Thinking about Enterprise Search? VUCA Is for You

September 8, 2014

the Harvard business Review is embracing some of the alleged jargon used by intel analysts, warfighters, and with-it Beltway Bandits. Now the relationship between use of the acronym VUCA and everyday business decisions about toner and where to have lunch is tenuous at best. The term warrants a comment.

First, however, what does the write up “A Framework for Understanding VUCA” share with the managers of the world? The article defines VUCA as “volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.” Ah, these are the concepts that have launched a 1,000 marketing presentations about search, analytics, and content processing. A fancy new, state of the art, analytics system incorporating entity extraction, faceting, and linguistic understanding will help make VUCA a bad dream. VUCA is like Ebola for an organization. Bad indeed. No reliable cure. High mortality rate. VUGA = Bad.

Next, VUCA makes planning difficult. “Hey, it’s crazy out there.” This seems pretty tricky. The HBR write up suggests tackling VUCA with flexibility. Fight with a quadrant, not the original analytics based Boston Consulting grid. VUCA requires one of those squishy grids with quite a bit of subjectivity.

Also, the HBR content requires reading and a sound function. When I accessed the rich media, I heard nothing. A flaw in my system or a reminder of the challenges VUCA presents to publishers as well as lesser managers.

Second, what’s VUCA have to do with search, analytics, and content marketing. Given the spectacular thrashing over Autonomy and the lesser stomping around about Lucid Works (originally Lucid Imagination), VUCA seems to be a large part of the information retrieval sales process and the management process. Stated another way, search, analytics, and content processing are supposed to decrease VUCA. The reality seems to be that where search, analytics, and content processing are deployed, VUCA becomes a very big deal. It does not work particularly well and there is no easy way to figure out what’s right, what’s incorrect, what’s broken, and what’s actually useful.

So the equation can be modified to state VUCA=Search.

One of the comments to the HBR VUCA analysis is interesting to me; to wit:

The VUCA label is so typical in the business world. The idea
that it’s new is such a load of crap. To use it for an excuse not to develop and execute a strategy or plan is abdication of the highest order. I’d say I have as much experience in this as most. Launching a successful international passenger and cargo airline in an active war zone clearly involved all the elements of VUCA. Your analysis is correct. Any leader must deal with these elements daily. The idea that the world is somehow more uncertain, complex or ambiguous is garbage. Volatility varies regularly over time. You create and execute a strategy in this world the same way you did in the world of yesterday and stop whining.

Why not order up a T shirt with VUCA=Ebola to make the point.

For me, consultants will love VUCA. I can’t wait for mid tier consultants to use this hip military lingo in their content marketing.

Stephen E Arnold, September 8, 2014

YouTube: The Real Giant in Online Advertising

September 5, 2014

I wonder who suggested this study? I wonder who sponsored the study? How about a gigantic multi million pool of data? Could the “study” shore up Google’s ad revenue as folks shift to mobile search? What about that lousy Web site traffic? How is that working out for those who chase sales leads and sales with a mere Web site? So many questions.

Navigate to “Study: In Social Advertising, YouTube Converts More Customers Than Anyone Else.”

I learned from a testimonial:

“We believe that YouTube does well in both of these important purchase funnel areas for a number of reasons,” Jeff Zwelling, CEO and co-founder at Convertro told me by phone this week. “YouTube’s own search volume and preferential positioning on Google’s results help drive large amounts of traffic, of course. But when you get to YouTube, the content is rich, descriptive, and usually helpful.” “I’ve done this myself. I recently bought a coffee machine. I had the decision down to three alternatives and couldn’t decide which one was best for me,” Zwelling said. “In the end, I watched videos on YouTube of people using all three machines and chose the one that matched my idea of a good coffee maker.”

But Twitter has some value:

“Throughout our study, it is clear that social media in general — and Twitter in particular — is much more likely than any other marketing channel to provide the customer with brand awareness and consideration of a product,” Zwelling said.

Oh, oh. Twitter. Grrr.

And for you duffs with a Web site. Here’s a “finding” for your consideration:

As we know from recent studies, 99% of organic messages get almost no interaction on social media. Aol Platforms’ report backs this up, showing that only 1% of organic product-promoting tweets lead to a direct purchasing decision. But what happens when you sponsor a tweet?

So there. You can download this report at this link.

Go, YouTube.

Stephen E Arnold, September 5, 2014

An IBM Watson Boot Camp: Gimmee 20!

September 5, 2014

Hopefully a demo will become available. Do you think?

