» Archive for November, 2007

Searching for Search

Friday, November 30th, 2007 by Jonathan Spira

The search market is a very fragmented place.  And it’s been very active recently as well.  To make it simple, you can divide the search market into two groups.  In the entry-level group you will find products such as the Google Search Appliance and Google Mini, Oracle Secure Enterprise Search, and Microsoft´s MOSS (Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007).  However, these offerings pale in comparison to offerings from search companies such as Autonomy, Endeca Technologies, Fast Search and Transfer (FAST), Isys, Recommind, and Vivisimo.

Now Microsoft is focusing more closely on the enterprise search market with two new offerings, Microsoft Search Server 2008 and Search Server Express 2008, which are based on SharePoint technology.  The express edition is free but it is restricted to a single installation.  It does however include connectors to content stored in EMC Documentum and IBM FileNet platforms and provides support for federated search capabilities based on the OpenSearch standard.  The commercial edition will be priced (not yet announced) to be competitive, according to Microsoft.  Translation: it won’t cost as much as the offerings from companies focused solely on the search market.

Companies including EMC, Cognos, HP, Business Objects, SAS, and OpenText have already announced plans to support federation with Search Server and Search Server Express.  Federated search connectors will become available in the first half of 2008 when the final search offering is released.  (Federated search is the simultaneous search of multiple databases and data stores.  Search results from multiple platforms will be consolidated in one search results page, making the results more contextual and therefore more accurate.)

Just to make things more interesting (or confusing, take your pick), there is also a variety of free search tools, including IBM Omnifind Yahoo Edition.

The above does not even begin to take into consideration the area of desktop search, where Google has tremendous mindshare but where there are also excellent offerings from smaller companies, such as Copernic and X1.  That market is far from standing still:, just last week, Copernic announced a corporate edition for its desktop search offering, free of advertising but with a license fee.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

Multitasking – Myth and Illusion

Friday, November 16th, 2007 by David Goldes

Back in 2004, Jonathan Spira wrote about The Thumb Generation, knowledge workers that are found in many lands, often without so official a designation, but who are instantly recognizable by their indefatigable use of their BlackBerry or other handheld device to read mail and exchange text messages.

At that time, he also noted that productivity gains from multitasking were “illusory at best”.

But what about the Millenials, I hear readers ask?  After all, they are a generation that was born multitasking?  Won’t they do better?  Current research suggests that this is also illusory.

The issue got some degree of attention with a front-page story in the New York Times  and news reports on multitasking seem to be popping out every day now.

One article in this month’s issue of American Way, the in-flight magazine of American Airlines, spotlights The Myth of Multitasking via an interview with our chief analyst.

“You only think you are more productive,” Jonathan explained.  “[But] you’re really drinking the Kool-Aid of productivity.”  Over time, he explains, the relentless intrusions that fuel frenetic multitasking can really add up.  As we all know, the average knowledge worker loses 2.1 hours per day to unnecessary interruptions (anything from an in-person visit to an instant message or text message) plus recovery time (the time it takes to get back to where you were, something we found may be as much as 10 to 20 times the length of the interruption itself).  It bears repeating that the annual cost to the U.S. economy is $650 billion per annum for unnecessary interruptions and recovery time.

The problem with multitasking is that there is no such thing. The brain is capable of one thought at a time.  Speeding this up can only mean you are switching between different tasks more rapidly.  This unto itself wastes time although one might feel very efficient while “multitasking.”

But who doesn’t multitask nowadays?  I will admit to checking e-mail occasionally during a conference call or sending a few instant messages.  In fact, oftentimes [during a meeting] we have a back channel via IM that effectively comprises a parallel meeting to the one we are attending.  Television news (for those of us who still watch news on TV) reports regularly on the dangers of multitasking while driving.  These not only include using the phone, but applying make-up and reading.

The fact is that most people feel compelled to multitask for fear of falling behind.  The truth is that it’s the very process of multitasking that may cause this.

