Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sinequa Enterprise Search V7 launch first feedbacks

We had almost 200 attendants to the Sinequa Enterprise Search V7 Launch. That was a great moment and thanks to the participating sponsors, IBM, Logica, Atos Origin and Edifixio.

I think among other things, everybody was impressed by the live demo performed by Luc Manigot. He configurated live a Lotus connector in just a few clicks, and – among other things - demonstrated Sinequa ES7 capacity to extract relations through its text-mining agents.

Then we stayed around quite late with Champagne and "petits fours"… thanks to all of those who could make it.

Thanks to Theresa Regli who took the time to interview a few early adopters of Sinequa ES7. She actually wrote an interesting article than mentions how Sinequa uses metadatas. I can only recommend it

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sinequa Enterprise Search 7.0 launch in Paris the 24th of November

I'm pleased to announce we already have close to 200 registrants for the official launch of Sinequa Enterprise Search at L'Echangeur in Paris, the evening of November 24th.

This event hosted by Frederick Simottel, editor of 01 Informatique, will begin with a welcome from Philip Lemoine, Chairman of the Groupe LaSer, who is a leader, an intellectual and a visionary in new technologies and their appropriate use in society.

We then have a presentation by Antoine Gourevitch, Managing Director of the Boston Consulting Group, who heads the IT practice in Paris. He will address issues of collective intelligence and the consequences of the info explosion on the role of the CIO in business today.

Following this strategic insight, Patrice Fontaine, Market Manager, IBM Lotus, will illustrate the transition from a standard enterprise to a collaborative enterprise, presenting IBM Smart planet and Smart workplace vision and how search fits into that.

I will then present Sinequa's vision on these topics, how Sinequa Enterprise Search transforms the enterprise and its Information Landscape. How Sinequa affects everyday life and the workplace of our users. I will include some interesting results from a recent study from IDC in passing.

Last but not least, there will be a demonstration of Sinequa Enterprise Search 7.0, the simple and revolutionary product that triggers standing ovations when in production (yes it's true and this is an important part of the value of our solution: re-motivating people who have lost the desire to work in a professional environment that has become too complicated and cumbersome - tell your account managers, your clients or acquaintances who are engineers, consultants and project managers).

Finally, Franck Peyramaure our VP of Alliances, will conclude and thank our partners, event sponsors, including Platinum Partner IBM, and Gold Sponsors Logica, Atos Origin and EdifiXio, before inviting our guests to enjoy a glass of champagne and a buffet. If you're in the ecosystem of Sinequa business and not a competitor, sign up quickly – you're welcome to join us.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Existing and working in the extended enterprise

In an excellent article published in Le Monde Monday October 12th, Pierre Baqué, Enterprise Consultant, retraces the evolution of the enterprise which he claims "by losing its skin is emptied of its substance" (click here to read article in French), or in other words with the increase of externalization there is no longer the notion of 'internal or external.'

The enterprise is no longer the social body which sought among many other objectives the pursuit of profit and service to customers. It is no more that "thing" forming a group around a shared project, values and common experiences. A group forged around a myth related to its pioneers, inventors, etc. (such as HP, Bell, JP Morgan…), a trade or a technology (as for Microsoft, Saint Gobain…), a social function (i.e. The French Post, EDF…), of accrued benefits the envious would say.

As Pierre Baqué says, the enterprise is a bloodless body both literally and figuratively. The enterprise has been emptied of its meaning, because the satisfaction of the shareholders and the clients has become the main, if not the only, goal. Emptied of its role as a social body, since the "We" does not mean much anymore, the enterprise is still defined by a chain of value creation. However those involved are not necessarily employees (as Fabrice Bregier explains that Airbus, like its rival Boeing, has more external subcontracted engineers than employees). Duly noted, the enterprise is emptying... of its meaning and therefore can no longer provide its employees a sense to their actions within it. There is at first look, an alarming and depressing fact. In France/Europe where the work is statutory, one imagines that this can be destabilizing for employees. It's easier then to understand the social tensions, the refusal to change, the increases of suicides as were pointed out at France Telecom…

In addition, there is another more pragmatic reason for employees to feel bad and less passionate: it's a question of tools. I dare to use the word suffering that I often hear from my prospects. Their staff cannot do their jobs, and this is actually horrible to experience: being paid to do a job you cannot do. The objectives are perceived as unrealistic or arbitrary, difficult to reconcile with the vision or the overall strategy and too often this boils down to "do more, do it faster, do it cheaper, do it better....". Plus, these "goals" are distributed by a management that doesn't know us anymore and with whom we work less (as a result of the extended enterprise). All this is combined with an explosion of information to be processed, produced by systems or by correspondents (we don't know how to describe them anymore), increasingly numerous and difficult to understand. Furthermore, the employees must use more than ten different applications to work (Debra Logan of Gartner, Inc. announced last month in London an average of 14 different applications). Volumes, zapping, incoherence... it makes heads spin.

