I am sitting here sipping my morning coffee in the Tradewinds Resort in St. Pete Beach, in Tampa Bay, Florida. I flew in to attend the XPLOR conference from snowed-in Boston last night where I had another fairly tiring meeting with Forrester Research.
By chance I had arrived when Forrester’s Andrew Bartels just held a presentation on the economic outlook. Following current industry estimates he believes that the IT industry will start to see growth again from the 4th quarter 2009. Well, could be. If nothing happens in between. I found more interesting that he proposes that we are at the beginning of new cycle of IT spending for applications that are ‘smart‘. I am in principle agreement because we started that with our User-Trained Agent, but the term ‘smart’ has been so oversold that it will be hard to use it that way. He then suggested that the ‘smartness’ would have to be focused on certain market verticals and here my question was why? If the software was smart enough it would adapt to the needs of the vertical. He said, it would not be that smart. But after a little discussion I came to agree that some knowledge acquired by our User-Trained Agent could be valuable within the vertical – if the business is willing to share it. Another subject to be clarified in the near future …
I have said previously that I prefer Forrester over many other analysts because they are attentive. I have met with Craig LeClair and Sheri McLeish to discuss an upcoming report on customer communications or CCM, which is an expansion of the previous DOM Document Output Management field. Craig and Sheri are very knowledgable in this arena and it was still extremely difficult to get the functionality of the immense spectrum of Papyrus across. I was my second visit because during the first one hour session there was not enough time to discuss the Papyrus Interactive and On-Demand functions. It will be very interesting to see what comes of this resarch. As we are covered by Forrester for the first time (because I had not bothered before) my expectations are low. I cannot imagine that they will let us leapfrog the ‘established’ players on our first participation no matter how good we are.
A couple of discussion points are worth sharing with you. First, Craig did say that he considers the number of installs in the US as a measure of product quality. So now you know why you will find the large players up front and it is not because they have the better product. When analysts consider market share and revenue, they rate advertizing budgets and sales tactics but not how good the product is for the user!
One point of poor rating was my sceptic stance towards the use of ‘standard’ XML. There is no reason why native use of XSL-FO would ensure higher quality and accuracy of processing than conversion to an internal format. According to Information Theory the functionality of a language such as XML is not intrinsic but defined in how the tag structure is interpreted and executed in the code. There is no difference between a conversion to internal formats or mapping one XML to another. As the meaning of XML tags is never fully defined (try to look up and understand XSL-FO descriptions!) the quality of interpretation is always limited. This is proven by the available open source XSL processors which are not compatible in function. Therefore all software vendors have their own special versions. Conditional processing, resource management, font support, multiple codepage support and external SVG charts make the use of XSL-FO a propietary affair.
There is one acceptable XML benefit that is obvious, when you are transforming into a web document. But for any serious business application you have to create an electronic original (sometimes even digitally signed) that you need to present and transmit. It is a grave mistake to accept the limitations of XML for transactional business documents for this tiny benefit. Additionally the presentation of XSL into web browsers is not standardized either. An enterprise user only gets controllable document quality by presenting to either image, AFP or PDF.
Another point Craig made was that only Adobe gets the highest mark on PDF support. I see. Thank you for admitting that PDF is still a proprietary format. Why do we not get the highest mark for being best in supporting the Papyrus Repository?
Craig also took issue with our Papyrus EYE user interface, saying the FLEX is better because there are more developers for FLEX on the market. We do not need programmers with EYE but FLEX is better because there are more programmers for it?
George Colony, Forresters President, focuses on the other hand on a Business Architecture as the basis for tomorrows applications. Yup, that is the way to go and that’s what we supply with the UML2 models in our Papyrus WebRepository. I am bracing myself against the disappointment of Forrester rating us poorly because they can’t understand the power of our repository that are also valid for a seemingly simple communications application. But then all formatting vendors claim to have a repository, because they just call it that. AIA ITP has a directory with a couple of configuration files and a few tables with text and letter structures and they call that repository??? Get real, please.