David M. Goldes is the president of Basex.

Book Review: Alphabet to E-mail

Monday, November 12th, 2007 by Jonathan Spira

Alphabet to E-mail
by Naomi S. Baron

Do U feel OK to write msgs NE way you pls?  Or do you think that we should spend as much care and attention in the composition and writing of e-mail messages as we would writing notes with pen and paper?  The very intangibility of electronic messages has created a situation in which the normal rules of written communication (historically much more formal than spoken language) have entered a new era.

Whilst some believe that no less effort should be made in e-mail communication, as many people apparently find it acceptable to write electronic notes, even to strangers, that are terse to the point of rudeness in the eyes of others.  “Please” and “Thank you” are often lost to the sake of brevity and efficiency – something which this reporter, personally, finds quite disturbing on receipt of a message; yet judging from most of the messages in my inbox, I think I must be in the minority.  The fact is that there are no rules, as yet and certainly no reference books that can offer guidance on e-mail etiquette.  In the last five or ten years, society has embraced e-mail to an astonishing extent – yet nobody is quite sure exactly what it is, and how it should be used.

So how did we get to this state of affairs?  Naomi Baron has tried to tackle this very question, in this book which traces the development of written English through from the pre-printing press age to e-mail and instant messaging.  Baron’s emphasis, as you might expect from a professor of Linguistics, is on writers’ style and the decreasing levels of formality used on the page (or screen).  It’s an interesting read, and does a good job of trying to develop a coherent theory of how and why we have arrived at the ways in which we use the language today; but ultimately, she has no definite answers (the book’s last chapter is entitled “Why the Jury’s Still Out on E-mail”.)

Order it now (or if not now, perhaps L8R!) at amazon.com

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

«Hi, I’m a Knowledge Worker. It’s Nice to Meet You.»

Friday, November 9th, 2007 by Jonathan Spira

Despite the fact that there are 56 million of us out there, people continue to struggle both with the definition of a knowledge worker as well as with self-identification.

In a casual setting, such as a pub, a factory worker would have no problem introducing himself saying “I’m a factory worker.”  But could you picture a knowledge worker making a similar introduction, saying “Hi, I’m a knowledge worker”?  (For the purposes of this discussion, we will consider the term “information worker” to have the same meaning as “knowledge worker.”)

Few of us self-identify in this fashion and even those who study the knowledge economy and knowledge workers seem to have trouble with this concept.  The term “knowledge worker” itself is an overlay definition (this is a term I am creating to describe a term that one may use to further define another term, such as “economist” or “researcher”).

We can in part describe knowledge workers in terms of what they are not.  They are not factory workers, they are not laborers, they are not farm or field workers (the term “out in the field” notwithstanding).  But that doesn’t tell us very much.  Many, but not all, knowledge workers are office workers.  Some, but not all, are managers or white-collar workers.  Some, but not all, are professionals, such as doctors or lawyers.

The media seems loathe to use the term.  A search on the phrase “knowledge worker” in the New York Times (since 1981) produced 16 results (several relating directly to Peter Drucker, who coined the term in the 1950s).  The Wall Street Journal hasn’t used the term at all in the past three months.  Using Factiva.com, I found one mention in April 2007, the previous in August 2001, and four prior to 2001.  (Regular readers may recall my column from exactly a year ago where a reporter from a major news and financial publication told me she didn’t think her readers would understand the term “knowledge worker”; now we begin to understand why.)

Business Week did a little better with 96 mentions, dating back to 1996.  It was somewhat encouraging that 16 were  from 2007.  A search on Forbes.com found only ten, and Fortune had 17 going back to 1991.  The Economist looked promising, with 145 results for “knowledge worker” but when I dug deeper, that number quickly went down.  I used Google on the Economist.com Web site and got only six.  (For the record, I didn’t rely on Google for these searches because it would return results that were not necessarily included in the actual publication but also in online forums.)

