» Archive for July, 2009

In the briefing room: SAS Content Categorization

Thursday, July 30th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

Looking for something?  If it’s enterprise content, you probably won’t find it.

Locating content and information in the enterprise is a considerable challenge, one that not only hampers organizational productivity but also throttles individual knowledge worker efficiency and effectiveness.  Workers typically use search tools to find content and this is where their struggle begins.

There are two key problems with search technology today: 1.) such systems provide “results,” not answers, and 2.) they do not support natural language queries.  In addition, typical search tools do not always understand relationships and context: Java could refer to a type of coffee, an island in Indonesia, or a programming language.  Typing “Java” into the Google search engine returned results only relating to Java as a programming language for the first three pages.

Thanks to the various flaws common to most search tools, 50% of all searches fail.  The good news is that those failures are obvious and recognized by the person doing the search.  The bad news is that 50% of the searches people believe succeeded actually failed in some way, but this was not readily apparent to the person doing the search.  As a result, that person uses information that may be out of date, not the best response for what he was looking for, or is simply incorrect.  (We call this the 50/50 Rule of Search.)

The problems with search contribute greatly to the problems of Information Overload in the enterprise.

According to research conducted by Basex in 2006 and 2007, knowledge workers spend 15% of the work day searching for content.  This figure is far higher than it needs to be, and represents the time knowledge workers waste as a result of poor search tools, bad search techniques on the part of knowledge workers, and a lack of effective taxonomies.

In an age of Information Overload, where we create more content in a day than the entire population of the planet could consume in a month, more effective tools are needed.  One approach towards improving search is better and more effective categorization.  We recently had a look at SAS Content Categorization, one promising product in this space.  Content Categorization helps to categorize information so that search engines can present relevant results faster by having the user navigate through topics/facets related to the user’s query.

SAS acquired Teragram, a natural language processing and advanced linguistic technology company, in March 2008.  After integrating Teragram as a division, SAS launched Content Categorization in February 2009.

The offering enables the creation of taxonomies and category rules to parse and analyze content and create metadata that can trigger business processes.  Taxonomies and category rules are created via the TK240, a desktop tool for administration and taxonomy management that is a component of SAS Content Categorization.  Once a taxonomy is created, high level categories are selected, followed by narrower ones.  There is no limit as to how granular the categories can go, allowing for users to drill down on topics.  The system also includes prebuilt taxonomies for specific industries such as news organizations, publishers, and libraries.

Whoever is doing the setup – and SAS Content Categorization is designed for use by non-technical users – can develop category rules from within the TK240 as well.  The rules may consist of multiple keywords, based on the percentage appearing in a document, as well as weighted keywords that give more value to certain words than others.  Additionally, it is possible to apply Boolean operators, so, for example, to meet the rule Java and programming must appear in the same sentence, while Java and coffee appearing in the same sentence would not meet the rule.  Rules can be created for extremely specific situations, such as the presence of URLs, grammatical instances, or the presence of suffixes (Inc., Corp., AG., etc.).

The system is also equipped with options for setting role-based permissions to allow users to read/write, and enable multiple users to collaborate on developing taxonomies.  This allows multiple taxonomists to have secure access to projects, with individual levels of read/write access to category rules and concept definitions.

SAS Content Categorization can be an effective weapon against Information Overload by allowing the creation of complex automated systems to categorize content, increasing the likelihood of the knowledge workers being able to find what they are looking for in a timely manner.  In addition, increasing the relevance of search results by using taxonomies to provide context raises the value of content that is found, decreasing the likelihood of knowledge workers moving forward with second-best or faulty information.

Companies looking to take decisive measure to lower Information Overload should carefully review their current search tools and, where appropriate, give serious consideration to SAS Content Categorization.

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

The Impact of Ericsson’s Nortel Victory on Nokia Siemens

Saturday, July 25th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

Ericsson’s victory in the auction for Nortel’s most profitable assets, the company’s CDMA and LTE Access units, is a major setback for Nokia Siemens, a joint venture of Nokia of Finland, a company founded in 1865, and Germany’s Siemens, founded in 1847.

Although Nokia Siemens is the world’s second largest wireless networking company, it has had little success in the North American markets and was counting on the Nortel acquisition to change that.  Both Verizon Wireless and Sprint, two of the largest mobile operators in the U.S., run their networks on CDMA technology and Nortel is one of their primary sources of networking gear. CDMA is also used in Japan and Korea.  It competes with GSM, the global system for mobile communications used in the rest of the world, including a good part of the U.S.

