Did Hewlett Packard Overpay for Autonomy?

December 12, 2014

The Economist, the British magazine that calls itself a newspaper, published “The Dozy Watchdogs.” Well, okay. The write up does contain an interesting nugget along the lines of “when you are out you are in and when you are in you are out.” Take that cricket fans.

The snippet in the article that I noted was this bit:

In 2012 Hewlett-Packard wrote off 80% of its $10.3 billion purchase of Autonomy, a software company, after accusing the firm of counting forecast subscriptions as current sales (Autonomy pleads innocence).

What’s 80 percent of $11 billion? In Harrod’s Creek, that’s a big management mistake. HP wrote a check and drove the vehicle off the lot. Yep, let’s blame the auditors, the dozy ones.

Stephen E Arnold, December 12, 2014

Google: People, Just Do It Our Way

November 1, 2014

Not content to redefine relevance, Google wants Silicon Valley and by extension anyone who wants to be successful to do what Google says. Note. I am not saying “what Google does.” The point is “what Google says.” There is a difference.

In a massive public relations, marketing, brand boosting effort, Google taps the Financial Times to carry its message. You can find the 2,800 word article in the Financial Times at http://on.ft.com/10ceArV. You may have to register or pay for access once the hoo hah about “FT Interview with Google Co-Founder and CEO Larry Page” quiets.

I urge you to read the original write up. I want to highlight three comments or passages that shed light on information retrieval, which is my area of interest. Spoiler: Not good news for those who want relevant results.

Larry Page, not content with plain search, wants to do something bigger:

to use the money that is spouting from its search advertising business to stake out positions in boom industries of the future, from biotech to robotics.

Mr. Page wants the real movers and shakers to get in gear:

Page estimates that only about 50 investors are chasing the real breakthrough technologies that have the potential to make a material difference to the lives of most people on earth. If there is something holding these big ideas back, it is not a shortage of money or even the barrier of insurmountable technical hurdles. When breakthroughs of the type he has in mind are pursued, it is “not really being driven by any fundamental technical advance. It’s just being driven by people working on it and being ambitious,” he says. Not enough institutions – particularly governments – are thinking expansively enough about these issues: “We’re probably underinvested as a world in that.”

Technology, of course, is the one true way, but some people have not embraced Google’s view of what’s logical:

“I think people see the disruption but they don’t really see the positive,” says Page. “They don’t see it as a life-changing kind of thing. I think the problem has been people don’t feel they are participating in it.”

Like the recent Eric Schmidt opus How Google Works, Google executives want to be more than rich. Google wants to be the giver of wisdom. I am okay with that, but how many of those put out of work by technology will agree?

Stephen E Arnold, November 1, 2014

HP: Business or B-School

October 7, 2014

Venerable Hewlett Packard may be a bellwether for other established high technology companies trapped in a time warp. Some hardware and services are enterprise centric. Other hardare and services are consumer centric.. Why not create two companies and double the fun?

The Bloomberg article “HP Split Is Latest Chapter in Whitman’s Change-Filled Career” does a good job of summarizing HP management flip flops. First, it is PCs and enterprise. Then it is to be split up. No, no. HP will not sell its PC and printer business. Oh, oh, wait. Now HP management will create two companies. Wow.

The write up states:

Whitman will lead Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, a business focused on corporate hardware and services, while Dion Weisler, the vice president in charge of Hewlett-Packard’s personal-computer and printer operations, will become CEO of that business. Whitman has been introducing new products and today she expanded a job-cut program to more than 55,000 jobs to trim costs. Hewlett-Packard, based in Palo Alto, California, has fallen behind in mobile computing at a time when consumers have migrated to smartphones and tablets, and last year lost its place as the largest maker of PCs to Lenovo Group Ltd. The split represents a reversal for Whitman, who ruled out a spinoff of the company’s PC division months after replacing Leo Apotheker, who had floated that possibility earlier that year. Whitman has since reiterated Hewlett-Packard’s commitment to the PC business on numerous occasions.

HP seems to be emulating IBM. Another parallel with IBM is HP’s expectations for content processing revenue. IBM has targeted $10 billion as Watson’s goal. HP wants Autonomy to pump billions into the HP coffers. HP and IBM have more confidence in content processing’s ability to generate substantial revenue than I do.

I  look forward with interest to the unfolding of the two different B school approaches. I am not sure that Yahoo’s or HP’s will work. For me, the question becomes, “Which iconic high technology company has to flounder for a solution to revenue challenges?”

And, “What is Plan B for these over stressed giants?”

Stephen E Arnold, October 7, 2014

Management for the Young at Heart

October 5, 2014

With so many search and content processing vendors struggling to meet licensees’ expectations, management insights are needed. When failed webmasters, frustrated academics, or art history majors morph into search experts, poobahs, and wizards—checklists are essential.