As any problem, it may be seen through the eyes of yesterday or tomorrow. But do we have a choice? Like Oscar Wilde, I think we should be optimistic, at least by heroism.

On the absence of meaning (and I thank Antoine Rebiscoul, President of ANVIE for his brilliant presentation on the brand 2.0 and positive externality), we have to accept the enterprise as a being, therefore, take into account its soul as much as its body. We have to concentrate on positive externalities, outside of the products and cash flow generated. What define Google, Apple and Amazon are not their products, but their way of looking at the world and their desire to change it. Their brand has taken on a spiritual dimension. For example, BMW sells pleasure today, not cars. We recall that Arcelor lost the battle against Mital because the company simply defined itself as a (good) producer of steel when it could have, for example, defined itself as a transformer of the world of objects that surround us. So we will find meaning in working for companies/brands that may employ us or not, because they give us a sense of belonging to a great design that transcends the products or services sold. We become part of communities that make the world a different/better place. Clearly, this is also the issue of the French Post, the only way to overcome the legitimate debate today around its status and its privatization. That is certainly what Orange pursues with its communication on "its" internet that is "different" from the Internet… Now that the planet is in danger, that economic growth is going to be shared by all, that religions are no longer enough, all this is not a pitch from the ad agencies, all this is essential in the true meaning of the word. I should also comment on the enterprise and its duty to guarantee the material welfare of the population, but this is a subject of political economics out of my reach. In a global and delocalized economy, I would think it is up to the state to take charge, more than before.

On how to successfully work once you have found meaning, I think we should move urgently to 2.0 tools in the enterprise, not least because they already exist outside the enterprise. Stop the torture by stacks of poorly interconnected application silos where the employee as a worker is caught between several chains of assembly lines to infernal cadences. The fate of Prometheus seems almost enviable in comparison. It is high time to establish a unified search engine that communicates with all enterprise sources and applications, as well as social networking and collaboration tools... We have to provide a humanly manageable working environment. It's not a question of return on investment even if the said return is huge; it's about respect for employees or subcontractors. When enterprises offer such tools, a sticking point is resolved. It's just tools, but what can a good workman produce without the right tools...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sinequa enters the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Information Access Technology

Sinequa is the only new entrant this year in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Information Access Technology. I'm happy and proud for the whole Sinequa team and for our partners and customers.

I believe we have an incredible product. We are soon going to reveal new customers in the US and major deals.

I can't wait to see the traction that Sinequa Corporate Search 7.0, our revolutionary Scalable and Linguistic Enteprise Search Platform will generate on the market.

Friday, July 31, 2009

If Bing + Yahoo = Microhoo THEN Google ~ Microsoft and THEN Facebook + Twitter = $$$

Bing + Yahoo clearly make Microsoft a formidable competitor to Google on the Internet.

As Don Reisinger points out in "
10 Reasons Why Is Microhoo Good for Enterprise Search", all the ingredients are now combined for balanced competition between Microsoft and Google: 1) critical market share (Microsoft + Yahoo account for nearly 1/3 of the market), 2) technological know-how (I hope the transition for our dear friends who have gone from Sinequa to Yahoo a few years ago will not be affected by the new restructuring), 3) financial resources, 4) strategic envy.


This war is finally on a level playing field (awaiting the regulatory approval which may take a small year) and will have a clear positive effect for users of Internet search engines. It is expected to force the two competitors to increase their innovation and user benefits to retain their customers and grow their market share. There should be less pressure on monetization of each user, for fear of losing them to the competition.


This will be an opportunity for Google to return to its roots, as in the days of "No Evil", and to pay even more attention to its products and customers, from the user point of view. Don Reisinger thinks that Microhoo will prevent Google from becoming a Microsoft. In this regard, I see no problem to become a Microsoft, it would be quite a compliment, but it is my personal view.


Nevertheless there is another way to look at the subject. Indeed, Google and Microsoft are two giants engaged in a titanic tug-of-war, a race for power and functional wealth. That is, who will be the best search engine on the Internet? But it is interesting to note that (see the excellent Wired article about this on Facebook's plan to dominate the Internet at the expense of Google) there could be a shift from the paradigm of complete search on the Internet with the emergence of social networks and social search. Indeed, taking the technological point of view, remaining in the logic of engineering pioneers, we can do a remarkable job technologically and industrially but risking to forget one small thing: the customer, the user.