Navigate to “IBM, CUNY Launch Watson Student App Competition.” From a content marketing article, I learned from eWeek:

The contest, known as the CUNY-IBM Watson Case Competition, is an opportunity to learn and develop apps for applying the IBM Watson cognitive technology to improve the operation of organizations and the delivery of services to customers. The IBM Watson technology embodies the future, and this competition enables CUNY students to be part of the new generation involved in the jobs and businesses that will be created.

This is not the first Watson competition. The content marketing article does a round up.

Alas, no links to demos. Just more Watson is wonderful; for example:

Indeed, some possible examples to apply IBM Watson are improving the quality and effectiveness of public undergraduate education and helping to better deliver public services such as public safety, health and transportation. Teams of CUNY students will work through various milestones during the fall 2014 semester, while being mentored by IBM, CUNY faculty and other experts in the field. Teams of three to five students will present their preliminary concepts during Watson “boot camp” Oct. 24 and 25. The finalists will participate in a final round of presentations on Jan. 15, 2015, when cash prizes will be awarded to the top three teams.

Indeed.

Stephen E Arnold, September 5, 2014

Open Text Excellence: Oh, the System Did It

September 5, 2014

This is the outfit that once employed the name surfer Dave Schubmehl. He is the IDC expert who sold information on Amazon without my permission. Once he bailed, I assumed Open Text would improve.

Nope. Wrong.

I received this in the mail today.

OpenText <UKMarketing@opentext.com>

3:04 PM (3 hours ago)

to me

If your email program has trouble displaying this email, view it as a web page:
http://now.eloqua.com/es.asp?s=459&e=364560&elq=e8df3eefea2d4395ac3aa3fd70a82281

We would like to give you our sincere apologies

Dear Stephen ,
As an unfortunate consequence of a  system problem, we have been made aware that an email titled “OpenText UK Partner Day” has been accidentally sent to a wider audience than expected. You received this in error and we would ask that you ignore the email.
Best regards
OpenText UK Communications Team

Not only do I live in Harrod’s Creek, Kentucky, I have never attended an Open Text event. I do know that Red Dot used the Autonomy search system and that Red Dot performance was—ahem, well, let’s see—processing queries in minutes at one client location, long enough for staff to get a coffee…outside the building.

Also, I know Open Text has to support BASIS, Bray’s SGML Search, BRS Search, and probably some other systems. My, isn’t this too expensive to do well?

Anyway, Open Text apologizes for its spam and erroneous communications. Nice stuff. I like the passive voice. Who wants to assign responsibility for spam? Anyone? Oh, a system problem.

Stephen E Arnold, September 5, 2014

IBM Watson and Research

August 29, 2014

The IBM Watson content marketing machine grinds on. This time, IBM’s Hail Mary is making Watson into a research assistant. Let’s see. Watson does cancer treatment, recipe invention, and insurance analyses. “IBM Sees Broader Role for Watson in Airing Research” the operative word is “sees”, not hipping, sold, market dominance, and similar “got it done” phrases. Heck, there’s not even a public demo on Wikipedia data or a collection of patents.

The write up cheers me forward with:

With the aid of Watson, companies could better mine that private information and combine it with scientific data in the public domain.

One company studying such possibilities to evaluate medications and treatments is Johnson & Johnson, IBM said. But the company sees applications beyond the health realm, including making automated suggestions based on financial, legal, energy and intelligence-related information, IBM said.

Watson has to generate lots of dough and fast. IBM expects the Watson “system” to produce billions in revenue in five or six years. What Watson is producing is more credibility problems for search vendors with technology that “sort of” works.

I had a query yesterday from a consultant whose client wants to use IBM Watson technology. I suggested that if IBM will fund the quest for a brass ring, go for it. Have a Plan B.

In the meantime, I find the Watson arabesques pretty darned interesting. With HP planning billions from Autonomy, where is this money going to come from. No one seems to think much about the need to have a product that solves a problem for a specific company.

No “saids” or “sees” required. Just a business built on open source technology and home grown code. IBM is fascinating as is its content marketing methods. Quite an end of summer announcement. How about a live demo? I am weary of Jeopardy references.

Stephen E Arnold, August 29, 2014

A New Look for Computerworld.com

August 29, 2014

You are familiar with Computerworld, and you may visit the Computerworld.com Web site. The emulators and name surfers somewhere in the IDG Enterprise combine wants more eyeballs. That’s why I saw this news story from the professionals at Marketwired. Note: Not “marketwire.”

