» Archive for June, 2009

In the briefing room: Bluenog ICE

Thursday, June 25th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira and Cody Burke

Ten years ago, Basex laid the groundwork for the Collaborative Business Environment (CBE), a conceptual framework for a workspace for the knowledge worker that is now starting to supersede the traditional desktop metaphor of separate and distinct tools.  A properly designed CBE facilitates knowledge sharing and collaboration and, especially in today’s economic environment, managers are looking to technology to give their organizations a competitive advantage.

Bluenog, an enterprise software company, this week released Bluenog ICE 4.5 (ICE stands for integrated collaborative environment), the latest version of the company’s enterprise software suite.  Bluenog integrates multiple open source software projects to form the basis of its platform.  The company, through its professional services division, will further integrate ICE into an organization’s existing systems.

Bluenog ICE originally included content management, portal, and business intelligence functionality.  ICE CMS is a content management system built on Apache Cocoon, Apache Lucene, OS Workflow, TinyMCE, and HippoCMS open source projects.  ICE Portal is a portal solution that leverages Apache Portals, Apache Jetspeed-2, Apache Wicket, Adobe Flex, and Spring Source.  ICE BI provides business intelligence and reporting and is based on Eclipse BIRT and Apache Jackrabbit.

These core components have all received enhancements for the new release.  The HTML editor in ICE CMS has been replaced by the TinyMCE HTML editor and ICE BI has improved report viewing and search integration.  Also new for this release is ICE Central, a simplified central management console for all ICE components, and a propagation tool to move content, portal artifacts and configurations across environments.

These improvements are all worthy of note but what may really help organizations realize significant enterprise productivity and efficiency gains is that Bluenog added significant collaborative technology to ICE, namely ICE Wiki and ICE Calendar.  The wiki component is based on the JSPWiki, Apache Jackrabbit, Apache Lucene, and Apache FileUpload open source projects.  The wiki is accessed through an ICE portlet and features rich HTML editing page level permissions, version control, reporting on page and link usage through ICE BI, the ability to manage attachments, support for wiki markup language, and support for multiple wikis running on a single server.

Wikis are an increasingly popular tool for content management within organizations of all sizes and ICE Wiki allows non-technical knowledge workers to create, edit, and maintain content using a fairly easy-to-understand interface.

ICE Calendar is a group calendaring application based on the open source Bedework project.  Just as in ICE Wiki, the calendar is available as an ICE portlet, and enables publishing of events, workflowing of events for approval, and importing and exporting events to other iCalendar-based calendars.

Bluenog ICE falls into the category of commercial open source software.  It’s built using open source projects but sold as a commercial package.  Virtually unknown several years ago, commercial open source is becoming a popular alternative for organizations of all sizes that want the openness of open source but don’t necessarily have the skills to do the heavy lifting to deploy and integrate multiple open source projects.

We’ll be taking a look at the changes that are taking place in the content management space, including where commercial open source fits in, in a report slated for next month.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.
Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

Nortel to Liquidate Assets, Sell Wireless Unit to Nokia Siemens

Friday, June 19th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

Nortel Networks, one of the oldest companies in the tech sector, will liquidate assets and sell its CDMA and LTE Access units to Nokia Siemens for $650 million.  Nokia Siemens is a joint venture of Nokia of Finland, a company founded in 1865, and Germany’s Siemens, founded in 1847.   The joint venture is acquiring a unit that manufactures CDMA mobile technology, a system used by several U.S.-based mobile operators including Verizon Wireless and Sprint.  The deal gives Nokia Siemens a significant customer base in the U.S., something that has eluded the company up until now.

Nortel said it was in advanced talks to sell other businesses and that it was applying to have its shares delisted from the Toronto Stock Exchange effective June 22.  Nortel filed for bankruptcy-court protection in January and has been attempting to sell its assets since then, having amassed almost $7 billion in losses over two years.