Finally, what the user needs are answers to their questions, they don't care whether it comes from the best search engine; most often I prefer information that comes from a trusted third party: a friend on Facebook or LinkedIn, a media source that I like, the twit of a known person. Is it better to find a pizzeria in the yellow pages (yes, they still exist ...) or on Google Maps, reading a dozen unknown comments on the quality of their pizza, or is it better to find a post, a twit or other from a friend who recommends the Pizzetta, a nice pizza place just a few steps from where you are (because Manu the server is very nice and the whole wheat pizza dough is organic and the Buffalo mozzarella is so good you'll believe you're at the heart of Puglia...). Personally, I prefer the second approach if it's possible. Interesting that Twitter has just released an internal search function this week.


And the business model you say? I don't worry; years of entrepreneurship have taught me one thing: satisfied users are worth something; just as one cannot indefinitely prefer their operating accounts to their clients, everything gets paid for one day or another. I therefore believe that the two giants will differentiate themselves as much by their intrinsic qualities as by their ability to find ways to work with social networks, especially Facebook, Twitter, and why not LinkedIn. From this point of view, Google has a small disadvantage in my opinion, this attitude of "fake cool". This slightly condescending way of looking at others like a child prodigy who would not want to grow old and see other young emerging talents. If Facebook has refused their offer and sold a stake to Microsoft, it may be because of this immodesty. But Google is a great company lead by very smart people motivated by humanist ambition, they will surely soon correct this and it will certainly help to manage their strategic partnerships better.


I wanted to write about this subject because it has lots of parallels with what we are experiencing in the enterprise search engine market. Those who know Sinequa know that one strong focus of our product is people search and integration of enterprise search into the enterprise social networking tools (see my post Searching What or Searching Who). Using text-mining, we are trying in particular to enhance enterprise social networking by leveraging the data from other sources and vice versa. At Sinequa, we must simultaneously work hard on difficult technological issues sometimes close to infrastructure (management of very large volumes, speed, language relevancy, text-mining, security, real time, integration into or with heterogeneous applications...) and at the same time we are ultimately judged on something quite simple: the customer's smile. Apple is a good example of successful management of this paradoxical injunction, the iPhone is a technological feat, however, sometimes with choices that others would not have made (no 3G or no video for a very long time for example). Without technological excellence: no iPhone, but without a radical desire to satisfy the client at the expense of technology: no iPhone.


I cannot detail the choices and strategy of Sinequa, but those who know me have seen all the value that I attribute to the smiles of our customers.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Searching What or searching Who, special thanks to Eric Juin

In the title of his article (in French), "Search : Sinequa searching What or searching Who", Reynald Flécheaux, Editor of the Mag IT ( illustrates issues Sinequa has identified in recent years: enterprise search is not just about seeking documents. Incidentally, this is an opportunity to read (in French I'm sorry) a clear, well structured article and to see a nice screenshot.

Let's explore this idea that enterprise search is not limited to finding documents. Very simply, let's start from the business driver: why do enterprises need a search engine? Answer: It depends, but facilitating access to document/information is rarely the only goal

Indeed, behind the need for information, there is knowledge and experience, particularly knowledge within context for better decision making. Users of the Sinequa solution are not scholars in quest of new knowledge, and they are professionals who wish to carry out their missions. For example: 1) a manager wants to have the full client history to sell a new life insurance product, 2) a lawyer wants to find the answer to a question related to property taxation, 3) a researcher wants to know if the patent that he/she plans to file uses a state of the art technology already discovered by another researcher of the same company.

In other words, what do our users need? Of course information, but integrated in the context of their objectives and business needs. Often we prefer identifying the relevant person or persons in order to ask questions, or to initiate collaborative efforts, instead of just reading a document.

That's why Sinequa extended the functionality delivered to Bouygues Construction in 2006 (see article in French by Bertrand Lemaire for CIO Magazine "Bouygues Construction is guided in an ocean of information"), who's brief could be reduced to: "any foreman experiencing a problem must be able to identify others in the company who have had a similar experience." Sinequa has developed around its search solution a set of people-oriented features and application-level integration with important collaborative tools and social networks. Eric Juin, Director of KM and e-services at Bouygues Construction, has inspired us and helped Sinequa to better understand these topics. I personally thank him.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The impact of the crisis on confidence in IT: buyers more rational in the image of Saint-Gobain

The economy and our society as a whole are suffering from a lack of trust inherited from the financial and real-estate crisis. The IT industry is no exception, but every cloud has a silver lining, as CIOs are now becoming more rational in their business decisions.