The title? “Computerworld.com Integrates Responsive Design Technology and functionality Enhancements in Site Relaunch.” The “real” news story reports:

The award-winning site incorporates responsive design technology to create a universal experience by scaling editorial and advertising content to the user’s screen size, whether they are accessing Computerworld.com with a smartphone, tablet or desktop.

I thought that blog themes like those readily available for WordPress, Joomla, and other content frameworks did the responsive thing automatically. The notion of “responsive design” is getting bright lights at “the leading enterprise technology media company”, however.

I suppose on a slow news day or when an IDC unit cannot publish my information without my permission or the other impedimenta that marks professional behavior, the crackerjack experts at IDG have to dig deep and gut through the really tough news. The story reports:

The editorial voice, content and design of Computerworld.com remains unique to the brand, while functionality has been aligned across IDG Enterprise sites including back-end capabilities enhancing search functionality and digital asset management for displaying more images and video content. The reader experience is further enhanced by large more legible type and fully integrated social media tools. Ads and promotional units are highlighted in a “deconstructed” right rail optimizing effectiveness and native advertising will be threaded intuitively throughout the site.

From whence does the content come from? Well, here’s an example of how IDG maintains its alleged “leading” position:

“Computerworld.com is well known for its superb tech news. What may be less obvious to website visitors is all the other great content Computerworld serves up for senior technology leaders,” said Scot Finnie, editor in chief, Computerworld.

Interesting since the consulting outfit bandied my name about like a tennis ball between mid 2012 and mid July 2014 without fooling around with contracts, sales reports, edit cycles, etc.

Now what about Computerworld.com? Today’s Computerworld.com has 64 objects on the home page, uses 30 images, and expects my wonderful Windows phone to render a page that is a svelte 1656946 bytes. Ooops. Don’t forget that the images pumped to me today total 1612438 bytes. You can see a report by navigating to www.websiteoptimization.com.

Fascinating news about the responsive design innovation. I am surprised that IDG elected to share this secret to online success. Is it possible that Computerworld.com invented responsive design following in the impressive footsteps of Al Gore’s Internet system and method?

Well, as long as revenues rise, the long slog to responsive design will have been worth it.

Stephen E Arnold, August 29, 2014

Radicati Group: Yet Another Quadrant

August 28, 2014

Every time I see my story about Dave Schubmehl’s surfing on my name, I think about the paucity of innovation among the low- and mid-tier consulting firms. It is not sufficient to lack creativity. Success appears to require surfing on the insights of others. For more on the Schubmehl surfing angle, please, navigate to “ “Meme of the Moment” and “IDC and Reports by Schubmehl.” For ethical issue related to some firms’ actions, see “Are HP, Google, and IDC Out of Square.

Please review the Marketwired story “The Radicati Group Releases Enterprise Content Management – Market Quadrant, 2014.” This analysis is not like the original Boston Consulting Group’s grid analysis from the late 1970s. That method was based on such data as market share, return on investment, revenue, and other “hard” information.

This “quadrant” seems quite similar to the Gartner Group’s “quadrant” now the subject of a legal action by Netscout. For the details of the Netscout allegation, you will find Netscout’s view of the situation at http://wp.me/pf6p2-aAo.

The Radicati approach eschews dogs, stars, cows, and question markets for:

  • Mature players
  • Specialists
  • Trail blazers
  • Top players.

Are these categories connotative and subjective? Can a trail blazer be a top player or mature player? Oh, what’s a player? Hmm.

The idea is that the Radicati analysts have created a way to map enterprise content management vendors against these categories. The hope, I assume, is that a potential licensee of one of these systems will use the Radicati’s research as a guide to purchases.

I also find it interesting that the “Radicati Market Quadrants” phrase is a service mark. Like the IDC surfing on my name issue, the inspiration from BCG’s notion is not referenced. Will potential purchasers confuse low- and mid-tier consulting firm’s quadrants with those produced by blue-chip Boston Consulting?

Nah. Just another example of the challenges consulting firms face in today’s business climate. If you are interested, there is a helpful explanation of the BCG approach at http://bit.ly/1pa5m4A.

That’s what many of these “quadrants” suggest: The work of a student trying to improve a mark. In today’s environment, doing what is expedient seems to be a popular approach. Content marketing is one way to become visible I assume.

Another, more difficult path, is to craft an original question to answer and then perform research and analysis to help answer that question.

Wow. What consulting firms have time and the expertise to tackle investigations in this manner? I can name some who avoid this approach like the plague.

Stephen E Arnold, August 28, 2014

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

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