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 industry-leading digital telecommunications products.  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 fade from history following a decade of failed and expensive acquisitions.  Its strategy, which was to buy established companies, didn’t work, largely due to an inability to integrate products from the newly-acquired entities into a common vision.  In addition to the Bay Networks acquisition for $9.1 billion, the company acquired software maker Clarify and then Alteon Web Systems for a total of $10 billion in 1999 and 2000 respectively. The company’s buying spree continued with Cambrian Systems for $300 million, Shasta Networks for $340 million, all the way to DiamondWare (3-D stereo conferencing) and Pingtel (SIP software) in 2008.

Nortel’s strategy contrasted greatly with that of companies such as Cisco, which only acquired small and innovative companies at much lower cost and then successfully integrated them into the business.  Today’s Nortel is also a stark contrast to Northern Telecom ca. 1976, when it announced Digital World.

As competition has intensified from North American, European, and low-cost Asian rivals, among them Alcatel-Lucent and Huawei Technologies, the company’s shares sank into the penny range in the months prior to its bankruptcy filing.  In addition, the global economic crisis has slowed spending on the gear that Nortel offers (which includes equipment for the enterprise as well as for telephone companies).

A likely acquirer for Nortel’s enterprise unit is Siemens Enterprise Communications, which has been in growth mode since it became a joint venture between Siemens AG and the Gores Group.

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

In the Briefing Room: Zoho

Thursday, June 18th, 2009 by Cody Burke

It may seem obvious that the various software tools, platforms, and environments used by knowledge workers should work together, yet an examination of common tools used in the enterprise shows that this is often simply not the case.

Basex has codified the desktop metaphor of the future as a Collaborative Business Environment (CBE).  Three high-level tenets describe the ideal CBE, namely the One Environment Rule, Friction-Free Knowledge Sharing, and Embedded Community.  This workspace should provide a single integrated environment to work in, remove friction-such as extra steps in a process or application or that caused by poor tools (search platforms that regularly deliver 564,768 results are suspect), and embed community through presence awareness and integrated communication tools such as instant messaging.

For companies looking to build a CBE, there are multiple options in the market including offerings from some of the largest players including Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle.  There are however, also many smaller players that offer considerable functionality in environments comprising rudimentary CBEs.

Zoho, formerly known as AdventNet, provides Web-based desktop productivity software.  The company  has ten fully integrated productivity and collaboration applications and nine business applications available.  Modules include standard productivity software for applications such as e-mail, word processing, spreadsheets, presentation, document management, wikis, and chat, as well as business applications such as CRM, Web conferencing, reporting and BI, project management, and online invoicing.  The applications are available on-demand, or for on-premises deployments with over 10,000 seats.

All the applications work together: if in the document library, a user can open a document in a tab without opening up a separate word processor.  He can also initiate a chat with the author from within the document library through integrated chat functionality that moves with the users as they shift between applications.  E-mail can be sent from within applications, without moving to the actual e-mail application.  Attachments can be viewed without opening a separate application, i.e. a Word document can be viewed in the Zoho Writer application instead of opening a separate instance of Word on the desktop.

Zoho’s compliance with the three tenets of the Collaboration Business Environment is demonstrated by the tight integration between applications and the embedded presence awareness and instant messaging functionality that extends across applications.

Zoho may not be for everyone, but its simplicity and tight integration between applications makes it worthy of consideration for companies looking simplify their collaboration and knowledge sharing environments.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex

Questions and Answers About Knowledge Management

Thursday, June 18th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

Victor, a senior manager at HP, posted an insightful question concerning the current state of knowledge management in the Basex Information Overload Network on LinkedIn (if you aren’t yet a member, and over 100 people joined in the last month, click here).

With his permission, I am reproducing his question and my reply with the hope that the discussion continues below.

“I’ve some questions about KM.  First, what is the most important function of a KM system?  The content management?  The collaboration based communication channel?  The security control mechanism?  The all-in-one portal?  The fast multi-faceted based search engine?  Now that we have a dedicated function for knowledge management and there are CKOs who are in charge of that, then what’s the core mission of it?  To my understanding it’s not only about technologies, or just setup some document management system, or an enterprise wide SNS system… Then what is our major target?  If I’m asked by the boss ‘what’s your strategic value?’ how can we answer that question?  A position or team without a clear vision and goal is worthless.  Say for IT department it is a business automation enabler, for sales department it’s the source of revenue.  Then what is the added-value of KM?  Sorry for the layman question but I’m curious to get the answer.”