One of the problems identified at the beginning of the global crisis was the opacity of financial products. As a result of combining, deriving, and reevaluating assets and their potential, portfolios became more opaque. The value of a product was difficult to relate to its content, and depended too much on the vox populi, of what the market dictated, rather than the real content and value of assets. It was the same for the balance sheets of publicly listed companies. Some customers, including the most illustrious, trusted the advice of leading firms (analysts, banks, etc.) and bought assets they did not understand or take the time to fully evaluate, particularly in terms of risk. Conversely, some global companies like Saint-Gobain, for example, a world leader in several businesses, were clearly undervalued in terms of their industrial reality.

The software industry also appears quite opaque with its patterns, its acronyms, its omniscient analysts. There are free products on the market along with others that are worth millions. How do we set the (fair) price of an IT project and the software, and what is the added value - why is it sometimes so difficult to decipher the marketing of a software vendor and the logic of their pricing? What is the real price to pay for the complete project, taking into account maintenance and future developments needed?

How do we place confidence in those who claim to evaluate the software industry and mostly just read the marketing materials of the vendors? Again, there are big brands : consulting firms, analysts and of course, software vendors themselves. But just as the largest asset management bank could not protect its customers from a Madoff investment, no industry analyst can protect a CIO who has invested in a solution for its brand more than the actual quality of the software…

Some companies prefer to pay five to ten times more for software from a leading brand vendor. Rather I should say that there are certain departments making these decisions, because I doubt that in these times of financial and budget crises companies continue to find this spending behavior acceptable. I was pleased to recently learn that some consulting firms have started working for senior managers to analyze the rationality of investment decisions made by their IT departments.

I wish to personally thank and pay tribute to Saint-Gobain, who conducted a rigorous analysis of its business needs and the value delivered in their selection of an enterprise search engine provider. From a list of 10 vendors, 4 were short-listed and fully tested as described in the article (in French) by Jean-Claude Streicher "Sinequa imposes itself in large companies." Without being put to the test, Sinequa probably would have lost this deal due to lack of awareness. Saint-Gobain would have paid more for a solution probably less suited to meet its needs, and would not even have found a vendor capable of solving the problem of security management within the search engine. Here on the contrary, the project was completed with a delay and budget that were less than originally estimated.

A problem highlighted recently due to the financial crisis was the importance on the global economy of unregulated areas that represent tax havens. Why regulate Paris, New York and Singapore if other places do not play the game with the same rules and if the balances can be "tipped" with impunity. What's the parallel with IT? The mix of genres in IT between the different players (analysts, resellers, consultants, experts ....) generates opacity and confusion that sometimes pushes the limit, like when inviting prospective clients to luxurious seminars, offering them consulting, in order to launch calls for tender that will only include certain vendors; "We give you this but will make your company pay more for it later". I think the IT industry and its customers will not tolerate these practices much longer, and the benefit of this crisis is perhaps to increase rationality of customer buying behavior. The heroic days of cowboy salesmen, and dandies with flashy cuff links, is over. This is good news for those who play cards on the table, just focusing on creating value within their product for their customers.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Data Base is just another source, a tribute to Molière’s play “le Bourgeois Gentilhomme”


A lot has been said about the convergence between Business Intelligence and Enterprise Search. I've discussed this with many customers and partners wondering if yes or no, like Mister Jourdain who was speaking in prose without knowing it, Sinequa was already doing Business Intelligence. My view is that sometimes we talk about Business Intelligence when it would be more fair to talk about DataBase Offloading.

« Database Offloading » means using a search engine to query and use the content of a database. The database was designed to manage transactions, and not to optimize access to its content in order to rapidly populate third party applications. For example, a database where all the transactions of a bank are stored and managed contains information that could be accessible in order to give an immediate unified view of a given customer's history.

  • The "IT 1.0" solution was to copy the database content in a datawarehouse, then allow querying of this datawarehouse. This solution was the result of technical limitations or hard facts inherited from the past (cost of hardware, databases performance,…). Today this looks too heavy and costly for the job done.
  • The "IT 2.0" solution is to use an Enterprise Search engine to index the database content and therefore facilitate access to relevant information. Some parameterization may be necessary to complete this. The search engine must be precise, robust and scalable, completely designed using Web standards in terms of architecture and technology. Moreover, a next generation Enterprise Search engine will also be able to generate distributions on quantitative criteria related to a specific column. Sinequa allows this approach. A pioneer of this intelligent solution is Jean-Paul Figer, former CTO of Cap Gemini and today running his own IT architecture company; he promotes this in a REST styleJ (cf. sorry this is in French. REST, un style plus qu'un standard). Jean-Paul Figer has been able to take advantage of the disruption brought by search technologies and he can divide the cost of a project by 10 or more; more important he can reduce the time of implementation. A good Enterprise Search engine, like Sinequa, contributes in this case to huge improvements in productivity. However, this approach is not properly addressing Business Intelligence but more specifically « Database Offloading » and application rewriting in REST.

