» Archive for November, 2009

Ericsson to Acquire Nortel’s GSM Unit Along with Kapsch

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009 by David Goldes

Some of the last pieces of Nortel’s business, its GSM units, will be sold in two parts for $103 million. 


Ericsson will acquire most of Nortel's GSM business

Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson will purchase the North American GSM business for $70 million and Kapsch CarrierCom of Austria will acquire most of the remaining assets, mostly in Europe and Taiwan, for $33 million.

For Ericsson, the acquisition further solidifies its footprint in North America as the agreement includes the transfer of Nortel’s relationships with mobile operators such as AT&T and T-Mobile.  In July of this year, Ericsson emerged as the winner for Nortel’s CDMA and LTE Access units, gaining key relationships with Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and Bell Canada.  Nortel’s North American GSM operations generated ca. $400 million in revenue in 2008.  That deal has the potential to double the company’s revenue in the region.

“The transaction emphasizes Ericsson’s commitment to the North American market and strengthens our position as the leading provider of telecommunications technology and services in the United States and Canada.” said Hans Vestberg, Ericsson’s incoming President and CEO.

680 Nortel employees are expected to receive offers of employment from either Ericsson or Kapsch.  GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) is the most popular wireless technology standard for mobile phones in the world.  Nortel has been one of the world’s leading suppliers of GSM networks for many years.

Earlier this week, Nortel announced that Ciena, a network infrastructure company, was the successful bidder for the company’s Optical Networking and Carrier Ethernet businesses (see item in this issue under Mergers and Acquisitions).

The sale to Ericsson and Kapsch is subject to court approvals in the U.S. and Canada, which Nortel will seek at a joint hearing on December 2, 2009, and at a later date in France, as well as certain regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.

David M. Goldes is the president of Basex.

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

Sometimes it helps to take a look at how companies in other industries are doing in order to give greater insight into one’s own.

Hummer, Saab, and Saturn may join Pontiac in automotive history

Hummer, Saab, and Saturn may join Pontiac in automotive history

In the automotive world, General Motors, which filed for and emerged from bankruptcy earlier this year, had announced plans to shed its non-performing assets and emerge as a stronger company.  GM has fairly experienced management at its helm yet its plan to dispose of these assets, which include Hummer, Opel, Pontiac, Saab, and Saturn, hasn’t turned out the way it planned, at least not so far.

One of the major stories this week was that tiny Koenigsegg Automotive was backing out of its deal to purchase Saab from General Motors.  Saab, which manufactured a mere 93,000 cars last year, nonetheless dwarfed Koenigsegg, which, with only 45 employees, turns out just a handful of high-priced supercars each year.  Publicly, Koenigsegg cited too many delays in closing the deal but I believe that Koenigsegg realized it might have bitten off more than it could chew with the proposed deal.

GM has had a stake in Saab for almost 20 years with direct ownership for 10 and Saab has a small but loyal following in the U.S.  Unfortunately, low volume car makers aren’t able to benefit from globalization so Saab’s sales in the U.S. suffered greatly at the hands of a devalued U.S. dollar.  Unless the Swedish government steps in, Saab’s fate could be liquidation.

Earlier this month, following months of negotiations with several potential suitors, GM announced it would keep its Adam Opel unit in Europe after agreeing to sell Opel to Austro-Canadian parts maker Magna International and Sherbank, a Russian company.  This stunned the German government, which had been lobbying for Magna, as well as union workers at Opel, after GM announced that manufacturing capacity across Europe will shrink by 25%.

In September, the Penske Automotive Group walked away from its deal to acquire GM’s Saturn division.  Penske had wanted to become a car manufacturer without actually producing cars (imagine that!) – and apparently company management came to its senses and realized that such an arrangement wouldn’t work since no competitor would want to make cars for them.

The deal to sell Hummer to a Chinese company has been delayed by months, despite a preliminary agreement announced in June.  The result is that, given the cloud over its future, no one is purchasing Hummers right now.

What went wrong?  Let’s look at what got GM into bankruptcy court in the first place.