Victor, to me KM is more of a discipline than a specific system.  In order for companies to remain competitive, they have to ensure knowledge sharing, knowledge transfer, and collaboration.  One of the greatest problems in this area is that individual problems are looked at in isolation, without an understanding or regard for the “big picture” so to speak.  Someone managing a document management project may not take into consideration what someone managing a new or existing search tool or workflow system is planning.

My approach has to be more holistic; I sometimes refer to it as “putting the pieces of the puzzle together” (despite the fact that this oversimplifies).  I have found that, when working with companies that are trying to answer questions similar to yours, few understand where one technology, such as content management, stops and where another (workflow, search, unified communications) begins.

To help end-user organizations better understand how to put the pieces of the puzzle together, we organized our coverage of all things knowledge-sharing and collaboration around the concept of what we called a “market supersegment,” which is essentially an amalgam of 22 markets most people think of as separate and distinct.  If you look at knowledge-sharing and collaboration from this viewpoint, you will find it much easier to address many of your questions.  Every company and CKO will have different core missions by the way.  I would surmise that the underlying commonality will be to keep information flowing and break down barriers.  How one gets there will vary greatly by organization.  You also have to take into consideration tremendous variances in corporate culture, which will then dictate how comfortable people feel about different forms of collaboration and knowledge sharing.

I hope this at least begins to address some of what you were trying to understand.

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

Google Breaks Microsoft Search?

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009 by David Goldes

The fun never ends in the Microsoft v. Google wars. Chris Vander Mey, Goole’s senior product manager for Google Apps, acknowledged that certain programs, such as Windows Desktop Search, that work directly with the outlook data file “don’t currently work well” with Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook.

According to a  post by Vander Mey on Google’s enterprise blog, Windows Desktop Search will not properly index Google Apps Sync data files. In order to prevent indexing from running indefinitely, the Google Apps Sync installer disables it.

Microsoft’s Outlook product manager, Dev Balasubramanian, writing in an official Microsoft blog, said Apps Sync includes a “serious bug/flaw” which disables Outlook’s ability to search data such as e-mail and contacts.   He also provided a fix which involves editing the Windows registry, something many users may not wish to do.

Balasubramanian further stated that the problem impacts Outlook’s search capabilities, not just Windows Desktop Search because Outlook search “relies upon the indexing performed by Windows Desktop Search.”  Google contends that Outlook search will work even if Windows Desktop Search does not.

David M. Goldes is president and senior analyst at Basex.

In the Briefing Room: BA-Insight Longitude

Thursday, June 11th, 2009 by Cody Burke

Without question, search is the Achilles heel of knowledge work.  It is almost universally acknowledged that 50% of all searches fail.  The dirty little secret in search – and one that we uncovered through research we conducted in 2007 – is that 50% of the searches that knowledge workers believe to have been successful also fail in some manner (i.e. outdated information, second-best information, or content that is just outright incorrect).

Obviously, failed search is a major issue and large contributor to information overload.  Part of the problem is not the search technology per se, but the selection of the source that provides the results.  If a search only looks through unstructured data, it ignores the valuable information that exists as structured data.  Search tools need to look at all information sources in order to return not only complete results, but to rank results for disparate data sources accordingly.

For reasons that are inexplicable to this writer, many companies have not chosen to deploy search tools that examine every nook and cranny of a company’s information assets.  A few smart companies are deploying search tools that do look in every knowledge repository.  Exercising due diligence in searching can avoid failures that result from searching in a partial source set.

BA-Insight is a company that is attempting to even the odds through Longitude, its search enhancement for Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft Search Server, as well as connectors to ERM, CRM, and EMC platforms.  The premise is simple; by expanding the sources through which a search is conducted, as well as improving the user interface, search results will have more value, be found in less time, and be easier to utilize once found.

Longitude search product enhances SharePoint Server and Microsoft Search Server by presenting results in page previews, eliminating the need to download the document.  The preview is presented in a split screen, with the search results on one half, and the preview panel on the other.  When a document is selected, the preview opens to the relevant page, not just the beginning of the document.  This saves time in two ways; one, the time it would take to open what might be an undesirable document, and two, the time it would take to find the relevant text in the document by scrolling though it manually.  Longitude also supports collaborative work by making functionality such as e-mailing documents, editing, and adding tags and bookmarks, available from within the preview panel.