Google does report 895,000 results for “knowledge worker” in an English-language search.  When searching pages only in German, Google reports ca. 22,900 results.

One might ask, why does this even matter?  I spend the majority of my time trying to understand the problems organizations are having in managing knowledge work and knowledge workers and investigating possible solutions.  If the knowledge workers can’t come out of the closest, so to speak, that makes my task much more difficult.

Do you think of yourself as a knowledge worker? How do you describe your work as opposed to your job?  Let me know.  E-mail me at kwdes@basex.com

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

How to Connect Your Enterprise

Friday, November 2nd, 2007 by Sachin Anand

Last week at LiveLinkUp 2007, Open Text announced Enterprise Connect, a solution aimed at improving the user experience in enterprise content management.  Based on .Net and Web services architecture, Enterprise Connect aims at simplifying the knowledge worker’s life.

Enterprise Connect allows knowledge workers to work with content through customizable business views from within familiar desktop applications, such as Microsoft Office and Microsoft Outlook.  Further, advanced application assembly is possible by knowledge workers who do not have significant programming experience.  By integrating all applications, solutions, and processes under a single user interface, Enterprise Connect provides knowledge workers with the tools to build what Basex refers to as Collaborative Business Environments by following the principle of the One Environment Rule (where the knowledge worker is able to work with all applications in one overarching environment).  Open Text created Enterprise Connect with the typical knowledge worker in mind, adopting a tagline of “Easy to Learn, Hard to Forget.”

Much of our research on knowledge worker productivity and work preferences has shown that workers generally have a desire to manage their own workspace and customize tools in order to improve their efficiency and productivity.  Managing these knowledge worker preferences and work tendencies is a challenge for managers because of the security implications of giving the knowledge worker independence in managing their own software.  Enterprise Connect is a method of allowing the knowledge worker to customize the tools but within the security of Livelink ECM10.  With version 1 of Enterprise Connect to be released in December, the impact of Enterprise Connect upon Open Text customers will be worth watching.

Sachin Anand is an analyst at Basex.

Extreme Road Warrior Part II – Something in the Air

Friday, November 2nd, 2007 by Jonathan Spira

16 days later, I’m back.  (See Part I as well.)   I found a few things rather useful for those traveling on business and wanted to share these with you.

Skype Pro
Skype Pro is a relatively new offering that costs only $3 per month but offers many features particularly useful to the road warrior.  Most notable is the international traveler calling plan.  Users pay no per minute charges for calls to landlines within the same country or region (a connection fee per call, $0.045, may apply).  Coverage includes 28 countries, all of the ones I visited (Austria, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands) with the exception of Denmark.  In some countries, including Argentina and France, only certain major metropolitan areas are included.

With Skype Pro you also get a $30/year discount on a SkypeIn number, a free Skype To Go number (you can make international calls from your mobile phone at SkypeOut rates), and free Skype voicemail.

Research in Motion and Verizon Wireless: BlackBerry 8830 World Edition
I also tested Research in Motion’s BlackBerry 8830 World Edition CDMA/GSM.  Part of RIM’s 8800 series of phones, all of which share a full QWERTY keyboard, the pearl-like trackball for navigation, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, and a built-in speakerphone.  The 8830 supports dual-band 800/1900 MHz CDM-2000 1x EV-DO as well as dual-band 900/1800 MHz GSM/GPRS.

For Verizon Wireless customers who travel internationally, this makes it very easy to have a single number that works almost anywhere, something ordinarily not possible with most Verizon Wireless phones, which work only with CDMA networks.  The phone itself, however, was not that easy to use.  I found the keyboard, both for typing and for dialing, not nearly as user-friendly (in terms of not hitting the wrong key) as the smaller format Pearl, which given its quasi-QWERTY keyboard uses RIM’s SureType technology to allow users to compose messages quickly.  The centered dialpad was much easier to use on the Pearl than the 8830′s keyboard, which is not centered.  The 8830 also frequently refused access to the + key, necessary for dialing country codes.  Normally one presses down zero for a few moments and + comes up.  With the 8830, the + only worked occasionally and I had to resort to saving the + and using the paste function in order to dial calls.