I'll conclude this post underlying that a second step is possible, when a Search Bus with good management of security rights is available: expand applicative possibilities to content beyond the database perimeter, indexing information from less structured sources, and therefore contributing to a 360° vision of the customer (or any other relevant subject). Here again, scalability, security management, connectivity, make all this possible.

The idea of this post came from the post of Adriaan Bloem, Analyst at CMS, who explains that using a search technology to access the content of a database at a lower cost is smart, but has more to do with « Database offloading » than with Business Intelligence.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Google Docs, Security and respect of access rights: is the possibility of a leak acceptable?

As published by TechCrunch, Google Docs has shared docs without permission. So it seems Google Docs has had a security leak. Some users were able to see what others had produced, despite the sharing and access rules in place. It is true that technology bugs are common, but is this kind of problem serious or not?

I think there are two issues: one is factual and related to what has been unduly shared and the damages occurred. The other is more intangible, it is the lack of confidence generated by the room for error. How can an individual work confidently if the fruit of their labor and their intellectual property rights are likely to be violated? How can we accept from the enterprise point of view, that confidential information is subject to leaks?

The principle of the Enterprise 2.0 is the sharing and exchange of information. This works because there is confidence in the tools available and particularly with one underlying condition: respect for the integrity of all user data. Several CIOs of Sinequa customers, particularly in banking, consulting and administration sectors, have rightly chosen our solution because it guarantees the respect of security rules. Conversely, I know a bank that installed a search solution (that I will not name) for their shared directories: the first day when the service went live, an employee searched for "executive bonus" and got the list of the bonuses of the executive team...

When it comes to security, we must demand zero risk. If for example the search solution is not designed to manage security at both the application and document levels, if the user access rights are not taken into account at the heart of the index, but "a posteriori", we are in danger. This is one reason that led Sinequa to develop its own application connectors. If the search solution does not permanently refresh user access rights in conjunction with new security rules (user profile changes, a public document that is now confidential...), there will always be a security risk leading to periods in which users can ask a question and get information that they should not see...

Personally, I think that non-compliance with user access rights and the risk of security leaks is unacceptable. And you, what is your opinion?


Sunday, February 22, 2009

SINEQUA : SPEED AND VOLUME, keeping the relevancy and the rich functionalities


Sinequa just finished a first series of tests on our new version of Sinequa CS. I must confess I'm very proud.

Without any specific optimization, the results generate a lot of enthusiasm here. Sinequa has long been ahead in terms of relevancy and functionalities. When others did not see the point of managing security, linguistics or connectivity, we already solved these issues three years ago. We now have developed a new architecture including the necessary options to fulfill enterprise search needs at the kernel level of the technology, while at the same time generating first class performance. Sinequa technology is today at an unparalleled level of performance for this level of functionality. There will be detailed product data sheets coming soon, but in the mean time, here are a few points:

Number of queries on a large volume of users: up to 1700 simultaneous queries per second on one bi-processor server (average response time around 10 milliseconds). In production, our most demanding customer today manages up to 400 queries per second but with multiple servers, we actually generate here an improvement of around 50 times compared to the previous release of the technology. More importantly, it's highly sufficient to serve any customer needs.

Capacity to manage large volumes per server: one single server has indexed around 100 million documents (enterprise documents) in a few dozens of hours, and the server limits had not been reached. The server is a quadri-processor with 32 Giga of RAM (yes… it takes what it takes), so this is very promising; it represents a huge improvement for Sinequa, especially considering the performances come with a complete linearity based on the number of servers. We can now index the integrality of the enterprise content without consuming a lot of hardware resources, and this will be done in a reasonable time, and with sufficient refresh. For precise indexation time and volumes, I'll wait to have all the data per types of documents, since a PDF or a word document , an excel spreadsheet or a html document can be quite different. As an example, one entry level server(4 processors and 8 Giga of RAM): can index a little bit more than 1000 press documents per second, which means around 100 million documents in 24 hours (per server).

Capacity to index a database on an entry level server
(4 processors and 8 Giga of RAM): 5000 lines (or database objects) per second, which gave around 20 million lines per hour and finally 100 million database objects indexed in 5 hours. Maximal number of insertion per seconds: 10,000 which means in the end 100 million in less than three hours. I have recently read the performances of a competitor who was proudly indexing 30 million database objects in ten hours on a server. Sinequa does 6 to 7 times faster, and we are talking about a competitor who's main competitive advantage is supposed to be scalability.

