Showing posts with label semantic web. Show all posts
Showing posts with label semantic web. Show all posts

Monday, September 17, 2007

Transcript of B2B Search Trends Podcast Based on Enquiro's Survey Findings

Edited transcript of BriefingsDirect[TM] podcast on B2B search usage, trends and future direction with host Dana Gardner, recorded June 26, 2007.

Listen to the podcast here
. Watch the video here. Sponsor: ZoomInfo.

Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you're listening to a sponsored BriefingsDirect podcast. Today, a discussion about online search and its role in business-to-business (B2B) activities, particularly the research and acquisitions process for people who are in businesses trying to find goods and services. They seem to be using search more than ever.

We're going to look at a survey conducted last March, a fairly recent look at B2B users, their relationship to search, and how search is shifting based on the findings. Joining us to discuss this we have the originator of the survey, President and CEO of Enquiro Search Solutions, Gord Hotchkiss. Welcome to the show, Gord.

Gord Hotchkiss: Thank you.

Gardner: Also joining us to add some analysis and perspective on where search for B2B activities is going is Bryan Burdick, COO of ZoomInfo. Welcome, Bryan.

Bryan Burdick: Dana, thanks for having me.

Gardner: It seems that people, whether they're buying consumer goods, small business supplies -- anything from Gorilla Glue to guided missiles -- are using search at some point in this process. Some people start and end with search. They actually buy the products through a search process. I want to start by understanding a little bit about the survey itself and the fact that it’s the second survey that’s been done on this B2B search activity, the first being in 2004.

So, let’s go to Enquiro with Gord. Tell us a little bit about the history and some of the major bullet points of this particular survey?

Hotchkiss: As you said, we did the original survey in 2004 and, at the time, there wasn't a lot of research out there about search in general, even on the consumer side. There was virtually nothing on the B2B side. We knew search was important, just from what our clients were saying and the results we had had, but we hadn’t done anything extensive enough outside our client base to start to quantify how important it was.

The first survey was an attempt to do that. It certainly proved that search was important. We found that online activity, in particular that connected with search activity, was consistent in a large percentage of purchases. In 2007, we added more insight to the methodology. We wanted to understand the different roles that are typical in B2B purchases -- economic buyers versus technical buyers versus user buyers. We also wanted to get more understanding of the different phases of the buying cycle.

We structured the survey so that we could slice the data based on those parameters and get more insight into those areas. As far as the main takeaways from the study, obviously online activity is more important than ever. In fact, we asked respondents to indicate from a list of over 30 influencers what was most important to them in making the purchase decision. Online factors, such as interaction with the vendor Website and interaction with the search engine were right up there with the traditional winner, word of mouth. What we see is a real link between those and looking for objective information and specific detail.

A lot of that search activity happens on specific properties, and we’ll be diving into that a little bit later in the podcast. We did notice an evolution of behavior as you move through the funnel, and the nature of the interactions with the different online resources changes how you navigate to them and how you go to different sites for information. But, online research was consistent through the entire process, from awareness right through to purchase.

There’s a lot of back and forth. Offline factors influence online activity and vice-versa. So, we saw a merging of the online and the offline worlds in making these decisions and trying to come to what’s the right decision for your company or what’s the right product or service.

Gardner: Tell us a little bit about Enquiro. You are a marketing, consulting, and research firm. Is that correct?

Hotchkiss: Yes. We work with clients in putting together their search campaigns in the B2B space, but we also have an active research arm. So, we're continually doing research primarily on the usability and qualitative analysis side, but we do survey work as well. The purpose of that is to provide more insight into how consumers use search and how businesses use search to make buying decisions.

Gardner: Three years between these surveys is probably not a lot for many businesses, but it’s a huge amount of time in the search industry. What would you say was the biggest difference in your results and findings over this three-year period?

Hotchkiss: Surprisingly, we didn’t notice huge trend differences in the three-year period. If anything, we saw increased reliance on online factors and probably just more activity online and more interactions with sites, but it was the continuation of a trend we saw in 2004. We didn’t see any big shifts. We just found increased reliance on online to do that research.

When we say "increased reliance," we're probably talking 10 percentage points up over the three years. So, if 65 percent of the people were doing it in 2004, 75 percent of the people are doing it now. That’s primarily where we saw the trends going.

Gardner: And, you say that that you're also seeing search applied to this process in different ways and different facets. For example, word of mouth would tip someone off to go look for something, and the first way that they look for it is by using search.

Hotchkiss: Yes. When we looked at the different phases of the buying cycle, it starts with awareness. You become aware that you need something. There was a high percentage of people -- in the high 60-percent range -- who said, "Once I become aware that I need something, the first place I'm going to go is the search engine to start looking for it."

A lot of that traffic is going to end up on Google. It was the overwhelming choice among general search engines for B2B buyers.

But, as you move through the process, you start doing what we call a "landscape search." The first search is to get the lay of the land to figure out the information sites that have the information you are looking for. Who are the main vendors playing in this space? Where are the best bets to go and get more information to help make this purchase decision?

