Forrester and Physical Storage: HP Autonomy May Like This Mid Tier Prognostication

August 23, 2014

I recommend reading “Forrester Says It’s Time to Give Up on Physical Storage Arrays.” The position of the mid tier consulting firm is clear: Local storage bad, cloud storage good. What’s missing is nuance. The comments point out a couple of issues with this Promethean assertion; for example:

  • The time has therefore come to recognize that arrays are expensive and inflexible, Baltazar says, and make the jump to virtual arrays for future storage purchases. Fancy words for outsource and off site.—from Ole Juul
  • Until workmen outside cut through your comms cable …… It can and does happen (Power cable for one company I worked for, water mains for another). We hear all about the resilience built up at the other end to near guaranty your data, but there’s always single points of failure much closer to home.—from Dappman
  • Data needs to be local. How can you move 1000TB of data around? The storage needs to be local to where it’s being used. Increasingly, the data is coming in from the cloud. What happens in the cloud stays in the cloud(R).—from Anonymous Coward

But for me the article tips Forrester’s hand with regard to HP Autonomy. HP is reporting record revenues from sales of PCs. HP is emphasizing the value of HP Autonomy IDOL as an enterprise app. Against this background, I noted this passage in the source article:

Forrester knows this, too: one of its analysts, Henry Baltazar, just declared you should “make your next storage array an app”.

I look forward to HP’s picking up on this “expert” opinion and giving the hobby horse a whack. Content marketing? Yep yep.

Stephen E Arnold, August 23, 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

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:

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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 March of IBM Watson: From Kitchen to Executive Suite

August 5, 2014

Watson, fresh from its recipe innovations at Bon Appétit, is on the move…again. From the game show to the hospital, Watson has been demonstrating its expertise in the most interesting venues.

I read “A Room Where Executives Go to Get Help from IBM’s Watson.” The subtitle is an SEO dream: “Researchers at IBM are testing a version of Watson designed to listen and contribute to business meetings.” I know IBM has loads of search and content processing capability. In addition to the gems cranked out by Dr. Jon Kleinberg and Dr. Ramanathan Guha, IBM has oodles of acquisitions in the search and content processing sector. Do you know about Clementine? Are you familiar with iPhrase? Have your explored Cybertap’s indexing and search function with your local IBM representative? What about Vivisimo? What about the search functions in DB2, FileNet, and OminFind regardless of its incarnation? Whew. That’s a lot of search and content processing horsepower. I think most of that power remains in the barn.

Watson is not in the barn. Watson is a raging bull. Watson is, I believe, something special. Based on open source technology plus home brew wizardry, Watson is a next-generation information retrieval world beater. The idea is that Watson is trained in a manner similar to the approach used by Autonomy in 1996. Then that indexed content is whipped into a question answering system. Hapless chefs, litigation wary physicians, and now risk averse MBAs can use Watson to make better decisions or answer really tough questions.

I know this to be true because Technology Review tells me so. Whatever MIT-tinged Technology Review says is pretty darned solid. Here’s a passage I noted:

Everything said in the room can be instantly transcribed, providing a detailed record of any meeting, and allowing the system to listen out for commands addressed to “Watson.” Those commands can be simple requests for information of the kind you might type into a search box. But Watson can also take a more active role in a discussion. In a live demonstration, it helped researchers role-playing as executives to generate a short list of companies to acquire.

The write up explains that a little bit of preparation is required. There’s the pesky training, which is particularly annoying when the topic of the meeting is, “The DOJ attorneys are here to discuss the depositions” or “We have a LOCA at the reactor. Everyone to my conference room now.” I suppose most business meetings are even more exciting.

Technology Review points out that the technology has a tough time converting executive speech to text. Watson uses the text as fodder for the indexing and parsing required to pass queries to the internal subsystems which then tap into Watson for answers. The natural language query and automatic query refinement functions seem to work well for game show questions and for discerning uses of tamarind. For a LOCA meeting or discussion of a deposition, Watson may need a bit more work.

I find the willingness of major “real” news outlets to describe Watson in juicy write ups an indication of the esteem in which IBM is held. My view is a bit different. I am not sure the Watson group at IBM knows how to generate substantial revenues. The folks have to make some progress toward $1 billion in revenue and then grow that revenue to a modest $10 billion in five or six years.

The fact that outfits in search and content processing have failed to hit more modest benchmarks for decades is irrelevant. The only search company that I know has generated billions is Google. Keep in mind that those billions come from online advertising. HP bought Autonomy for $11 billion in the hopes of owning a Klondike. IBM wisely went with open source technology and home grown code.

But the eventual effect of both HP’s and IBM’s approach will be more modest revenues. HP makes a name for itself via litigation and IBM is making a name for itself with demonstrations and some recipes.