The Nokia Siemens joint venture was formed in 2007, as a part of Siemens’ divesture of its various telecommunications units.  Siemens placed its carrier business into the 50-50 joint venture; Nokia contributed its Networks Business Group. The joint venture’s portfolio includes IMS, 2G GSM/EDGE access, 3G WCDMA/HSDPA access, extensive mobile core, fixed broadband, transport, IPTV, LTE, WiMax, and low-cost mobile voice products tailored for emerging market operators but it has no presence in the CDMA market, which was dominated by Nortel.

In addition, Finland-based Nokia has long sought to establish a more significant presence in North America, with limited results.  Relatively few of its mobile phones are sold in retail establishments although AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless do list an assortment of Nokia mobiles on their respective Web sites.  Siemens sold its mobile phone business in late 2005 to Taiwan’s computing devices maker BenQ.  That business was declared insolvent a year after the takeover, with the loss of 3,000 jobs. BenQ now operates under the name Qisda.

By acquiring Nortel’s contracts and relationships, Nokia Siemens had hoped to place itself in a better position to win future contracts with U.S.-based mobile operators.  Indeed, the Nortel wireless division would have been a cash cow for Nokia Siemens despite the fact that CDMA technology will, in the coming decade, be phased out.

Instead, Sweden-based Ericsson, having won the auction for Nortel’s wireless assets that concluded late yesterday, will benefit.   Ericsson will also benefit from the acquisition of certain Nortel technology related to Long Term Evolution, or LTE, the evolving global standard for 4G wireless networks.

LTE will be a critical technology for wireless network suppliers.  Most global mobile operators, including AT&T and Verizon Wireless in the U.S., have announced plans to adopt it.  Verizon has already chosen Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson as its two main LTE suppliers (a trend that has been repeated in other markets, it should be noted); Nokia Siemens was awarded a minor role.  With Nokia Siemens loss in the battle for Nortel assets, it will need to work much harder to expand its offering to meet the end-to-end needs of the world’s major telecoms.

Nokia Siemens termed its bid for the Nortel assets as “opportunistic,” and aimed at supporting the company’s progress in North America over the past 18 months.  “Our final offer for Nortel’s assets repesented a fair price, and we did not enter this process with a win-at-any-cost mindset,” said Bosco Novak, chief markets operations officer, Nokia Siemens Networks.  Upon losing the bid for Nortel, Nokia Siemens put out a statement that the company “remains committed to long term wireless Leadership” and to growing its business in North America.”

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

Ericsson Wins Nortel Bid

Friday, July 24th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

Readers may also wish to see The Impact of Ericsson’s Nortel Victory on Nokia Siemens

One of the final chapters of Nortel’s history changed dramatically when Ericsson emerged as the winner of an auction that ended late Friday night for Nortel’s most profitable business unit.  It was just over a month ago that Nortel announced it would sell its CDMA and LTE Access units to Nokia Siemens for $650 million  in a stalking horse agreement.

Nokia Siemens and investor MartinPatterson Global Advisers, one of Nortel’s largest bondholders, competed unsuccessfully for a deal that includes CDMA technology and contracts as well as patents and engineers working on LTE (long term evolution), a mobile broadband technology.

Ericsson is acquiring a unit that manufactures CDMA mobile technology, a system used by several U.S.-based mobile operators including Verizon Wireless and Sprint as well as Bell Canada and Leap plus a group of 400 researchers working on LTE.  Once approved, the deal will give Ericsson a significant boost in its North American customer base, coming close to doubling its revenue in the region.

The transaction is on a cash and debt-free basis and is subject to customary regulatory approvals in addition to those of the bankruptcy courts overseeing Nortel’s liquidation.

Magnus Mandersson, presently head of Ericsson Northern Europe, will be appointed to the position of president of Ericsson CDMA operations, and Richard Lowe, currently at Nortel, will serve as chief operating officer.

“Acquiring Nortel’s North American CDMA business allows us to serve this important region better as we build relationships for the future migration to LTE,” said Ericsson CEO Carl-Henric Svanberg.  Before the auction results were announced on Friday, Ericsson reported that its second-quarter profit had fallen to SEK 831 ($111 million) from SEK 1.9 billion due to the current economic climate and restructuring charges and losses at Sony Ericsson.