Longitude supports federated search through multiple repositories of both unstructured and structured data via connectors for Lotus Notes, Documentum, Exchange, Microsoft Dynamics DRM, and Symantec Enterprise Vault among others.  Content is assigned to metadata automatically as users search and find content, and search is guided through Parametric Navigation that takes the metadata into account to search using complex queries.

Knowledge workers spend on average 15% of the day searching.  We know that 75% of those searches fail when we account for the two types of failure previously mentioned.  Clearly the odds of finding what one is looking for are against the searcher.  Most tools in a company don’t search in enough places, and because of technology sprawl, knowledge workers are just as likely to have stored critical information in a vat that is not touched by the search system as one that is.  Tools such as Longitude go a long way towards evening the odds for the knowledge worker.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

Traveler Alert – Data Roaming and the T-Mobile G1

Thursday, June 11th, 2009 by David Goldes

We’ve recently heard from multiple knowledge workers who used their T-Mobile G1 smartphones on overseas trips.   All had a common complaint: they followed T-Mobile’s recommended guidelines to turn data roaming off yet they still received a bill for hundreds of dollars of data usage during the trip.

A report from our client RJ, a road warrior who flies to Europe several times per month, was typical.  After purchasing his new G1 and turning data roaming and data synchronization off, his bill for data roaming was $319.55.  T-Mobile customer service did agree to credit him for the charges without arguing the point – but the customer service representative also said that the G1 will turn data roaming back on regardless of what he does and that “you have to either keep the phone home or keep it off during your trip.”   “It’s sophisticated,” the representative added.  The rep suggested renting a phone from T-Mobile for future trips or unlocking the G1 so RJ could purchase and use a local SIM.

We spoke with T-Mobile to better understand the issue at hand.  A spokesman confirmed that data roaming can be turned off and supplied a written statement issued by the company in December 2008.

It reads:
If a T-Mobile customer would like to use their T-Mobile G1 while outside the country, they should contact Customer Care before they leave to ask that the WorldClass feature be added to their service at no additional charge.  If they choose, customers can also disable data roaming on the G1.  This can be done by going through the following steps: Home Screen > Menu > Settings > Wireless Controls > Mobile Networks > Data Roaming.

There is, however, a caveat:
Some third party applications available for download on Android Market require access to the Internet and have the ability to turn on data roaming when in use. Customers are informed whether an application will use this feature prior to downloading, but should also be aware when traveling outside the country.

As RJ’s customer service rep put it, “It wasn’t your fault.”

David M. Goldes is President and Senior Analyst at Basex.

The New York Times’ Ironic Piece on Blogging

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

The New York Times’ coverage of rumor-mongering in blogs is perhaps well intentioned but ultimately the article is as flawed as the concept of printing pieces masquerading as news articles without the benefit of fact checking.

The fact that the writers of posts touting the possibility of Apple purchasing Twitter (which was completely unfounded) suspected the story was false and didn’t care does little to advance the cause of bloggers.  The fact that the Times journalist, Damon Darlin, seems to celebrate news gathering without fact checking – given recent events in the New York Times’ own history – is nothing short of irresponsible.

Bloggers (whatever that term actually means right now) claim they want to be recognized as a form of legitimate media but a formal admission that “‘Getting it right is expensive’ [but] ‘Getting it first is cheap’” is the modus operandi does little to advance the cause.

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

What is Twitter?

Thursday, June 4th, 2009 by Seth Shapiro

Twitter is the mutt of all that is social. A cross between an instant messenger, e-mail client, and a social networking site such as Facebook, Twitter is a fast paced environment. On Twitter, users post 140 character updates (called “tweets”) quickly and (sometimes) persistently to their Twitter page for others to view and comment on. Users can become followers of other Twitter contributors; followers are sent tweets whenever their “tweeter” (someone who uses Twitter) updates his or her page.