Search and content processing, whether owned by a large company or a small one, faces some credibility, marketing, revenue, technology, and profit challenges. I am not sure a business triathlete can complete the course at this time. Talk is just so much easier than getting over or around the course intact.

Stephen E Arnold, August 5, 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.

Read more

IDG: Another Unexpected Action

August 4, 2014

I received an email from IDG, owner of the mid tier consulting outfit IDC.

image

The most remarkable item in this marketing email was the offer for information about “Web Hosting: How to Break Free from Servers.” I clicked on the link and saw this title:

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The information is a “white paper” with the title “Hosting Is Dead.” Now if I go to a car dealer with an ad for a car at a special price and the salesman says, “Oh, we don’t have that auto. I can sell you this higher priced auto” I get annoyed. Some folks would call this bait and switch. But the IDG “white paper” is offered for free, presumably by a company keen to get sales leads.

Well, I filled in the information, using one of my special accounts, and this is what I received after accepting the cookie from IDG:

image

So what’s the white paper after jumping through these hoops?

image

The white paper is 17 pages in length. The basic idea in the rather colorful white paper is that I should not purchase do it yourself hosting. The choice, the authors argue, is buy Pantheon.

There are “real” numbers backing up this assertion:

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Well, sort of real numbers. There is not pricing for the Pantheon solution. I did some poking around and found this Web page on the Pantheon Web site at https://www.getpantheon.com/pricing:

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I don’t want to misread this information so check it out yourself. I would point out that these questions flashed through my mind:

  1. Why not put the prices in the white paper? Why didn’t IDG present some “real” analysis in their email to me? Why did I come away from this clumsy marketing thinking, “Isn’t this a variation on the Schubmehl affair?”
  2. Isn’t it possible to use a similar service at a far lower price point via SquareSpace?
  3. What are the benefits of Drupal compared to Hippo CMS or a similar solution?

There is one important take away for me from this reading, clicking, and exploring. The notion that IDG and its units are delivering McKinsey- or Bain-grade information has been put to rest.

IDG is, in my mind, closer to the content marketing outfits trying to outguess Google.

This would be amusing if it were not such a large window into the ways in which IDG and its units are pursuing revenue by presenting sales silliness as high value information.

Oh, not a peep about the search functionality in Pantheon solution. Not surprising because I don’t see the difference among the hosting outfits that are “dead” and the approach suggested by Pantheon.

Stephen E Arnold, August 1, 2014

Exorbyte: Yep, eCommerce Search

August 1, 2014

Despite the mid tier consulting firms trying valiantly to convince some that Exorbyte is an enterprise search company, there is some evidence to the contrary. I noticed a tweet from a Twitter fan billed as MarketLinks. The link points to a service with which I was not familiar, Vidyours. On that page, Exorbyte presents a number of videos:

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A word of possible interest: This video distribution search wanted to install a suspicious video viewer on my system. I declined.

Net net: Exorbyte has a number of eCommerce video for what appears to be the purpose of selling licenses to companies looking for a eCommerce search system. Perhaps the enterprise search videos are out there, just not on the dicey Vidyours.com site? Is Exorbyte performing a search pivot or just stretching its system to generate more leads and revenue?

Stephen E Arnold, August 1, 2014

More Knowledge Quotient Silliness: The Florida Gar of Search Marketing

August 1, 2014

I must be starved for intellectual Florida Gar. Nibble on this fish’s lateral line and get nauseous or dead. Knowledge quotient as a concept applied to search and retrieval is like a largish Florida gar. Maybe a Florida gar left too long in the sun.

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Lookin’ yummy. Looks can be deceiving in fish and fishing for information. A happy quack to https://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/Gallery/Descript/FloridaGar/FloridaGar.html

I ran a query on one of the search systems that I profile in my lectures for the police and intelligence community. With a bit of clicking, I unearthed some interesting uses of the phrase “knowledge quotient.”

What surprised me is that the phrase is a favorite of some educators. The use of the term as a synonym for plain old search seems to be one of those marketing moments of magic. A group of “experts” with degrees in home economics, early childhood education, or political science sit around and try to figure out how to sell a technology that is decades old. Sure, the search vendors make “improvements” with ever increasing speed. As costs rise and sales fail to keep pace, the search “experts” gobble a cinnamon latte and innovate.

In Dubai earlier this year, I saw a reference to a company engaged in human resource development. I think this means “body shop,” “lower cost labor,” or “mercenary registry,” but I could be off base. The company is called Knowledge Quotient FZ LLC. If one tries to search for the company, the task becomes onerous. Google is giving some love to the recent IDC study by an “expert” named Dave Schubmehl. As you may know, this is the “professional” who used by information and then sold it on Amazon until July 2014 without paying me for my semi-valuable name. For more on this remarkable approach to professional publishing, see http://wp.me/pf6p2-auy.

