This week marks my six-month semi-anniversary with RSG and indeed my first 6 months as an industry analyst. When I posted my first entry on this very blog back in February, it was a slightly snarky swipe at the emergence of "Big Data" as the topic de jour -- suggesting that it was at this stage more of a vendor play than serious evidence of technological advancement.
Looking back, what I missed amongst my eagerness to de-hype was something more important and more troubling: that all the shenanigans surrounding "Big Data" masked what we sort of knew, but pretended not to notice. I'm referring to the great big vacuum in the heart of the Enterprise Search market.
Vendor consolidation -- like IBM swallowing Vivisimo earlier this year -- is perhaps partially to blame. Looking beyond that however, especially in the area of real technical innovation, the search marketplace is best characterized by a paucity of excitement. That presumably suggests that either search is now perfect or search cannot be profitable, neither of which anyone would sensibly suggest is true.
Something similar is afoot in the world of Web Content & Experience Management (WCXM) technology too, as my colleague Irina pointed out in her recent post "Still too early to retire WCM." The almost rabid focus on the "experience" bit seems to suggest that vendors have all got the "content" bits perfectly sorted out. Our research on the matter, however, begs to differ. Indeed, reading a recent missive from an WCXM vendor CEO that digital marketing is the sole goal of web content management made me almost cry hot tears of rage.
Where these two seemingly separate hype cycles intersect is in their assumption that something actually quite important has become a commodity. That the "content" bit in WCXM or the "search" bit in Enterprise Search / Big Data is solved. That everyone can do it to a more-or-less equal level of competency and therefore the whole bandwagon moves on in search of fresh ground on which to camp.
Big Data is interesting for certain. However recent reports suggest that interest in it for now is largely limited to small-scale sandboxing for the vast majority of customers, as they struggle to deal with the multiplicity of tools required to turn these huge volumes of data into the detailed analytical reporting that many, if not most vendor-inspired use cases seem to rely upon.
There is something really important to consider here; namely that the there is an increasing gap between the what vendors are pushing as important and what real customer use cases actually demand. The focus on and creation of the term "experience management" wasn't generated by customer demand or a persuasive market trend, but rather as a result of a collaboration between a vendor and an analyst company to find a new way to position the technology.
You may have a Big Data problem, or opportunity. Just as in previous years, you may have had an Information Retrieval or Enterprise Search challenge/opportunity. The core problem of making sense out of large sets of information remains largely unsolved. It surely makes sense to revisit possible solutions, just remember to focus on what your organization truly requires, rather than aligning with vendor buzzwords.