Similar to other social networking sites, membership is free and the service relies solely on its users to create content and refer friends. There are myriad uses for the service and the information generated by users.  Twitter may be used by a small group of friends to keep each other updated of their physical location or be useful in a college setting to find someone else looking for a lunch date. The availability of multiple ways to update Twitter increases its accuracy.  Users can broadcast tweets from the Twitter Web site, text message from any SMS capable cell phone, or through outside applications such as DSTwitter (which allows updates from the Nintendo DS gaming console).

Twitter has proven itself effective in fields its creator Jack Dorsey never envisioned. Taking on social networking giants such as Facebook, Twitter offers something Facebook cannot: a fast paced environment where information can be shared almost instantly.  Facebook has, however, attempted to mimic Twitter with its recent redesign that has placed more emphasis on a user’s activity stream.  Using Twitter, people have reported that they are able to ask for information, ranging from a restaurant recommendation to a cure for the hiccups, and get responses immediately. Those with many followers could draw attention to a new hip gadget or poll users on their ideas of a new business proposal (with limited information of course).  Additional business uses include running searches through the tweets that are being broadcast to track conversations, gather information about products and identify trends.

The membership in Twitter may number as many as five million (it does not disclose such figures). If a company could convert a small percentage, say 4% into followers, it would have the ability to communicate with 20,000 people through tweets. Twitter makes it very easy for a company to have a dialog with its customers and business partners.

Twitter may have originally been designed to update friends and family on one’s whereabouts (founder Jack Dorsey first called the system “Status”); however, with the extended availability to tweet and to be delivered daily updates of those you follow, Twitter has become much more. It is a pool of information that anyone with a computer, mobile phone, or even a Nintendo DS has access too. Friends may use it to meet for lunch, singles may use it to find others, and businesses may use it as a means to contact those they have not yet touched.

Till my next “tweet.”

Seth Shapiro is an analyst at Basex.  This is his first Analyst Opinion.

In the briefing room: Tungle Accelerate

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009 by Cody Burke

In the process of setting up briefings with the companies that Basex covers, we have become intimately familiar with the friction that is generated by miscommunications in calendaring.  It often is a time consuming process to coordinate colleagues, who may well be working in different time zones, to meet with another company’s team, who also face the same challenges of distance and busy, constantly moving schedules.

In the knowledge economy, with an increasingly mobile and somewhat transient workforce, as well as the pressures of the current economic climate that is prompting organizations to slash travel budgets and depend heavily on Web-based meetings and conference calls, scheduling meetings in an efficient and tool-agnostic manner is critical.

Tungle targets this particular pain point through a Web-based calendar accelerator, a calendaring tool that works across multiple calendars such as Outlook, Google Cal, iCal, and Entourage.  Originally an Outlook plug-in, Tungle Accelerate is a Web-based version of the calendaring tool.  Users continue using the calendar they are familiar with, but data from their calendar is shared through Tungle so availability is visible in the Tungle interface to those trying to set up a meeting.  Meeting requests are also sent through Tungle.  From the Accelerate interface, users select people they wish to meet with and times they can meet, and send out e-mail invites.  It is not necessary to sign up with Tungle to use it to set up a meeting with someone else, although it is necessary to do so to enable calendar sharing.  Calendars are dynamic, so if a time slot is suggested, and then becomes unavailable, that is reflected in the link that is sent via e-mail, in real-time.

Tungle can be used from within social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.  In those social networks, users can create a link to Tungle called TungleMe, and embed the link on their pages.  From that link, it is possible to see the persons’ shared calendar, select times, location, and add a message, then submit.  On the other end, an e-mail is received with the proposed times, a time can be selected, and an e-mail confirmation is sent back.  The meeting is automatically added to the users’ shared calendars.

Tungle addresses a particularly irksome problem in business settings although it is mainly used by consumers at this point.  By eliminating multiple unnecessary e-mails between various parties – setting up a single meeting with four participants could easily occasion over a dozen individual e-mails – there is no doubt that Tungle has the potential to positively impact the problem of Information Overload.  Indeed, Tungle recently announced a partnership with IBM to support Lotus Notes and Domino, which bodes well for improving streamlined enterprise calendaring in the foreseeable future.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.