We are impatient to see this new release of Sinequa being exposed to the users and content inside the enterprise; the rich functionalities of Sinequa combined with this level of performance, should give results that users will notice and vote for. We don't have long to wait as next month the first customer will be in production…

Monday, February 2, 2009

Desktop Search vs. Enterprise Search: a very different game

I was pleased by my conversation Friday with a knowledge management executive from a large international firm. He considers that desktop search has little to do with enterprise search, which was not how he saw things six months ago. Customers or analysts sometimes ask me why Sinequa doesn’t create a desktop search product, except when we adress very specific customer needs. There are two reasons: one is functional and linked to the usage, to our vision and our value proposition, and the other one is technical. The two work quite well together.

The functional reason is simple, Sinequa is an Enterprise 2.0 specialist. This means that through our enterprise search solution, we deliver individual productivity as well as collective intelligence.

  • I am convinced that the Enterprise 2.0 serves this goal, making sure that anyone in the organisation is efficient and in phase with the rest of the company (what is new and disruptive here is the idea that productivity comes just as much from rich interactions as from organisation schemes and processes, cf. my december 2008 post « Taking advice from the ants »). In other words, collective intelligence comes from better interactions between employees. A prerequisite is that each employee must have access to shared information within the appropriate context. That means access to shared knowledge, according to his/her profile (i.e. a sales person must not have access to the knowledge of the CFO). This knowledge includes but is not limited to: documents, information within applications, employees who could provide valuable advice, or those who are interested in the same topic, or who would be relevant for the user to know of, customers that will be impacted, and so on...
  • An exhaustive enterprise search solution such as Sinequa CS, equipped with all necessary connectors managing security and access rights, providing advanced extraction functionalities and appropriate scalability can offer all this. All that needs to be done is to deploy the indexation on all the applications (CRM, ERP, PLM, HRS,...), the Intranets, the file systems, the mail servers, …

  • Some say that desktop content should be added to that shared content. I think this is highly inapropriate. As a matter of fact, information on the desktop happens to be… personal. Sure it must be easily searchable, but it should not be mixed with enterprise shared information and knowledge. The two applications (desktop search and enterprise search) should be different including the functionalities they offer. If not, you would get the worst of both worlds. One can actually legitimately compare desktop information with real world desktop and office documents: everyone of us organises his/her files according to his/her own needs. I file documents in a way that helps me stay efficient. What is on my desktop or in my drawers is there to help me do my job, and there is no capitalisation or sharing preocupation there. When I capitalise or share, it's from outside of my desktop. It does not mean that things should not be easily accessible and archived on my desktop (of course I need to be able to retrieve quickly from my drawer). But it could be dangerous to mix those contents with the rest of the enterprise content. That could lead to a massive slowdown of individual productivity. Indeed, it is important that when an employee searches something other than his/her own files, he/she searches only on the updated, validated, complete data sources, the ones that are on the shared environment. If the enterprise search always brings back personal desktop results, the employee will tend to go to those first (they are already known, I don't have to read them, just recognise them), and the risk of missing the right information increases.
  • On the contrary, when I search within the shared content of the Enterprise, I search, then navigate, then need to check what I have found,... It's a different mental process from retrieving a file on my hard drive. In the end, mixing both search applications is thefore dangerous and confusing and will also slow down the shift to the Enterprise 2.0. Guess what: employees are more likely to continue to work alone.

I’ll be more concise on the second and technical reason.

  • Desktop and desktop search is a discipline in itself, it happens to fit perfectly in the ergonomy of the desktop; not using too many resources to slow down the desktop. Moreover, I'm already familiar with the documents on my desktop since I am the only one downloading them on my hard drive. As a consequence, I can be satisfied with a very basic keyword search to find a document I already know exists. I do not need to search within context: the date, format, or location on my hard drive are enough to help me remember the context of a document. And desktop search must completely integrate within the operating system. Virtualisation does not change the argument.
  • It is quite interesting to notice that vendors selling a desktop search and an enterprise search solution actually sell two different solutions with no real technical integration. There are no synergies, not even commercially, as most desktop search solutions are free. In that respect, desktop search has a lot to do with World Wide Web search, I'll do a specific post on that...