Also, in Dubai is a tutoring outfit called Knowledge Quotient which delivers home tutoring to the children of parents with disposable income. The company explains that it operates a place where learning makes sense.

Companies in India seem to be taken with the phrase “knowledge quotient.” Consider Chessy Knowledge Quotient Private Limited. In West Bengal, one can find one’s way to Mukherjee Road and engage the founders with regard to an “effective business solution.” See http://chessygroup.co.in. Please, do not confuse Chessy with KnowledgeQ, the company operating as Knowledge Quotient Education Services India Pvt Ltd. in Bangalore. See http://www.knowledgeq.org.

What’s the relationship between these companies operating as “knowledge quotient” vendors and search? For me, the appropriation of names and applying them to enterprise search contributes to the low esteem in which many search vendors are held.

Why is Autonomy IDOL such a problem for Hewlett Packard? This is a company that bought a mobile operating system and stepped away from. This is a company that brought out a tablet and abandoned it in a few months. This is a company that wrote off billions and then blamed the seller for not explaining how the business worked. In short, Autonomy, which offers a suite of technology that performs as well or better than any other search system, has become a bit of Florida gar in my view. Autonomy is not a fish. Autonomy is a search and content processing system. When properly configured and resourced, it works as well as any other late 1990s search system. I don’t need meaningless descriptions like “knowledge quotient” to understand that the “problem” with IDOL is little more than HP’s expectations exceeding what a decades old technology can deliver.

Why is Fast Search & Transfer an embarrassment to many who work in the search sector. Perhaps the reason has to do with the financial dealings of the company. In addition to fines and jail terms, the Fast Search system drifted from its roots in Web search and drifted into publishing, smart software, and automatic functions. The problem was that when customers did not pay, the company did not suck it up, fix the software, and renew their efforts to deliver effective search. Nah, Fast Search became associated with a quick sale to Microsoft, subsequent investigations by Norwegian law enforcement, and the culminating decision to ban one executive from working in search. Yep, that is a story that few want to analyze. Search marketers promised and the technology did not deliver, could not deliver given Fast Search’s circumstances.

What about Excalibur/Convera? This company managed to sell advanced search and retrieval to Intel and the NBA. In a short time, both of these companies stepped away from Convera. The company then focused on a confection called “vertical search” based on indexing the Internet for customers who wanted narrow applications. Not even the financial stroking of Allen & Co. could save Convera. In an interesting twist, Fast Search purchased some of Convera’s assets in an effort to capture more US government business. Who digs into the story of Excalibur/Convera? Answer: No one.

What passes for analysis in enterprise search, information retrieval, and content processing is the substitution of baloney for fact-centric analysis. What is the reason that so many search vendors need multiple injections of capital to stay in business? My hunch is that companies like Antidot, Attivio, BA Insight, Coveo, Sinequa, and Palantir, among others, are in the business of raising money, spending it in an increasingly intense effort to generate sustainable revenue, and then going once again to capital markets for more money. When the funding sources dry up or just cut off the company, what happens to these firms? They fail. A few are rescued like Autonomy, Exalead, and Vivisimo. Others just vaporize as Delphes, Entopia, and Siderean did.

When I read a report from a mid tier consulting firm, I often react as if I had swallowed a chunk of Florida gar. An example in my search file is basic information about “The Knowledge Quotient: Unlocking the Hidden Value of Information.” You can buy this outstanding example of ahistorical analysis from IDC.com, the employer of Dave Schubmehl. (Yep, the same professional who used my research without bothering to issue me a contract or get permission from me to fish with my identity. My attorney, if I understand his mumbo jumbo, says this action was not identity theft, but Schubmehl’s actions between May 2012 and July 2014 strikes me as untoward.)

Net net: I wonder if any of the companies using the phrase “knowledge quotient” are aware of brand encroachment. Probably not. That may be due to the low profile search enjoys in some geographic regions where business appears to be more healthy than in the US.

Can search marketing be compared to Florida gar? I want to think more about this.

Stephen E Arnold, August 1, 2014

Sponsors of Two Content Marketing Plays

July 27, 2014

I saw some general information about allegedly objective analyses of companies in the search and content processing sector.

The first report comes from the Gartner Group. The company has released its “magic quadrant” which maps companies by various allegedly objective methods into leaders, challengers, niche players, and visionaries.

