» Archive for November, 2008

Open Text Wants Social Tools To Bloom

Friday, November 28th, 2008 by Cody Burke

Last week at Open Text Content World in Orlando, I had the chance to hear about some new products and strategies.  Here are some highlights.

Overall, the main take away from Content World is that Open Text is encouraging customers to embrace social tools, and wants to show customers that they can use these tools effectively and in a safe enterprise-friendly environment.

The strategy that Open Text presented is called Bloom.  Bloom is not a product or product family, but a means for bringing social software tools into the enterprise in a safe and auditable manner.  Bloom is intended to enable Enterprise 2.0, which is a blanket term that refers to tacking social and collaboration tools onto enterprise applications and environments.  The message at the event was simple: social tools such as blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, micro-blogging of status updates, social bookmarking, and presence awareness are here to stay, and by bringing them into the enterprise, an organization can improve collaboration, speed up development cycles, and increase knowledge sharing.

Although many of the capabilities that Bloom emphasizes already exist in Open Text products, looking forward the Bloom strategy focuses on the following key areas: Web 2.0 tools, social networking, social analytics, and social compliance.  The foundation for Bloom is the Open Text ECM Suite, which includes integrated tools for document management, digital asset management, Web content management, collaboration, e-mail, and archiving.  All the functionality of the tools is intended to be tied together on a macro level by social software features.

The Bloom and Enterprise 2.0 strategy aims to address the following points: experience and workgroup optimization, content management with 2.0 tools such as blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, communities, and forums, enterprise-level safety of those same tools, and improving search with “find before search,” Open Text’s ideal search situation where relevant content is presented to the user without them having to search for it.  This is in theory accomplished by information being found and delivered preemptively based on the users’ context and role.

Social tools that support Bloom and Enterprise 2.0 are already available in Livelink through Communities of Practice, but the new push includes extending the functionality of social tools beyond the desktop and laptop computers to the mobile device.  To this end, Open Text has developed a project codenamed “Bluefield,” which is a browser-based enterprise-ready workspace and social community builder that consists of profiles with standard contact info and personal blogs, communities that can be formed around projects or teams and feed updates of colleagues and changes that are made to documents or projects.  For iPhone and BlackBerry users, the experience is identical on the mobile device to what one would experience on a laptop or desktop.  Bluefield includes the ability to edit Word or Excel documents through a browser, with changes reflected live on the server.  This eliminates the need to download the document to the device, keeping the experience extremely lightweight.

A weak point for Bluefield (and all browser-based tools) is the lack of offline access.  The ability to access documents and work offline is still important despite proclamations from Open Text that Net access is ubiquitous.  For instance, if I were using Bluefield through a browser on my laptop to edit a Word document, then I would have to remember to save a copy to my hard drive before getting on the plane so I could work on it while aloft and offline.  I would then have to replace the document into Bluefield when back online.

Also shown at Content World was a social analytics tool and search technology that is currently referred to as the “Relationship Engine”, although the name and future product form are still in flux.  What is intriguing is the ability to enter a set of data and create visualizations that show the relationship between nodes, and to switch the point of view to drill down into the visualization.  In the demonstration presented, data from the event was used to create visual maps of the connections among attendees, breakout sessions, conference tracks, and presenters.  The premise is simple, yet fitting; everything is an object, be it a person, document, seminar, or project, and the relationships between those objects can tell us much about how information flows and how best to route it.

Although still in development, the potential to apply the technology to search and social analytics is exciting.  This kind of technology is hopefully the future of search, which is currently a fundamentally flawed tool.  The ability to search for content and see who is connected to that content right from the results page could be a large step in improving the essential but somewhat ham-handed tools we all use everyday to find information.

Although social software functionality and search are clearly not new areas for Open Text products, what came across at Content World was a refocusing on communicating the safety and enterprise capabilities of social tools.  This mirrors what we are seeing across the market, an increased interest in pulling these tools into the enterprise and taming them without losing what drives their value – the ability to facilitate communication, collaboration, and knowledge sharing.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

The Real Cost of Not Paying Attention

Friday, November 21st, 2008 by Jonathan Spira

Back in 2005, Basex published a report, The Cost of Not Paying Attention, which focused, not surprisingly, on the cost of multitasking and interruptions.  As regular readers of this space know, we’ve continued to conduct extensive research on it as part of our multi-year Information Overload research program.

The term “multitasking” itself is a misnomer.  Simply put, it doesn’t exist.  Rather, the brain toggles rapidly between various tasks instead of processing things simultaneously.  This means that one’s attention is, in effect, divided when one attempts to “multitask.”