In conclusion, I recommend Microsoft Windows Desktop Search if you are using Windows (free), or Google Desktop (free). For your Enterprise search solution, it shouldn't be a surprise if I tell you I would pick Sinequa CS. But most of all, I strongly recommend testing the solution in the real environment, to keep in mind the complete deployment scope of the project, and be sure to talk to exisiting customers of enterprise search vendors. By the way, the best enteprise search solution integrates seamlessly with good desktop search products.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Autonomy buying Interowen illustrates a revolution in Enterprise search market

Autonomy gets blamed for many things, but Autonomy sure has a strong appetite and some ambition. I respect that. Congratulations for doing such a move at a time when so many others are sitting watching financial markets go down, laying off people... Autonomy is very brave, or maybe they just have to go down that road? I have always seen a great similarity between the dynamics of Autonomy and Oracle so I naturally found Alan Pelz-Sharpe's (Analyst at CMS) comments on the subject most interesting

When Alan compares Autonomy with Oracle, I think he's hitting something big. Oracle started as an enabling technology and chose (or had to choose because of its size or culture) to change its value proposition and to become an application vendor. A database, like a search engine, is an enabling technology, it makes many things and applications possible.

But Oracle chose to become more of an application vendor and less a technology vendor. Were they scared of Microsoft's database or of the emergence of open source, or envious of SAP's profits and customer loyalty? In other words, did they lack technological excellence or faith in their capacity to stay the best technology, or did they see that another market happened to be bigger and was generating higher margins? I guess the answer is not relevant; what is relevant is that they made that move, and let companies like Business Objects take the BI market (ironically enough to later become part of SAP). On the other end, the value always ends on the end-user desktop or i-phone or blackberry, and the application was the way from the database to reach the end-user.

I think there is a parallel between the evolutions of Autonomy and Oracle. Autonomy is turning away from search and moving towards search-enabled applications. Nobody will dare to say this could be because their product or technology is not good enough, let's all agree it is just because they see better margins elsewhere. But I think that even though Autonomy is a very well run company and is making wise financial decisions, they will miss an important market, because in the case of search, the way to get to the end-user happens to be search itself : Search is a technology that also happens to be the ultimate application...

Most of Sinequa's competitors, like Exalead for example, say that enterprise search will become a commodity, a market for Google, Microsoft or Open source, and just like the leader Autonomy, they move towards verticalized applications, BI-like search, Governance Risk Compliance solutions,... a blue ocean where a lot of money lies for those that will solve very specific information access and management needs.
This is great news for companies like Sinequa, because this time the huge market is the enabling technology: Enterprise Search itself. It is so because the value of collaboration, of sharing information, of providing better access to knowledge, happens to be the real goldmine for companies. And it is 100% delivered by enterprise search. It is anything but simple to deliver, just as, a decade ago, it was not easy to deliver a good enough exhaustive web search engine. But we never learn...

The economic crisis will probably slow down infrastructure players in their capacity to ramp up on their enterprise search solutions, and my bet is that they will always have a lot of trouble connecting their search to the outside world anyway. The economic crisis will accelerate the verticalization of Autonomy and alike. Meanwhile, organizations absolutely need to do more with less, to develop productivity and collective intelligence and only enterprise search solutions will make this happen.

That looks like an opportunity for companies like Sinequa. This is not a dream, dreams are for higher purposes like the one President Obama realized for many of us this last November, but this is an ambition I share with most of my colleagues at Sinequa and especially with Alexandre Bilger who runs the company with me. And you will see, "Yes we can"!

Monday, January 12, 2009

2009 starts well for Sinequa

The financial crisis became an economic crisis affecting all industries and companies. In this context, I am satisfied by the good results of Sinequa and conforted that we took the right management and business decisions.

Sinequa has been recognized for the second year in a row as one of the top three French software vendors with the highest annual growth rate (we were first in 2007 and are third in 2008 of the AFDEL EuroSoftware 100 ranking). After a reorganization of the company (recrutment of a VP of alliances, reorganization of a slightly oversized management team, externalization of some of the research team whose work seemed to far away from our core business and customer needs) and thanks to our tight budget control, we should be EBITDA positive for the fifth consecutive year. And we continue to experience strong growth. Very encouraging, our indirect sales are starting to represent more and more volume and the public sector (unaffected by the crisis) represents a stable 25% of revenue. For example, one administration generated 500 K€ of revenue last year and was brought by a partner, just as a recent new signature (an English financial institution).

Controlled by its management and strongly supported by its financial VC partner X-Ange (backed by the French Post), Sinequa just received additional financial backing by OSEO and a large French Bank. All together, the available cash we can count on represents a year of revenue, this is more than sufficient for a profitable company. Beyond this financial security, we have been offered financial funding to support strategic development initiatives ... we remain very conservative on this possibility though.