GM’s problems started in the 1960s, when it began to stray from Alfred P. Sloan’s brand and pricing structure that had made the company successful.  From lowest to highest, the “ladder of success” as it was often called included Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, and Cadillac.  Under Sloan, these brands did not compete with one another and car purchasers could move up the ladder within the GM family as their economic status improved.  Starting in the 1960s, the differences that made each brand distinct began to fade and the change was epitomized by the introduction of the 1981 Cadillac Cimarron, a rebadged compact Chevrolet.

Hopefully, GM will learn from its more recent experiences and will look to its history and restore and build upon the differences that make a Chevrolet a Chevrolet and a Cadillac the “Standard of the World.”

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

In the Briefing Room: Kana 10

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009 by Cody Burke

One can find software for virtually any purpose today, yet this very fact highlights a key paradox in the knowledge economy. 


Kana 10 allows companies to create process flows visually

Today’s software tools can handle almost any task but, since they are mostly not integrated with one another, they force users to shift constantly between windows and interfaces in the course of completing a task.  This results in significant amounts of wasted time, and perhaps more critically, missed opportunities to obtain valuable information needed to execute tasks effectively.

The need to constantly shift between tools is a problem that will have to be addressed as companies move towards the deployment of a true Collaborative Business Environment (CBE), our vision for the future of the knowledge worker’s workspace that will drive efficiencies.  The CBE’s basic principles are the One Environment Rule (a single work environment), Friction-Free Knowledge Sharing, and Embedded Community.  Clearly, the problem of too many tools and interfaces is at loggerheads with the concept of the One Environment Rule.

Software companies have taken note and are moving to provide solutions.  Kana, a CRM company, has begun to address the problem for call center agents and managers with its Kana 10 platform.  Kana 10 is a CRM system that aims to optimize the experience for customers by providing agents with information that is contextual to the call they are on, without requiring them to leave the environment.

The primary point of interface for Kana 10 is the Adaptive Desktop, a single desktop environment that changes based on the user’s needs to present the modules, information, and cues to guide an agent through a given process, such as a conversation with a customer.  The system hinges on the idea that a system that provides all relevant information in the context of what the agent is doing will improve service and efficiencies.

To this end, Kana focuses on Service Experience Management (SEM), which in laymen’s terms means that the experience is controlled in near real-time as the agent progresses through a customer interaction.  Changes that are made to processes are reflected quickly, with no IT department involvement required.  Process creation and changes are done through a simple drag-and-drop interface that builds a process flow.  The ability to create flows that automate functions reduces the steps that must be taken by the agent, such as having to shuffle between windows and cut and paste information.

Kana 10 gives organizations the tools to build call center work environments that exhibit many of the positives that a true Collaborative Business Environment has to offer.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

How Green is Your Office?

Thursday, November 19th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

America Recycles Day was this past Sunday, but the office seemed (especially because it was a non-workday) left out of the dialog.

Is your office this green?

Is your office this green?

There’s no question that our actions can have a significant impact on the environment and that more and more people are taking steps to protect it through activities as varied as using alternative transportation (from public transportation to electric cars and hybrids) and recycling waste.

But what about the office?  The office environment is the site of much waste, from overuse of paper, thanks to Information Overload, to leaving lights and computers turned on at all times.  Zombie servers suck up power, leaving managers to wonder why their electric bills are so high.

To better understand people’s energy usage habits in work environments we developed a brief survey, which you can take by clicking here.

Participants will receive an Executive Summary of the survey’s findings and can also enter a drawing to win a $200 gift card from American Express.  Please share the survey link with colleagues; the more people who take the survey, the more we all can do to protect the environment.

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

In the briefing room: Simplexo

Thursday, November 19th, 2009 by Cody Burke

Knowledge workers spend a good part of their day in search of information; therefore it is no surprise that having the correct search tools is of paramount importance.

Simplexo search simultaneously addresses structured and unstructured data.

Simplexo search simultaneously addresses structured and unstructured data.

The limitations that exist in many search tools, combined with poor search techniques, lead to the frequent use of outdated information, the recreation of content that exists but can not be found, and the waste of significant amounts of time.