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

In the Briefing Room: Nuxeo DM 5.2 and DM Cloud Edition

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009 by Cody Burke and Matt Siper

Content can be a unwieldy beast to tame in any organization.  With copious amounts of e-mail messages, files, and other documents being created every day, managing content can seem daunting.  With the number of documents that knowledge workers create each day, organizations need to find new and better ways of managing them in order to keep up with the onslaught.

Indeed, there are dozens of vendors who will be happy to offer you their systems to manage all types of content, ranging from large commercial vendors such as IBM, EMC, Open Text, and Autonomy, to completely free open source software options such as Plone or Drupal.  Between these extremes, there is a robust and mature selection of commercial open source offerings, providing the benefits of open source software, namely the elimination of an upfront software purchase and access to the source code.

One company in this space is Nuxeo, which offers Nuxeo DM in both on-premises and cloud editions.  Nuxeo DM is based on Nuxeo EP, the company’s open-source enterprise content management platform.

At log in, users are presented with a dashboard with modules for tasks, workflows, workspaces, recently published documents, and customizable portlets.  Documents can be created with desktop tools such as Word and saved in the system using a plug-in, or knowledge workers can drag and drop documents from the desktop.  Documents can also be created within the system using a built-in Notes function that suffices for shorter documents.  Workflows can be set up by simply selecting a document, choosing individual users, and assigning actions and due dates.  Users are notified through their dashboard portlets of review tasks that await them.

Nuxeo has developed industry-specific solutions for such areas as government and new drug approval management, simplifying what would otherwise be fairly complex processes in those areas.  The company also offers consulting, development and customization, and training.

For companies looking for ways of taming their document management problem, commercial open source offerings, such as those Nuxeo represents, are an attractive option and should be looked into alongside more traditional DM options.  With the amount of Information Overload that is prevalent, knowledge workers today spend far too much time trying to keep track of content and documents and need all the help they can get.

In addition, stay tuned for our upcoming report, Content Management Systems: The New Math for Selecting Your Platform, an in-depth analysis of over 30 offerings in this space.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.   Matt Siper is an analyst at Basex.

Walter Cronkite – Before the Age of Information Overload

Friday, July 17th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

The passing of Walter Cronkite, a man so closely associated with television news that the word for news anchor in several countries is a variation of Cronkiter, serves as a demarcation between an information age and the age of information overload.

For much of the 20th century, news was delivered once a day, first for 15 minutes and later for 30. That concept is foreign to generations that have grown up in an age of CNN and, later, the Internet.   Even when Cronkite retired as managing editor of the CBS Evening News in 1981, the 24-hour news cycle was virtually unknown (CNN, the first 24-hour news network, was founded in 1980 but was virtually unheard of at the time).

Most people in America expected to get their news, including the good and the bad, from one person, Walter Cronkite (with the help of correspondents, of course).  Given the tremendous fragmentation in the media today, with dozens of 24-hour news stations competing not only against one another but also against Internet-based sources, the phenomenon of a single news source is unlikely to happen again and that also means that the world may never again see someone with the presence and stature that Cronkite had during his tenure.

Today people are used to a battery of news and information, generally from people far less informed and insightful than Cronkite, which really is a shame.  News programs today tend towards sensationalism, entertainment, and opinion – a far cry from the traditional values of in-depth reporting, verification, relevance, and context.  Today, bloggers who masquerade as journalists post stories online which they are almost certain are not true, for the sole purpose of getting more hits on their site.

Information can be a wonderful thing but too much information can have a toxic effect.  Regardless of the medium and technology, the solution to information overload is almost always better filtering systems.  For 19 years, Walter Cronkite was the filter for America’s news.  It’s unlikely we’ll ever see a better filter.

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

In the Briefing Room: Xobni Plus

Thursday, July 16th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

For many knowledge workers, the e-mail inbox is the center of their universe.  It has assumed this exalted position in part because e-mail is the path of least resistance for many activities.  We should not, however, equate this status with it being the best or most efficient path.

Knowledge workers overuse e-mail.  They use it to compose long documents that would be better done in a content management system.  They use it to file information, which really should reside in a records management system.  They send e-mail messages to too many people and hit reply-to-all indiscriminately.

