patch? Either way, the trajectory of Patch made clear that getting hired at Google and then becoming a real manager at a powerhouse like AOL were not congruent. Patch, according to Bloomberg, was “a pet project.” I assume it was like one of the old-school 20 percent free time projects except this one had an appetite for cash and served as a trigger for quite a bit of corporate explaining.

The second was the item I saw regarding another Xoogler’s management acumen: “He Was Fired: Here’s Marissa Mayer’s de Castro Buh-Bye Memo to Yahoo Staff.” Make that two Xooglers: the boss Xoogler at Yahoo Marissa Mayer and the number two at Yahoo, Henrique De Castro. I noted this passage:

During my own reflection, I made the difficult decision that our COO, Henrique de Castro, should leave the company. I appreciate Henrique’s contributions and wish him the best in his future endeavors.

Mr. de Castro will need a pick up truck to haul off his severance pay which is in the millions of dollars. Not bad for less than two years work.

The point is that some folks see getting hired by Google, flourishing in the Google greenhouse, and getting high praise from Googlers as the equivalent of management and operational expertise in the “real” world.

These two articles contain information that folks are mistaking Google employees with Google’s success. I would point to online advertising based on approaches developed by outfits like Overture as slightly more important.

My hunch is that AOL and Yahoo will generate further evidence about the management insights of Xooglers. Why are these Xooglers former Googlers anyway? Too bad I don’t have the energy to dig into the human resources angle. There are many azure chip consultants who can explain the why’s and wherefore’s.

Stephen E Arnold, January 16, 2014

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