On the product side, our new offering easily manages a billion corporate documents. Features tailored to the professional environment and its ease of deployment, provide the high end industrial solution for enterprises, beyond a simple search engine, a solution for collective intelligence (I will comment on it in another post). Some of our customers also deploy the research modules in video, sound and images. I am very pleased that our vision (connectivity, security, scalability, relevancy and the enterprise 2.0) meets the needs of customers. This is our main goal, which drives us and our evolution, and I am not afraid to say it is our obsession, our 'raison d'etre'. And for new customers just to speak only of France, the deployments at Saint Gobain, Sagem Communication, in SFR or Atos Origin, Le Figaro or at Courrier International or L'Equipe TV ... appear to be highly satisfactory.

I was also pleased to note in the December 2008 article in Wired magazine devoted to Ray Ozzie, the replacement of Bill Gates at Microsoft, that he put in place at Microsoft a way of working that we practice at Sinequa (i.e. small teams, a large open space, white boards everywhere...). 2009 will certainly be an eventful year for the economy, for the software industry and for search engine vendors. One of 10 forecasts for 2009 from the analyst firm IDC is a "re-invention of access to information and analysis will accelerate in 2009 driven by the fiasco of the financial industry, the increase of data ...". IDC believes that major players like EMC, Google, HP, IBM, ... will buy companies like ... Sinequa (IDC cites several others, including our fellow French Exalead who matched our revenue figures with strong growth last year while continuing to post losses of around € 5 million annually). I think not, I think this year is not conducive to mergers and acquisitions of quality. I believe that those who are well positioned and managed with modesty like Sinequa will continue their development, while unprofitable start-ups generating a lot of noise but little financial results, will face a tough period during the economic crisis and it will be difficult for them to negotiate their rescue by leading industrialists who are too busy with their own passage through the economic crisis.

Link to download the IDC article:

Link to article in French:

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Why invest in videoconference infrastructure

Work together from anywhere!
A sound business decision
An investment and a mandatory evolution for companies

For intra-enterprise and sales or administrative interactions, today videoconferencing allows the organization of a meeting of two or more people with a level of quality comparable to a real-life meeting. There are two prerequisites for this: specialized equipment (cameras + software + screen) and a (very) high speed connection (between minimum 3Mbit and 20Mbit). All those who have experienced one can confirm, this is a virtual meeting that is comparable to a physical one.

This mode of interaction is clearly the future. More and more large companies are acquiring videoconferencing rooms and on average, videoconferencing can reduce travel expenses by 30% (source It's economical but also environmentally friendly as a large company can replace up to 20,000 annual trips by videoconference meetings, preventing the release of 2200 tonnes of CO2 in the air.

The investment required for an individual or a large meeting room has not stopped falling and will continue to decrease. Today we talk of spending a thousand or a few thousand Euros on quality equipment, then add the cost of a very high-speed connection that is now in the order of €100 per month (but this should decrease with the development of fiber optic coverage).

We are experiencing globally strong growth of people working from home. The reasoning is simple: why spend 2-4 hours per day in transportation to come to work in an open space where we will mainly sit behind a computer with a phone? Why pay rent to house employees who work primarily with people (internal or external) who are located elsewhere? In some countries, employees are increasingly moving from their workplace only for exceptional meetings, or to meet with customers. But their office is located at home. Therefore they can be home for important moments (caring for children, helping a sick spouse, ...) or simply enjoy a better quality of life with less stress of daily commuting. The company optimizes its costs and, above all becomes much more effective. This is sufficient if the employee has a home broadband connection, a computer and videoconferencing software.

Beyond the environmental issues and sustainable development (reduction of CO2 emissions, better use of space), beyond the economic issues (reducing transportation costs, lower office rents, minimization of non-productive time employees spend traveling to and from the office), this is also an essential change in the best practices of the company of the 21st century: in order for the company to have the flexibility necessary for its proper operation, it must offer its employees the ability to work together regardless of their location. In addition to the natural tools that provide the contact and context (social networks and enterprise search engine), the company must provide the proper videoconferencing infrastructure facilitating exchanges and rich collaboration.

Some would say that with e-mail and instant messaging, a mobile or VOIP phone, and webconferencing software has everything you need. I think they are wrong. What matters for virtual collaboration to be effective, is the quality of the exchange, including listening. The fact we play "together", being "in sync". To do this, human beings need an experience equivalent to a face-to-face meeting, brought by the videoconference call, unlike the conference call or the webconference.

My personal experience in watching my customers and partners, is that the companies that make this effort to transform their infrastructure benefit not only from the expected in terms of efficiency, but a gradual transformation and sustainable development of the state of the general work atmosphere. The company becomes more coherent, more consistent, more collaborative. Again, the parallel with the enterprise search engine is striking.