By 2010, knowledge workers will receive daily, on average, upwards of 93 e-mail messages, dozens of instant messages, multiple text messages, messages from social networks, not to mention a few phone calls.

Given its popularity, e-mail overload is the prominent component of Information Overload, although search and content management aren’t that far behind.

Given its singular status as an information repository, a number of companies have provided tools to manage the savage inbox.  One such company is Xobni, which has offered its eponymously-named e-mail management tool for over a year.

I had an opportunity to meet with Matt Brezina, Xobni’s co-founder, and his team a few weeks ago and learn more about what Xobni can do in this regard.  Matt not only speaks of “information overload” but of “relationship overload” and positions Xobni as a tool that can help with both.

Xobni adds a sidebar to Microsoft Outlook that comes with an easy-to-use and intuitive user interface.  It improves on Outlook’s own search facility both in speed and in its ability to build advanced queries on the fly and search across conversation threads.

One of my favorite features in Xobni is its ability to pull information together from a variety of sources including Facebook, LinkedIn, adding in people’s photos and the names of their assistants, if applicable.  This creates context around information that might otherwise appear to be somewhat random.   As more and more information flows via social networks, some of it important, most of it inconsequential, we will start to see the relationship overload, of which Matt speaks, become more of a challenge.

This week Xobni launched Xobni Plus, a paid version of the service (the original version remains free).  New features include the advanced search query builder; the ability to search calendar items, networks, and conversations (with additional support for filtering within the conversation); support for phrases and Boolean queries; AutoSuggest, which is a feature that provides automatic suggestions if one cannot remember someone’s exact name or e-mail address; and an enhanced profiling feature that displays past and upcoming appointments when viewing an e-mail.

While Xobni won’t make e-mail or relationship overload go away, it does lessen their impact and makes it easier for knowledge workers to unlock critical information that may be hidden away in e-mail.

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

Google Apps Twitter Hack Raises Red Flags on Password Security

Thursday, July 16th, 2009 by David Goldes

One might presume that technology companies do a better job with such mundane tasks as password security than the great unwashed masses.  However, time and time again, this turns out not to be correct.  Yesterday, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, posting in the company’s blog, revealed that a hacker had broken into an employee’s personal e-mail account and then gained access to that employee’s Google Apps account, which contained “notes, spreadsheets, ideas, financial details” – well, you get the picture.

Although Stone tries to emphasize that this has nothing to do with any vulnerabilities in Google Apps per se, the very fact that anyone can log into a Google Apps account from any browser if you have the correct user name and password does increase a company’s exposure.  Companies that keep their confidential information behind a corporate firewall in systems such as Lotus Notes or Microsoft SharePoint, are indeed less vulnerable simply because their systems could not be hacked with just a simple user name and password.

Multiple studies have revealed that close to half of computer users tend to use the same password over and over again – typically with the same, easy to remember, user name.  Indeed, TechCrunch, a blog that received Twitter’s confidential documents from the hacker, reported that Twitter uses the password “password” for its servers (presumably, it’s been changed by now).  The same article revealed that Twitter had also used a co-founder’s first name, Jack, as a user name for servers.

Moral of the story: use complex passwords with numbers and symbols interspersed.  Do not use words found in a dictionary.  Even better: use passphrases, i.e. concatenated words such as “thisismypassphrase123″.  Use a different user name/password combination for each account.  If one account is hacked, this will ensure that your other accounts remain safe.  Finally, do not leave passwords visibly written down.  Believe it or not,  I still see Post-It notes with passwords attached to monitors when visiting other companies.

David M. Goldes is the president of Basex.

Information Overload Awareness Day

Thursday, July 9th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

“What can we do to call more attention to the problem of Information Overload?” is a question I hear almost daily from managers at companies who have recognized the extent to which the problem impacts their organizations.  As of now, I have a much better answer than I previously had: participate in Information Overload Awareness Day, a new workplace observance that calls attention to the problem of information overload and how it impacts both individuals and organizations.

Yes, you can wear a button or a T-shirt (we’ll have those next week) but that’s only the first step.  On August 12, the day we’ve set aside to focus our attention on the problem, we are holding an online event that will permit us to do a deep dive into different ways that Information Overload is adversely impacting knowledge work and knowledge workers while also spotlighting possible solutions to help managers and policymakers cope with loss of productivity.