I want to point you to this list of items to embrace, particularly if you are young at heart, absent a successful management track record, or someone looking for a shortcut to the affection of your employees.

Navigate to “44 Engineering Management Lessons.” A lesson in this context is more like a statement or exhortation delivered with vocal tones both dulcet and soft.

Here are three “lessons”. I will leave the other 41 to your own study:

No. 5 “Provide administrative support. Schedule issues, coordinate releases, and make sure the bureaucratic machine keeps ticking.

No 12 Don’t make decisions unless you have to. Whenever possible, allow the team explore ideas and make decisions on its own

No. 38 Occasionally someone will push too far. When they do, you have to show a rough edge or you’ll lose authority with your team.

There you go.

Next time stakeholders demand a return on their investment in your search or content processing company, use these tips. If you are “teaching” people about search, integrate these ideas into your lecture.

You cannot lose, at least in the experience of the author of the management lessons, er, big list of statements.

Stephen E Arnold, October 5, 2014

Will Yahoo Oust Its Xoogler?

October 3, 2014

I read “Yahoo Turns to Ad Agencies Amid Calls for Change – Report.” On the surface, Yahoo wants to hire a pod of pros to brush up the Yahoo brand. What ever happened to the Yahooo! crafted by that fellow from Big Bear. I liked that yodel.

But tucked into the wordage was this passage:

Alternative Investment Management & Research, in a letter that said Mayer should consider selling at least a large chunk of Yahoo to Japan-based telecommunications company SoftBank — and allowing that firm’s CEO, Masayoshi Son, to run Yahoo.

That old Google magic does not seem have much of an impact on Alternative Investment Management & Research.

Would Masayoshi Son do a better job with Yahoo?

My hunch is that this type of thought plus others are zipping around the Yahooligan stakeholders. Why not hook up with Xoogler run America Online. That outfit still derives a chunk of its revenues from dial up modems. Do two Xooglers a Warren Buffet make?

Stephen E Arnold, October 4, 2014

Google, Security, Privacy: Cognitive Dissonance?

October 3, 2014

Remember the caveat? Google obtained a “promise” from Stanford to use Google money for anything—except privacy research. See “Stanford Promises Not to Use Google Money for Privacy Research.”

I read “Google: Tim Cook Is Wrong about Us.” Fascinating. Mr. Schmidt is the individual who served on the Apple board at roughly the same time Google was plotting its mobile phone play. Mr. Schmidt left the board, presumably aware of some of the idiosyncrasies of Apple and maybe—just maybe—some tiny insight into the Apple technical capability.

Google is better at encryption and secrecy than Apple. Okay.

So in the “Wrong” article, I read:

Apple got it wrong — Google is the safest place on the Web, the search giant’s chairman says. “We have always been the leader in security and encryption,” Eric Schmidt told CNNMoney. “Our systems are far more secure and encrypted than anyone else, including Apple. They’re catching up, which is great.”

Then I read what seems to be a fairly interesting statement from the “real” journalists at Money/CNN:

But Google doesn’t exactly have a perfect privacy record. Its effort in 2012 to set a single privacy policy for all Google accounts across its multiple services was extremely controversial, with detractors saying Google was trying to make it easier to track its customers’ behavior and sell that information to advertisers. Google also paid a record $22.5 million fine to the FTC for getting around Apple’s no-cookie policy on the Safari browser, and Google was caught purposefully snooping on people’s Internet sessions while driving by with its Street View cars.

I suffered through the blather of Psychology 101. I remember a lecture about cognitive dissonance. Later, when I was required to participate in some government training, I learned about methods of dissimulation.

This statement jarred me and seems to be disconnected from the sort of “is” that President Clinton struggled to define.

In short, is this an extract from a psychiatrist case notes?

Stephen E Arnold, October 3, 2014

Short Honk: The Effects of Power? Hardly Worth Worrying About

October 2, 2014

I read “Power Can Corrupt Even the Honest.” I am not sure if this is an objective scientific report or write up that says, “Hey, everybody’s doing it.” Judge for yourself.

I know that Elsevier is a purveyor of some expensive publications. The company also has an online autoclave in LexisNexis. I ran across one law librarian who told me that some law firms were reluctant to pump big bucks into Lexis queries. Sour grapes? Silliness? I don’t know.

What’s interesting is that the write up states:

After completing psychometric tests to measure various individual differences, including honesty, participants played the ‘dictator game’ where they were given complete control over deciding pay-outs to themselves and their followers. The leaders had the choice of making prosocial or antisocial decisions, the latter of which resulted in reduced total pay-outs to the group but increased the leader’s own earnings.
The findings showed that those who measured as less honest exhibited more corrupt behaviour, at least initially; however, over time, even those who initially scored high on honesty were not shielded from the corruptive effects of power.