The most recent analysis includes these companies:

Attivio
BA Insight
Coveo
Dassault Exalead
Exorbyte
Expert System
Google
HP Autonomy IDOL
IBM
HIS
Lucid Works
MarkLogic
Mindbreeze
Perceptive ISYS Search
PolySpot
Recommind
Sinequa

There are several companies in the Gartner pool whose inclusion surprises me. For example, Exorbyte is primarily an eCommerce company with a very low profile in the US compared to Endeca or New Zealand based SLI Systems. Expert System is a company based in Italy. This company provides semantic software which I associated with mobile applications. IHS (International Handling Service) provides technical information and a structured search system. MarkLogic is a company with XML data management software that has landed customers in publishing and the US government. With an equally low profile is Mindbreeze, a home brew search system funded by Microsoft-centric Fabasoft. Dassault Exalead, PolySpot, and Sinequa are French companies offering what I call “information infrastructure.” Search is available, but the approach is digital information plumbing.

The IDC report, also allegedly objective, is sponsored by nine companies. These outfits are:

Attivio
Coveo
Earley & Associates
HP Autonomy IDOL
IBM
IHS
Lexalytics
Sinequa
Smartlogic

This collection of companies is also eclectic. For example, Earley & Associates does indexing training, consulting, and does not have a deep suite of enterprise software. IHS (International Handling Services) appears in the IDC report as a knowledge centric company. I think I understand the concept. Technical information in Extensible Markup Language and a mainframe-style search system allow an engineer to locate a specification or some other technical item like the SU 25. Lexalytics is a sentiment analysis company. I do not consider figuring out if a customer email is happy or sad the same as Coveo’s customer support search system. Smartlogic is interesting because the company provides tools that permit unstructured content to be indexed. Some French vendors call this process “fertilization.” I suppose that for purists, indexing might be just as good a word.

What unifies these two lists are the companies that appear in both allegedly objective studies:

Attivio
Coveo
HP
IBM
IHS (International Handling Service)
Sinequa

My hunch is that the five companies appearing in both lists are in full bore, pedal to the metal marketing mode.

Attivio and Coveo have ingested tens of millions in venture funding. At some point, investors want a return on their money. The positioning of these two companies’ technologies as search and the somewhat unclear knowledge quotient capability suggest that implicit endorsement by mid tier consulting firms will produce sales.

The appearance of HP and IBM on each list is not much of a surprise. The fact that Oracle Endeca is not in either report suggests that Oracle has other marketing fish to fry. Also, Elasticsearch, arguably the game changer in search and content processing, is not in either pool may be evidence that Elasticsearch is too busy to pursue “expert” analysts laboring in the search vineyard. On the other hand, Elasticsearch may have its hands full dealing with demands of developers, prospects, and customers.

IHS has not had a high profile in either search or content processing. The fact that International Handling Services appears signals that the company wants to market its mainframe style and XML capable system to a broader market. Sinequa appears comfortable with putting forth its infrastructure system as both search and a knowledge engine.

I have not seen the full reports from either mid tier consulting firm. My initial impression of the companies referenced in the promotional material for these recent studies is that lead generation is the hoped for outcome of inclusion.

Other observations I noted include:

  1. The need to generate leads and make sales is putting multi-company reports back on the marketing agenda. The revenue from these reports will be welcomed at IDC and Gartner I expect. The vendors who are on the hook for millions in venture funding are hopeful that inclusion in these reports will shake the money trees from Boston to Paris.
  2. The language used to differentiate and describe the companies referenced in these two studies is unlikely to clarify the differences between similar companies or make clear the similarities. From my point of view, there are few similarities among the companies referenced in the marketing collateral for the IDC and Gartner study.
  3. The message of the two reports appears to be “these companies are important.” My thought is that because IDC and Gartner assume their brand conveys a halo of excellence, the companies in these reports are, therefore, excellent in some way.

Net net: Enterprise search and content processing has a hurdle to get over: Search means Google. The companies in these reports have to explain why Google is not the de facto choice for enterprise search and then explain how a particular vendor’s search system is better, faster, cheaper, etc.

For me, a marketer or search “expert” can easily stretch search to various buzzwords. For some executives, customer support is not search. Customer support uses search. Sentiment analysis is not search. Sentiment analysis is a signal for marketers or call center managers. Semantics for mobile phones, indexing for SharePoint content, and search for a technical data sheet are quite different from eCommerce, business intelligence, and business process engineering.

A fruit cake is a specific type of cake. Each search and content processing system is distinct and, in my opinion, not easily fused into the calorie rich confection. A collection of systems is a lumber room stuffed with different objects that don’t have another place in a household.

The reports seem to make clear that no one in the mid tier consulting firms or the search companies knows exactly how to position, explain, and verify that content processing is the next big thing. Is it?

Maybe a Google Search Appliance is the safe choice? IBM Watson does recipes, and HP Autonomy connotes high profile corporate disputes.

Elasticsearch, anyone?

Stephen E Arnold, July 27, 2014

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