Information Overload describes an excess of information that results in the loss of ability to make decisions, process information, and prioritize tasks.  Organizations of all shapes and sizes have already been significantly impacted by it; according to our research the problem costs the U.S. economy $900 billion per year in lowered productivity and throttled innovation.

The event features a variety of speakers including noted authors Maggie Jackson (“Distracted”) and Mike Song (“The Hamster Revolution”), executives from such companies as Dow Jones and Morgan Stanley, a CIO from the U.S. Air Force, and Nathan Zeldes, president of the Information Overload Research Group and the former executive in charge of addressing the problem at Intel.  (I’ll be there too, of course.)

While a few people put their heads in the sand and say this is not a real problem, the costs are quite real and the problem is only going to get worse.  By 2012, the typical knowledge worker will receive hundreds of messages each day via e-mail, IM, text, and social networks.

Simply put, companies need to focus on what can be done to lessen information overload’s impact right now.  We’ll look at the latest research and solutions and cover areas including managing e-mail, calculating Information Overload exposure, improving search, and managing content, just to name a few.

The cost of the event is $50; attendees who promise not to multi-task (i.e. IM, e-mail, or text) during the event will receive a 50% discount.

Companies are invited to sponsor Information Overload Awareness Day by enrolling as Designated Sites.  This allows all of their employees to attend at no charge and demonstrates their commitment to helping solve the problem.

Tweet this: Information Overload Awareness Day Aug. 12; event to present latest research and solutions; http://www.informationoverloadday.com/

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

In the Briefing Room: Gordano Messaging Suite

Thursday, July 9th, 2009 by Cody Burke and Matt Siper

With apologies to Paul Newman, “[W]hat we have here is a failure to communicate” is an aphorism that could be heard in the boardrooms of many companies.  This is, in part, because few companies have deployed knowledge sharing and collaboration tools that allow co-workers to communicate effectively.

One model for such platforms is the Collaborative Business Environment (CBE).  A CBE is a workspace designed for the knowledge worker that supersedes the traditional desktop metaphor by providing one single work environment, Friction-Free Knowledge Sharing that eliminates extra steps, and Embedded Community through presence awareness and integrated communication tools such as instant messaging.

One company that offers a viable solution for companies in need of a Collaborative Business Environment is Gordano, which offers the Gordano Messaging Suite (GMS), an e-mail and instant messaging server.  Companies can integrate e-mail and IM functionality into a variety of external systems through open APIs and mashup technologies.  Perhaps the best example of this is the Microsoft SharePoint integration that the company introduced in version 16 of the Gordano Messaging Suite; it enables full integration of address books, calendars, and other PIM data with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server, allowing for user accounts to synchronize GMS data within the SharePoint interface.

Earlier versions of the platform already supported the ability to integrate instant messaging with Microsoft Office via Gordano’s Collaboration Sever.  Additional integration allows GMS as share calendars, contacts, notes, folders, and address books Office.  Access is also possible through other clients including Apple iCal, Mozilla Calendar, and GMS WebMail.

While Gordano handles typical tasks such as e-mail and IM very well, what’s really interesting is the Gizmos feature, essentially JavaScript mashups that can be configured to extend functionality through the creation of custom buttons and actions.

While Gordano might not be right for all organizations, their tools are worthy of consideration, especially by existing Microsoft customers that would like to embed collaboration tools on the road towards building a Collaborative Business Environment.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.   Matt Siper is an analyst at Basex.

CompuServe Requiem

Friday, July 3rd, 2009 by David Goldes

The original CompuServe service, first offered in 1979, was shut down this past week by its current owner, AOL.  The service, which provided its users with addresses such as 73402,3633 and was the first major online service, had seen the number of users dwindle in recent years.  At its height, the service boasted about having over half a million users simultaneously on line.  Many innovations we now take for granted, from online travel (Eaasy Sabre), online shopping, online stock quotations, and global weather forecasts, just to name a few, were standard fare on CompuServe in the 1980s.

CompuServe users will be able to use their existing CompuServe Classic (as the service was renamed) addresses at no charge via a new e-mail system, but the software that the service was built on, along with all the features supported by that software, from forums for virtually every topic and profession known to man to members’ Ourworld Web pages, has been shut down. Indeed, the current version of the service’s client software, CompuServe for Windows NT 4.0.2, dates back to 1999.

CompuServe members can convert their existing addresses to the new e-mail system at the CompuServe Mail Center.

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