To varying extents, everyone multitasks.  Sometimes it is as simple as listening to quiet music while creating a document.  Other examples are more dramatic: participating in a conference call, writing a document, and managing three instant messaging sessions at the same time.

Multitasking is also not limited to the knowledge worker.  A recent survey by Nationwide Mutual Insurance shows that 72% of drivers say they engage in multitasking, i.e. doing other things while driving, such as making phone calls, eating, or drinking.  Broken down by age groups, it turns out that 16- and 17-year olds multitask to a lesser degree (60%) than drivers in the 18-44 bracket (80%).

Researchers have proven that attempts at multitasking while driving – achtung! – are dangerous.  This fact notwithstanding, the aforementioned survey results indicate that drivers must believe that accidents caused by driver inattention must happen to someone else.  Indeed, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported a few years back that driver inattention is the leading factor in most accidents.

Driving is similar to many types of knowledge work that require great concentration.  You may not notice the impact, but multitasking when doing many types of knowledge work not only slows progress but can result in an inferior outcome.  NPR’s Morning Edition demonstrated the effect of multitasking on the brain by having a pianist play the piano and attempt to read a newspaper story at the same time.  You can hear the results here.

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

Whither Nortel?

Friday, November 14th, 2008 by Jonathan Spira

Nortel’s quarterly loss of $3.41 billion came as no surprise and the same can be said for its plans to lay off ca. 1,300 workers.  What is surprising is the inclusion of four top executives on the list of those to be laid off and that these four were recently recruited from other tech companies to aid in what one now might consider Nortel’s futile turnaround efforts.

Nortel has not caught a break since 2005, when CEO Frank Dunn was “terminated for cause” in conjunction with the discovery of his manipulation of Nortel’s financials to generate higher bonuses for himself and several colleagues.  The company has a colorful history dating back to its founding in 1895 as Northern Electric and Manufacturing, a supplier of phones and other devices spun off from Bell Telephone of Canada.  It started looking into ways of using fiber optic cable in the 1960s at which time it also began designing digital telecommunications equipment.

In 1976, the company changed its name to Northern Telecom and announced Digital World, a family of digital telecommunications products that were industry leading.  The DMS-100 became a mainstay of telephone company central offices (it could handle 100,000 subscriber lines without breaking a sweat) and the DMS line contributed greatly to the company’s profits for 15 years.

In 1998, with the acquisition of Bay Networks, the company changed its name once again, this time to Nortel Networks.  It gained prominence in the late 1990s as a manufacturer of fiber optic gear used to transport massive amounts of data over the Internet but was also one of the first casualties when the telecom bubble of the time burst, sending the company’s market capitalization from $398 billion (Canadian) in September 2000 to $5 billion in August 2002.

Now the company, which dropped “Network” from its brand but not from its legal name, will restructure into three business units: Enterprise, Carrier Networks, and Metro Ethernet Networks.  This time it looks like Nortel is preparing to sell off parts of the company as opposed to cutting costs.

Now, about those executives who were laid off: John Roese, Nortel’s CTO, spent the last 28 months trying to make sense of mishmash (yes, that’s the technical term) of technologies he found when he came on board.  He was also the public face of the company’s turnaround.  Chief marketing officer Lauren Flaherty joined Nortel from IBM just two years ago.  She too is leaving, as is Dietmar Wendt, another IBMer, who propelled Nortel into telepresence, and Bill Nelson, a recent hire from EMC and Nortel’s EVP of global sales.

It’s probably far too late for Nortel to recapture its position as an industry leader but it would be sad to see the Nortel name disappear completely from the marketplace.

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

Security Alert: Your Smartphone is Vulnerable

Friday, November 7th, 2008 by Jonathan Spira

Smart doesn’t always equal Secure.

Is your smartphone secured or was a password too much of a bother?  Think about what’s stored in your phone, including contact lists, e-mail messages, documents, proposals, spreadsheets, and presentations – many of which could be confidential.

Smartphones are much easier to lose track of than a laptop; they are also much more likely to be damaged or stolen.  Many don’t have remote wipe capabilities, a security feature popularized by Research in Motion’s BlackBerry devices, allowing the IT department to remotely delete all data from a lost or stolen device.

Before going out the door, make sure that you password protect your device (and please don’t select 123123 as your password).  It may be a bit inconvenient at times but it’s far better than the alternative.  If you are using a memory card, make sure it’s encrypted too.

If you are a CIO, you might want to standardize on a device type or platform (i.e. Palm OS, Windows Mobile, Symbian) and limit what information can be moved onto a mobile device from the corporate network.  If employees provide their own smartphones, require that security software be installed on the device or consider a move to employer-provided devices that are under your direct control.

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