Sunday, December 12, 2010

What Facebook and Wikileaks mean to business strategy

Social Internet and Information availability will disrupt all businesses.

Most businesses are going to be reshaped by the social capacities provided by today’s Internet, this is Mark Zuckerberg vision and he’s right. Photo and games are already different industries, but all verticals will follow. (See interview of Facebook founder and CEO at the Web 2.0 Summit 2010: "A Conversation with Mark Zuckerberg").

The Wikileaks episode also reminds us that hard facts will always be available for consumers and voters.

So how should business leaders and investors react to that?

Imagine you are considering buying a book, a new smartphone, booking a hotel, looking for a dentist,… Instead of reading reviews from journalists you trust less and less (after all, they do this for a living, don’t they ?), you may prefer to have accurate data points and feedback from your friends. How about having at hand advice and experience from those you trust and know well ? How about having reliable datapoints to help you in your decision process? Facebook exponential growth and valuation clearly tell us what you prefer.

My recommendations for businesses would be:

At the strategy level:

· focus on doing very well whatever you do, make sure it’s meaningful to the market. If you don’t have the best product/service, work to get there, partner to do so, or do something different.

· focus on satisfying your customers which means having a relation with them (especially those that make you earn money and that can recommend you).

Without this, social economy can only accelerate your fall.

At the operational/marketing level:

· invest in Facebook and others to socially enable sales, communication and marketing (either using their social infrastructure or finding another smart way),

· create a unique post sales experience and invest in it, make it social

It sounds simplistic, it means very different things depending on the vertical you are in, but there is a tsunami coming up and everybody would better get prepared.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

360 degree view of the customer : from philosophical considerations to next generation CRM

The importance of search-based applications and solutions in today’s competitive market

If only they remembered who are their customers, instead of asking over and over the same questions. The customer experience would be much better. If you like philosophy, I invite you to check out Kierkergaard Repetition. If you cannot have the past at hand, today's experience is less valuable...

More seriously, the volatile economy means that an immediate, 360 degree view of the customer has never been more important. Like discussed in my post Moving from Search to Business Search, for such complete visibility, an enterprise search engine is nice to have, but what really matters are search-based applications that support information-intensive, customer service processes.

Sinequa navigates and synthesizes all customer information from structured applications, unstructured information and people data, regardless of source or volume. In a single interface, users have access to every customer detail and interaction — and the visibility they need to provide better services, upsell appropriately and ultimately ensure customer retent

At Credit Agricole, the largest Retail bank in France, second largest in Europe and eighth largest in the world, tens of thousands of employees will use a Sinequa search-based application for complete, instantaneous access to all critical customer information among: 8 billion customers transaction records per year; over 2.6 billion contracts and documents in its ECM systems, SharePoint and other sources; and 600 million emails per year.

Through Sinequa's all-in-one solution, the bank is able to fulfill its promise “to offer customers the right product at the right time, in accordance with their interests,” while also realizing complete ROI in a month, saving employees at least 20 minutes a day, and consolidating five data centers into a single, green data center.

I think this is great. I think this is the future...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

NEW: context-based search + rich user interfaces, changing our life for good

Sinequa just became Silver Adobe partner. I had today the first demo of a prototype we developed together. It is amazingly sexy. Of course, theoretically all this can be done with the other existing rich interfaces technologies, but this one really rocks (by the way, it's the one the large bank I mentioned last mont in my post has chosen)

The power of a real-time context based multidimensional search tool like Sinequa's combined with the rich and collaborative functionalities offered by a rich client interface like Adobe's is very impressive.

Intelligent and dynamic display, a lot is possible and a lot can happen, but showing just what is necessary; No compromision on speed and volume. But also built in capacity to include collaboration around the search interface, thus providing real social search. You have to see it to believe it. Complete multi-channel management, including intuitive integration of smart phone and tablet specificities.

Illustration? your search, some results, cool ways to refine that appear from everywhere only when you need them. Then you want to share the context of your screen to work with another person or get advised on the fly (think of customer care situations). 17inch screen or smartphone, it works.

This is really the beginning of an industrial disruption. We are about to see a tremendous transformation in the way companies will serve their customers and market themselves. A change in the way they will help their employees work efficiently, with appropriate context and always in real time. I can't wait to be in the VIP section of the working/commercial world : work in a company and only interact with companies and administrations that use efficiently those smart technologies. No more clicking, scrolling, navigating,... simply the pleasant experience of a smooth and obvious transition from my personal context to the answers to my questions. For real, this is going to change our life in very good.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A large bank will better serve customers using Sinequa Search Application Platform

Sinequa achieving 12,8 Millions US dollars of revenues for fiscal 2009 is a rather good performance considering 2008 economic downturn impact.

We are becoming mission critical inside strategic projects for large organizations. As a matter of fact, one of the top ten banks in the world has retained Sinequa for its application platform to build its new front office desktop for customer facing employees. For millions of customers of this bank as well, we will be at the heart of the direct access to their own data and information. Our search platform is integrated here with other technologies (database, rich client, SOA,...) from leading vendors such as IBM, Adobe, Software AG.

This project should be an example for many. Once more, a web interface powered by an agile, fast and scalable information unification technology such as the Sinequa search platform is the only answer to the issues companies have to face. The only solution to cope with exploding volumes of data and the need for an immediate access to information combined with a unified vision: wether it be for customers, employees, or to meet internal processes requirements. In the perspective of an extended enterprise, with well informed customers in demand of instantaneous interactions, this technological and applicative challenge must be taken very seriously.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Exalead bought by Dassault Systèmes for 135 M€...