I think I understand. To have real fun just become real powerful like a real professional publisher. Seems obvious to me, but I am not a real researcher. I do have enough common sense to come in out of the rain. Honest.

Stephen E Arnold, October 2, 2014

Quote to Note: No Delegation Considered

October 2, 2014

I read “Before the Startup.” The genesis of this write up was a lecture for Stanford’s “so you want to be a millionaire” class. Here’s the “official” link.

I have no view of the overall lecture. However, I did note one Google centric quotation. I found it interesting and its suggests the importance of a “key man” even when a company grows to $70 billion and has 50,000 of the world’s smartest people on the payroll. Here it is:

Larry Page may seem to have an enviable life, but there are aspects of it that are unenviable. Basically at 25 he started running as fast as he could and it must seem to him that he hasn’t stopped to catch his breath since. Every day new shit happens in the Google empire that only the CEO can deal with, and he, as CEO, has to deal with it. If he goes on vacation for even a week, a whole week’s backlog of shit accumulates. And he has to bear this uncomplainingly, partly because as the company’s daddy he can never show fear or weakness, and partly because billionaires get less than zero sympathy if they talk about having difficult lives. Which has the strange side effect that the difficulty of being a successful startup founder is concealed from almost everyone except those who’ve done it.

Does this reveal a successful start up wizard’s attitude toward “management”? What about delegation? What about developing a functional command and control system? About whom do we learn from this snippet?

Stephen E Arnold, October 2, 2014

Psychopaths in Training: Successful MBAs, Lawyers, and Accountants

October 1, 2014

I read “The Unexpected Consequences of Success.” For some reason, my Overflight system is gathering ever increasing numbers of management silliness. If management worked, would not PIMCO avail itself of the methods and demonstrate that it could retain staff, generate returns of little interest to the SEC, and stop institutional investors from withdrawing a few dollars here and there?

The write up states:

People often prepare for failure, but rarely prepare for what they will do when they succeed. Even when we consciously want to be successful, enjoying that success can be a challenge.

In the 1980s, one of the challenges Booz, Allen & Hamilton faced was that some senior people dumped their wives and formed a relationship with their assistants. The rationalization I heard was that the assistants “knew” what the senior Booz person was going through and could, therefore, be a better partner. I am not sure how the firm worked this out, nor do I care.

Other management challenges exist. I spent several hours with a CEO of a Silicon Valley company who was coming unglued before my eyes. In addition to the long, unkempt hair, the person had embraced various New Age concepts. The person ignored email and allowed the usually chaotic programmers to behave more like a crowd in Henderson, Missouri.

With a matter of weeks, the company had become the subject of a vicious analysis in a zippy San Francisco blog. As far as I know, the individual is now either surfing or working at an organic farm.

When I sent a copy of an article titled “Research shows there could be increased numbers of psychopaths in high levels of business,” the recipient (an investment banker) replied, “Yikes, Wall Street stress?” Nope, psychopathic behavior.

According the the HBR, at least the success part of the job can be handled with several easy-to-implement tips:

  • Don’t do victory laps. I think this means buy a LaFerrari and drive it to lunch when you fire people.
  • Focus on the value you bring, not on winning per se. Nope, the winning is evident when the Charlie Sheen type winner get a bonus.
  • Stay in the  here and now. I think this means do not become psychotic, dependent on banned substances, or a modern version of Julius Caesar.
  • Reach higher. I think this means, “Be more like Alexander.” That worked out well for him at least for three decades.

I am not sure how these pronouncements will help out the dozens upon dozens of search and content processing companies thrashing around for money. But it is good to know that there are four tips to ensure that old MBA trajectory of success.

Stephen E Arnold, October 1, 2014

Palantir: Now an Enterprise App Developer

September 30, 2014

I read “Hush Hush Data Firm Palantir Snags ICE Case Tracking Deal.” Palantir may be moving from supporting intelligence agencies to the market sector dominated by government contractors like SRA, Booz Allen Hamilton, and CACI.

The article states:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has awarded secretive data-mining firm Palantir a $42 million contract to redo the investigation agency’s failed case filing system.

The challenge will be to make a case management system work in a manner that satisfies the statement of work. Other case management efforts have crashed and burned.

Palantir appears to be working with a tough mandate: On time and on budget delivery. As you may know, the notion of on time and on budget is only valid until the first scope change rolls down the timeline.

Are flaws in case management systems unusual. Nah. The article reveals:

The Justice Department inspector general last week released a report on the FBI’s new case management system, Sentinel, assailing its searching and indexing features for slowing the investigations of special agents and the productivity levels of evidence technicians.

Why are case management systems problematic? I can identify a number of reasons, but it will be more entertaining if I wait for news about the Palantir project’s path.

Stephen E Arnold, October 17, 2014

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