Failed searches are a very visible symptom of Information Overload.  It is generally acknowledged that 50% of searches fail outright but few realize that 50% of the searches that people believe to have succeeded actually failed too, in that they presented stale, incorrect, or simply second-best information.  This last figure is far more insidious because the knowledge workers are unaware of the searches’ failure and blithely proceed to use the incorrect information in their work.

Training and proper search techniques can make a huge difference in improving search results but equally important are the tools the knowledge worker uses.  In most cases, information is stored in separate silos, and search tools need to be able to reach across those boundaries.  A search query that reaches across multiple information stores at once provides far more complete and relevant results than multiple separate searches.

Simplexo is one company that is addressing these issues with its Simplexo Enterprise search offering.  The company accesses the native indexing capabilities of databases and existing software such as SharePoint and Outlook to index unstructured data.  Indexing takes place in real-time and runs continuously, which helps ensure that the most current information is presented in search results.  Data is de-duplicated to remove extra copies of information, reducing the overall amount of content that must be indexed.

Simplexo uses a dual index approach that looks at both structured data in real-time and unstructured data during processor idle time.  The system examines and retrieves unstructured data from sources such as Web pages, e-mail, text files, PDF files, and Open Office files, as well as data from structured sources such as databases, business applications, CRM applications, and information portals.  The wide net that Simplexo casts when searching has the potential to improve knowledge worker efficiency. The ability to look in multiple silos and repositories with a single search query is extremely helpful in ensuring that information that is buried in a far flung repository or inbox folder is taken into consideration.

In addition to indexing, Simplexo supports native integration into platforms such as browsers, Office, Outlook, AutoCAD, and Lotus.  This integration is key to enabling the knowledge worker to remain in one work environment.  Simplexo also supports mobile devices via Simplexo Mobile for iPhones and Windows Mobile 6 devices, with plans to add BlackBerry support in the future.

Enterprise search solutions such as Simplexo take a realistic view of the challenges faced by knowledge workers when searching for information.  They recognize that relevant information can reside in any repository, be structured or unstructured, and is in need of continuous indexing to remain up-to-date.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

A New Measure of Information Overload – In Feet

Thursday, November 12th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

It was right in front of me but I never noticed it until an in-depth conversation with a very well-informed CEO of a major auto maker earlier this week: how to measure Information Overload in a meaningful way.

How much information received today, dear?

How much information received today, dear?

“We send our dealerships,” the CEO told me, “about a foot or so of information every day.  There’s no way anyone can digest all of it.”  How did he measure this? The company printed out every piece of paper that goes out to the many dealerships around the country and that’s how high the average stack was.

This reminded me of an experiment the EDP (electronic data processing) manager, Dave Stemmer, tried at the company where my father was CEO, probably around 25 years ago (when IT departments were still called EDP departments).  He noticed that the department printed out dozens and dozens of reports a day (and the reports were on the green striped computer paper in binders) and wondered how many were actually being read.  So he stopped printing the reports and waited for the phone to ring with someone requesting them.  Apparently only 10% of the reports were re-requested so the waste in computer time (when this was a valuable commodity) and paper was huge.

Stemmer’s experiment, while less focused at the problem of Information Overload, does demonstrate man’s proclivity in creating too much information (or written versions of that information) that will go unused.

In the case of our auto maker, the amount of information was a wake-up call and the company is not only looking to reduce the amount of information sent to its dealerships but also looking to find ways of making that information more useful and relevant.

We know from our research here that the cost of Information Overload is great and that the actions of individual knowledge workers in terms of what they send to colleagues and correspondents can exacerbate an already bad situation.  Looking at it from a “how much does our organization send out en masse to individuals and partners” perspective is another way of trying to get not only a fix on the costs but also a good way of finding ways in which a few feet of Information Overload can be eliminated.

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

In the briefing room: Dow Jones Companies & Executives Sales

Thursday, November 12th, 2009 by Cody Burke

In an age of ubiquitous social networking tools and near exponential content creation, rapidly rising levels of information that may or may not be relevant to a particular individual inhibit one’s ability to keep track of contacts, key industry news, and business intelligence.