So, those first searches tend to be fairly generic -- shorter key phrases -- just to get the lay of the land to figure out where to go. As you progress, search tends to become more of a navigational shortcut, and we’ve seen this activity increase over the last two to three years. Increasingly, we're using search engines to get us from point A to point B online.

As you get into the buying process, you’re familiar with the vendor site. You’ve been on the site. You’ve checked different product information pages. As you come back to that research process, you say, "I really want to find that product spec sheet that I saw on this vendor site." A lot of that navigation to those specific pages happens through a search engine. So, there are multiple touch points through the process.

Gardner: Now, you did this search in March, and you surveyed 1,086 people, North Americans, mostly women -- 63 percent -- average age 43 years old, with 67 percent of them having at least attended university.

Hotchkiss: Right.

Gardner: Can you tell us little bit more about these people? Are these people that you acquired through strictly business activities? How did you know that they were in a purchasing mode?

Hotchkiss: When we structured the study, we used our sampling partner, Survey Sampling International, for access to their B2B decision-maker panel. In two different parts of the survey, we asked, “Are you currently considering a purchase in excess of a thousand dollars?” That was a qualifying question. If they answered yes, they got to continue the survey.

That’s how we determined what role they were playing in this purchase that was happening right now. What were they considering purchasing? What was influencing them? We wanted to use a purchase process they were in the middle of, because it would obviously be fresh in their minds and they could really tell us what they were going through, as far as what influenced them.

We also wanted to get a retroactive view of a successful transaction. So, in the second part of the survey, we asked them to recall a transaction they had made in the past 12 months. We wanted to see whether that initial search led to a successful purchase down the road, and, at the end of the road, how the different factors influenced them. So, we actually approached them from a couple of different angles.

Gardner: Now, 85 percent of these people say they're using online search for some aspect of this purchasing process. It strikes me that this involves trillions of dollars worth of goods. These are big companies and, in some cases, buying lots of goods at over a hundred thousand dollars a whack. Do you concur that we're talking about trillions of dollars of B2B goods now being impacted significantly by the search process?

Hotchkiss: Absolutely. The importance of this is maybe the most mind-numbing fact to contemplate. Traditionally, the B2B space has been a little slow to move into the search arena. Traditionally, in the search arena, the big advertisers tend to be travel or financial products.

B2B is just starting to understand how integral search is to all this activity. When you think of the nature of the B2B purchase, risk avoidance is a huge issue. You want to make sure that whatever decisions you make are well-researched and well-considered purchases. That naturally leads to a lot of online interaction.

Gardner: I suppose if I am making a $100,000 purchases, and I make a mistake, I am not going to be around for long. Right?

Hotchkiss: Exactly. The other thing is that we don’t tend to be as emotionally involved with the B2B purchase. Things like branding play different roles than when you're doing consumer purchases. The brand affinity is something you might have if it’s an area where you don’t have a lot of experience. It may be a new need that’s coming on the horizon for your business. You are really starting from Square One, and that’s the perfect place for search to plug in and be the solution when you start researching those purchases.

Gardner: Right. These folks are looking for practical approaches and real information. Let’s go to Bryan Burdick at ZoomInfo.

This is growing quickly as an overall trend, but ZoomInfo, which is focused on business search, is growing much more rapidly. What’s driving your growth at ZoomInfo, and how does that relate to this B2B search activity?

Burdick: The business information search is a primary factor driving our growth. Our company right now is growing on two fronts. One is our traditional paid-search model, where we have subscription services focused on people information that is targeted at salespeople and recruiters as a source for candidates and prospects.

The more rapidly growing piece of our business is the advertising-driven business information search engine, which I think is a really interesting trend related to the concept you guys were just talking about. Not only does the B2B advertiser spend lots of money today trying to reach out, but the B2B searcher has new tools, services, and capabilities that provide a richer, better, more efficient search than they’ve had through the traditional search engines.

Gardner: By far, the largest player in this is Google with, according to the Enquiro survey, 78 percent use by this group of respondents. Way down the line was Yahoo!, and then far below that was MSN. It strikes me that Google is a general search engine, and yet we are asking for very specific business information.

Bryan, do you expect that we are going to see some sort of a specialization or a cleaving between general search and more vertical specialized search?

Burdick: Absolutely, and, in fact, that’s really ZoomInfo’s mission -- to do for the business-information search world what the Expedia or Travelocity did for travel search. When you think about it, you can actually go to Google and find an airplane ticket, but why would you?

It’s so much more efficient to go to one of these vertical search engines that are looking at the databases, looking at the data, and indexing it in a much more efficient way. You're starting to see that in a lot of other verticals. Travel has been the quickest to adopt that, but everything from business information, like ZoomInfo, to podcasts with Podzinger, and other types of vertical searches, have been focusing on a niche and organizing the content more efficiently.

Hotchkiss: One thing we found in the survey is that there's a natural evolution through the process. Although you might start on Google as you are trying to find those information sites, quite often it’s the verticals that people work into as they are starting to look for specific, more granular information on the companies they're thinking of doing business with. That’s where ZoomInfo and other vertical players fit a need.