These issues not withstanding, Web browsing, BlackBerry e-mail, and placing and receiving phone calls all worked perfectly.

Hotels
I visited multiple hotels and wanted to pass along a few observations important to the business traveler.

1.)    Hilton am Tucherpark, Munich, Germany
Internet worked well.  Rooms were comfortable to work in.  Location was a bit out of the way but on the other hand it was alongside the English Garten.

2.)    Mandarin Oriental, Munich, Germany
Couldn’t ask for a better location, within the heart of the Altstadt and close by to practically everything.  The rooms were recently refurbished and provided a comfortable work environment, although a more appropriate desk chair would have been icing on the cake.  Good Internet service.  Very personalized services, for example check-in formalities are done in the room.  Guests are always addressed by name.  Restaurant Mark’s is one of the top restaurants in the city and deservedly so.  It was too cold to really enjoy the roof-top pool but the views from the pool deck were magnificent.

3.)    Hilton am Stadtpark, Vienna, Austria
Excellent location across the street from the Stadtpark, Executive floor lounge had two free computers but they were always in use.  Internet was slow.  Reading lights for in-bed reading were weak.

4.)    Holiday Inn, Munich – Schwabing, Germany
Recently renovated rooms and lobby, plus a wonderful breakfast buffet.  Not overly luxurious but very comfortable.  New business center is a nice touch with a sufficient number of computers to accommodate most comers.  Internet service through Swisscom offered business-level service with quality-of-service guarantee (no questions asked).  I found the service slow and told them.  I was immediately offered a credit.

5.)    Fairmont Vier Jahreszeiten, Hamburg, Germany
Located on the western side of the Binnenalster lake, an impressive location to say the least, the Vier Jahreszeiten is also in the heart of the business district and its cafés, bars, and restaurants attract a local crowd in addition to visitors.  Hamburg, a city of merchants, is a bustling port on the edge of Scandinavia, with never-ending river traffic along the Elbe.  I noticed many Hamburgers came to afternoon tea, which featured live piano music.  Rooms are equipped with antique furniture, Wi-Fi that was usually OK but sometimes slow, comfortable work environment, and incredible views of the Binnenalster (the Alster is divided into the Binnenalster and the Außenalster, inner and outer Alster, respectively).

6.)    Die Swaene, Brugge, Belgium
The first thing I noticed about Brugge were the town’s narrow streets (on which local residents drove very quickly), centuries-old buildings that time had left untouched, and the city’s canal systems.  Brugge was, in the 14th and 15th centuries, a cultural bridge between northern and southern Europe.  It was rediscovered by English tourists in the mid-1800s who had come to see the nearby battlefield of Waterloo.  Today, it is a hideaway for business meetings and romantic journeys.  Die Swaene, a beautiful small luxury hotel run more like an inn, is a wonderful setting to meet but perhaps not to work in if you require Internet access.  Since my stay was largely during a weekend and in addition to my meeting my plans were mostly to see the city, I didn’t live or die by Internet access but it was limited to the lobby and first floor salon and never worked in the salon and worked only part of the time in the lobby.  When asked, one of the managers smiled and said that it must be “something in the air.”

7.)    Park-Hotel Bremen, Germany
Located in the middle of the Bürgerpark, my stay there was brief (arrived Monday at 21.00) in order to be in nearby Bremerhaven for an early morning meeting.  The hotel’s services were exemplary, Internet was lightning fast (although their system required that I connect both the USB cable and the RJ-45 cable to my laptop), and I was sorry to leave only 12 hours after arriving.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.


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