Dow Jones Companies & Executives Sales

The ideal situation would be for sales and business development professionals to be presented with current and accurate information as it is needed.  Prior to a sales meeting, having a summary of a company’s and industry’s recent news automatically delivered would prepare the sales executive and increase the likelihood of successful conclusion.  This requires tools that automatically surface relevant information.  In addition to the time saved from eliminating manual searching, this type of system solves a fundamental problem that exists with searching for information: one has to know what is being looked for as well as how to use traditional search tools effectively.  Often, the most valuable information is that which is unexpected, for instance a surprise executive position change at a company that opens up the possibility for new business.

We wrote about these dynamics in great detail in our report, Searching for a Connection: Leveraging Enterprise Contacts with Social Software.  In that report, we discussed the acquisition of Generate, a business intelligence company, by Dow Jones, as well as various issues relating to the value of up-to-date information, the limitations of search technology, and what could be done to improve search in the enterprise.

Dow Jones has since incorporated Generate’s technology into the company’s business to business sales and marketing intelligence offering, Dow Jones Companies and Executives Sales.  The latest version of the offering makes some impressive strides towards delivering relevant information in a contextual and timely manner.  Users can set up triggers such as executive changes, product announcements, venture funding, and partnerships, which when detected result in an alert that includes company profile information, relevant executives and contacts, current news, and related documents.  The information itself comes from unstructured news content, Dow Jones’ owned and licensed content that includes company and executive profiles and records, CRM contact and account information, and personal contact lists imported from Outlook or LinkedIn.

Once a trigger event occurs, the system presents contacts that are weighted for relevancy to enable the user to follow up leads that are exposed by the trigger event.  A contact from LinkedIn, for example, is weighed highly because it is presumed to be a personal contact.  This enables sales and business development professionals to find the shortest connection path to a prospect or contact via their work history, CRM system, and personal contact lists.

Dow Jones Companies and Executives Sales is a significant step towards presenting useful information as it is needed without requiring extraneous effort, and will help to surface critical information that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.  It is great starting platform with great potential for exciting features and functionality, and we are eager to see how it develops

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

In the briefing room: Xobni Enterprise

Thursday, November 5th, 2009 by Cody Burke

The challenge for any new tool that fights Information Overload is to gain the legitimacy that is necessary to apply it in an enterprise setting.

How Xobni sees Basex Chief Analyst Jonathan Spira

How Xobni sees Basex Chief Analyst Jonathan Spira

Most large organizations have complex IT requirements that software must meet before it can be deployed, including centralized management and security.   Most important, the new tools must not suffer the unintended consequence of increasing the same Information Overload they are trying to fight.

We covered Xobni in the past, and the company received a Basex Excellence Award for its efforts in fighting Information Overload at the Information Overload Day Inaugural Event in August 2009.

Recognizing the need to move into the corporate market, the company recently released Xobni Enterprise.  The new offering is a new version of its e-mail and relationship management solution that is fine tuned for enterprise use.  Previously, installing Xobni was done on an individual basis, with no administrative controls.  The new release provides a corporate license and central administrative capabilities that allow Xobni to be deployed on a company-wide basis with oversight from IT.  A new Web-based administration portal enables configuration, deployment, and management of user permissions, policies, and enabled features.  For instance, a company may be fine with users having access to integration with FaceBook, but not Twitter, or vice-versa.

Search capabilities have also been refined: it is possible to search e-mail by sender, recipient, subject, and date by building a complex search query via a series of drop down menus that facilitate the filtering of results. Other enterprise-friendly features in Xobni Enterprise include support for standard policy settings such as those from Active Directory, the ability to create extensions for enterprise applications such as CRM systems and portals (extensions for SalesForce.com and Microsoft SharePoint already exist), and integration of corporate profiles via LDAP.

The release of an enterprise-ready version of its e-mail and relationship management software  brings another tool for fighting Information Overload into an area that sorely needs it, larger organizations.  Tools such as Xobni work best when they are universally used within an organization, and this release enables effortless adoption in an enterprise setting. The challenge for tools such as Xobni is to not overload the inbox environment by pulling in too much content, but to strike a balance between access to information and access to the right information at the right time.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.