Sinequa becomes the European leader among European pure players Search vendors after Autonomy. A few personal comments on Exalead takeover by Dassault Systèmes: I see three reasons to be enthusiastic:

A very nice deal

As a French tax payer, I am happy to see a company that has been heavily supported by French innovation funding system be saved by a brilliant exit, even more when this exit is with the French bigger software vendor. It’s great and I congratulate the protagonists with a sincere admiration (we are competitors, but it does not mean enemies, it just means we play in different sides but on the same playground).

I used the word « saved » because Exalead displays in 2009 revenues of 13,9M Euros with 15 Millions of losses for the same year. Those consolidated figures are available to all at the French Tribunal de commerce.

So everything Exalead created will be capitalized and developed by Dassault Systèmes. It’s excellent news. As an entrepreneur and as a board member of the AFDEL (French Software vendors Association of whom Dassault Systèmes is one of the founding members), I have a lot of respect and admiration for the company Dassault Systèmes and for its leader Bernard Charles, who inspired me. This is a positive message and model sent to the French Software industry. Dassault Systèmes saw the importance of Search and they have paid the value for an european technology.

A new High in valuation, good news for the industry in général and for search in particular

The important valorisation (around 10 times 2009 revenues, 8 times 2009 losses) is an excellent news for many reasons:

First of all, this is even better than last valuation ratio (FAST bought by Microsoft a bit more than two years ago, with a multiple of around 7. This shows that Search is becoming more and more strategic.

This amount proves that search is not becoming a commodity, but indeed it is becoming a mission critical enabling technology for enterprise applications: PLM, ERP, CRM, CMS, etc… that is for search in OEM.

Just like databases when ERP emerged, Search also demonstrates every day more and more that it’s not only a way to access to documents or information, but also an enabling technology allowing customers or employees to perform their tasks efficiently. At Sinequa, we put this simply: we went from a search engine allowed to find documents and information to a search that triggers decisions or actions (hence the integration in other applications, or the generation of new functionalities - SBA).

Excellent news for Sinequa and for its customers and partners

Search is strategic, but it has not reached maturity in terms of industrial applications. We only begin to see how search integrated with other tools can become the corner stone for tomorrows’ enterprise applications.

There are two projects in this Exalead - Dassault Systèmes deal, as underlined by the communication in two times : first the OEM deal a few weeks ago, then the takeover today.

The first project aims at empowering Dassault Systèmes offer. I am confident this will work.

The second project aims at developing Exalead on its existing SBA positioning. I will wait and see. I believe that a company on a emerging market needs to be focus and independent to create the best partnerships, to choose the best early customers, etc… Exalead was already quite spread out as illustrated by the variety of its references and its poor profitability despite a good technology and some good sales. My scepticism is even more acute since I foresee that Dassault Systèmes will not accept continuing financial losses.

* * *

As said, Sinequa becomes de facto the European leader after Autonomy among enterprise search “pure players”. Wether it be in SBA or in Enterprise Search, this opens very nice possibilities. At a moment when our product has demonstrated its superiority on all competitors when it comes to large infrastructure project or large internal search projects, I come to hope of a future where it would be our turn to shape this market, at a European or even global level.

Congrats to Exalead for a very fine rodeo, and it is now time for Sinequa the new independent European leader to show what it can do. I’m expecting to make announcements in a near future.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Made In Presse joins the Appstore

Made In Presse is a French online service that allows you to find any (French) magazine. The magazines are digitalized, one can search and refine by title or topic, or the other way around.

Then, Made In Presse allows you to preview and to buy the magazine in order to go and pick it up in a store nearby, or to browse it on or offline. The reading device ergonomy is terrific, it feels like your were turning real pages.

I'm happy that after having reviewed the market, Made In Press chose the most intuitive and obvious search solution : Sinequa. By the way, Made In Press is an example among others of a Search Based Application.

With the release of the App "Made In Presse", it is going to be easier than ever to browse and buy French magazines on Iphone and Ipad, still using Sinequa semantic search.

Congratulations to the Made In Presse team, they're great !

URL APPS: AppMadeInPresse

Friday, May 21, 2010

Moving from Search to Business Search

Search is no longer Sexy. Is that sad?
When I used to say in social events that I work in search, people would be excited. Thank you Google I guess. Now if I say that same thing, they are bored and feel sorry... Should I thank Microsoft?

Enterprise Search Summit last week in May in New-York was very interesting in that respect. It was both boring and thrilling. Our industry is transforming itself.
Search for search is a technology, there seem to be a few good enough products out there, at least if you put the service effort that's needed. And it's true, if you want to do a search on enterprise contents, many vendors can help you. And so does Microsoft now. So it's a commodity, right?

Actually it is a little bit more complex. Because customers do not need search, nor do they want to pay for search. They want to solve information access problems, ideally directly related with business performance or risk related issues. And they start to understand that only Search Based Applications can help them achieve this objective.

So we are in for a brand new game. Because Search Based Application means a lot more functionalities and integration to provide, specific relevancy requirements that will have mission critical impact, business organized facet navigation, real time absolutely vital needs, and much much more... There, very few technologies can handle the challenge, and that's good news for Sinequa.

This is the begining of a new era for this industry. At last, we are going to see the tremendous value of search even if we stop talking about search. Search Based Applications will make the difference for customer relation, enterprise reactivity and efficiency, supply chain management, etc...

Special thanks and congratulations to Leslie Owens, Sue Feldman and Lynda Moulton for their insightful presentations in New-York.