Month: March 2009

You too Can Have an Analyst on Demand

A couple of years ago the Gilbane Group rolled out a service it calls, Gilbane Analysts On Demand. The idea was that a company could subscribe to access to Gilbane’s lead and senior analysts for an unlimited number of short calls each year, across all the practice areas. I championed the idea and have suggested it as a good service for start-up content and search related companies. It is a good way for them to pick the brains of experts who have a lot of experience in their particular market niche or to cast about for a different perspective on how they might better approach their marketing, product expansion or services. I’ve had questions related to positioning, possible names or “tag lines,” pricing, and the type of partners a company might want to seek. I also encourage clients to talk to me about “what customers want” in terms of packaging and delivery. In 30 minutes to an hour, a lot of valuable information can be conveyed and, as an analyst I love helping companies think through a solution efficiently. Sometimes, just talking through the issue brings them to an obvious answer or to a better question to have answered. Business guidance seems to prevail over “enterprise search.”

Now that we have had a little experience with this type of service, I have decided that it would serve technology “buyers,” just as well. The service might prove even more effective for some companies than a lengthy contract for consulting services. Companies devote long lead times to thinking about, budgeting, selecting and procuring software solutions. Most of them don’t want a consultant waiting in the wings for the next evolution in a project. What they would like is an expert they can turn to at each project gate where a pivotal decision needs to be made, or for a little guidance on an approach or what the next step should be. As an analyst, talking to technology customers is valuable because I can hear customer thoughts and ideas about products and companies and then present these as anonymous feedback when appropriate.

The Gilbane Group has a long reputation for product independence. Our sponsored research, white papers and webinars focus on timely topical themes, not product briefings or marketing buzz for a particular client. We help vendors get out educational messages about how they view markets, customer needs, tool implementation and strategies for leveraging technologies. We give voice to the values they espouse as companies. When we work for a vendor, we also share advice about how they are perceived in the marketplace, and how to improve their brand because we believe that good and healthy companies make for a vibrant marketplace.

I’ve been told, “off-the-record,” that, while the Gilbane model is laudable, no vendor believes in true analyst or consultant independence. While I am sorry to hear that this might be the prevailing view, it is like saying that no bank can be trusted because of the current financial crisis. Are you hiding your money under the mattress, yet?
Not only are we a trustworthy resource – we have a lot of good people with terrific expertise. Check out the cast of characters at: Gilbane Contacts and consider how great it would be to have them all a phone call or email communication away. Just a thought.

Enterprise Search and Collaboration, or is it Compliance?

For two weeks in a row I have been struck by the appearance of full page ads on the inside cover of Information Week for Autonomy ControlPoint. For a leading search vendor, this positioning is interesting and raises a number of rhetorical questions about Autonomy’s direction and perhaps even the positioning of search in the marketplace. Top of my mind are these:

  • How will Autonomy be viewed by IT folks, whom I assume are the principal readers of Information Week?
  • Is this a shift away from an emphasis on search as “search” by Autonomy?
  • Is Autonomy just expanding its range to broader business interests to gain better enterprise penetration?
  • Will their deep technical competence in search be as rich in the areas of governance and compliance?

To try to get a handle on all of this, since the second ad had no URL, I went to the electronic version online at Information Week archives but discovered that the ads don’t appear in the PDF. No problem; I went to the advertisers’ index and clicked on the Autonomy link, thinking that the link would take me to the ControlPoint pages on their Web site. It only took me to the main page for Autonomy where there was nothing referring to ControlPoint, compliance, regulation or governance (all words prominent in the magazine print ads). I tried the drop-down for Products; nothing there either. At least Autonomy uses IDOL as its search engine on its own Web site, so I tried it. Yea! ControlPoint appeared in the results; the first entry got me to a page describing it.

But what else did I learn by following the breadcrumbs? A step back to the “products” level brought me to an Autonomy Electronics Records Management description and I began to notice the logo in the upper right said “Autonomy Meridio.” Lots of clicks later, I discovered that Meridio was acquired by Autonomy in 2007, which I probably would have known if I had paid more attention to “non-search” stuff. ControlPoint belongs in that family of products. When I clicked on this sidebar link, Autonomy ControlPoint: Information Governance for SharePoint and this one, Meridio eDRM for Microsoft Office, more questions came to mind:

  • Is Autonomy, the search company with its Meridio and Interwoven acquisitions, having a serious run at Microsoft by entering their traditional markets?
  • If an office tools software company like Microsoft slides into the search market by acquiring FAST and then leverages its great success with SharePoint by making FAST its default search offering, why shouldn’t Autonomy turn the tables?
  • By appealing to IT professionals will Autonomy be able to gain mind share that pits them directly against Microsoft with language like “Named Email and Compliance Vendor of the Year by Financial-i” and “Is SharePoint enough?”

Yes, we are going well Beyond Search, aren’t we?

Why Copy Your Competitors Bad Choices? Search Can Work for You

I’ve often been curious about why companies frequently procure enterprise applications used by their competitors, destined to be followers instead of leaders. It seems to reflect a lack of imagination but, more importantly, a lack of confidence that one could select another solution with more possibilities for enhancing the organization’s competitiveness.
Look at three popular concepts about search:

  • The search box for keyword search is dead or only marginally useful
  • Professionals spend 10 – 20% of their workday searching (and often unsuccessfully)
  • Vast amounts of critical unstructured content is un-discoverable in most enterprises leaving organizations at risk in litigation, weak in leveraging fundamental knowledge and research for innovation, poor at customer support because known solutions can’t be found, and competitive intelligence is scarce to unearth because so much of it lies hidden in desktop email in-boxes.

If we accept these propositions, doesn’t it say something about the “leaders” in the search industry that we believe and accept so little from search?

Why do most organizations not try to solve at least one of these problems by seeking solutions that will save hundreds of thousands of dollars in wasted labor, litigation costs, R&D expense, or lost customers due to poor service? Why do companies seek to procure search applications from companies that have been around for a decade or more, licensing evolutionary products, not revolutionary ones? Why would a company ignore innovative new products in favor of products that have given “search” a bad reputation? Why do organizations make hundred thousand dollar, or more, procurements without expending a few hundred dollars on documented product comparisons, and instead rely on a few widely published charts with less than a page or two on each product?

Most important, why are organizations not seeking search applications that will give them an edge by uncovering a nugget that will get a product to market faster, help marketing groups position a product better against the competition, or give support services representatives superior tools for getting information back to customers instantly with a proven solution to a query? Where is the will to apply search technology more astutely than your competitors in every area of your business? Why is search not expected to perform flawlessly and be as ubiquitous as any other software tool in your workflow? It does not have to be a poor performing stepchild but it does require its own experts to be well executed. Come to think of it, I have never seen a help wanted posting requiring expertise in search technology implementation. Hmmm…

There are well over a hundred viable search applications and hundreds of other applications that have search embedded for point solutions. You may need to acquire, implement and maintain a number of products across the enterprise to realize all the benefits search can bring but these products can work together, just as other components of a well-run enterprise do. At a time when organizations are cutting employees, appropriate search solutions may just offset the loss of expertise by uncovering at least some of the lost assets left behind.

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