Gardner: I suppose another thing that seems the same from 2004 to 2007 is the importance of a supplier’s Website. According to your survey findings, people are very interested in word of mouth. They use the search engine to move from that point to gather more information, but they're very quickly interested in solid, simple, straightforward, text-based information from the suppliers themselves. I suppose that underscores the need for sellers to have a very strong Website.

Hotchkiss: That was a really strong finding, and not really surprising. It made sense, but I think how important the straightforward information was to the people doing the research was somewhat surprising. It’s one of those things where you get findings in research and then afterwards, when you apply common sense to it, you say, "Yeah, that just makes sense."

But, remember these searchers are out to gather information for an organizational buying model. They are gathering information that will, in a lot of cases, be passed on to other individuals to help them make the decision as a group.

You don’t necessarily want to sit through a linear presentation of information, like an online video, or even a podcast, if your intent is just to pickup specific data and pass it along. Now, if you are the user, and this is that something you are going to be using, you may be a lot more open to a linear how-to demo. But, it’s important to match the content on your site to the types of buyers and individuals who are gathering the information.

The takeaway we got from this was to make sure you're covering the basics first. Make sure that you're getting the clear concise product information out. In a lot of cases, you know you are going to be compared to the competition. Why not enable some of that to happen on your site and make the buyer's job easier by arming them with the necessary equipment.

The number one thing that came across as desirable was pricing information, which is really tough for B2B marketers to put on the site, because in a lot of cases these are complex solutions. But, what the buyers are looking for is qualifying it in a budget range.

Is this a $10,000 purchase, a $100,000 purchase or a million dollar purchase? I need to know that to qualify, so I can move on. Please give me that information. It can be ranges. It doesn’t have to be specific, but I need to be able to qualify it.

Burdick: Dana, I would add that some of the typical mistakes that a B2B marketer will make from a search-engine marketing perspective is jumping too quickly or focusing too much on the actual advertising piece. They need to do that, but sometimes they forget about the search engine optimization. Very often, they leave that up to the technical team, which may optimize the search or the site in ways that aren't optimal from a marketing perspective.

Then, as Gord was saying, they get the user, or the potential customer, in there and the customer gets lost on their own site, searching for the type of information that they're looking for. It’s not like a consumer model, where the consumer already knows, in most cases that they are looking for a DVD player or whatever it is. They may even have a model number, and they're looking for the best price online. It’s much more of an information-gathering process in the B2B case.

Gardner: Perhaps the takeaway here would be that people want to get just the facts upfront and they want a ballpark figure, but they also want to be able to use search to get to that information fairly quickly.

So, if you’re going to optimize your site, your key information can’t be 18 pages deep into the search process, but you also have to consider that factual information needs to be as accessible as your main branding page.

Burdick: Absolutely.

Hotchkiss: One more point on that. A lot of B2B marketers like to capture as much information about a lead as early in the process as possible, so it can be handed over to the sales department, which can close the sale.

But, what happens in a B-to-B purchase is that the first touch point with your vendor Website is typically not the decision maker, the ultimate decision maker? It tends to be somebody who is gathering information to help arm the company to make that eventual purchase decision.

So, if you push to establish contact with that person, they're not ready to establish contact with the vendor, because they don’t have the buying power. Even if you do push to get it, your salespeople are spending a lot of time following up on leads that aren’t qualified buyers. They have to retrench down the road and try to re-establish connections with the person who has the economic power.

So, it’s really a "date," and, in a lot of cases, it’s a long series of dates. If you push too fast you are just going to push the prospect away.

Gardner: You don’t want to propose on the first date.

Hotchkiss: Yeah.

Gardner: On the other hand, one of the findings from the survey was that 50 percent convert to a sale online. So, that means that when the research, winnowing, triage, and the comparative shopping are over, the economic buyer, who is empowered to make a decision, will go back online and consummate the deal. Does that make sense?

Hotchkiss: Yeah. Here's some further insight into that, because we saw that number surprising when we did the overall data. When we pulled the data apart, we found that a lot of those purchases tended to be things like computer systems, where they might have been buying through a Dell or someone like that.

Gardner: The direct model.

Hotchkiss: We thought that was a really high online conversion rate. As we looked at the data a little more, we saw that in a lot of cases it was smaller software purchases or system-based hardware purchases. That made a little more sense, as we went down that road. There was a fairly strong manufacturing component, where people were buying parts and different things. In those cases, a lot of those purchases are made through an electronic marketplace. We're seeing that as an increasing trend too, e-commerce-enabled market places.

Gardner: I suppose it's also logical that when the price or the total purchase price is less than $50,000 or closer to $10,000, they’ll be more likely to do that online confirmation and make a purchase. To me, this says that small- to medium-sized businesses selling small types of goods should be very focused on search and B2B online activities. Does that follow?

Hotchkiss: Everybody needs to be focused on search. I can’t see an exception. You mentioned the percentage that said they would go online. We segmented out the group that didn’t indicate they go online to see what was unique about them.

The only thing unique about them was their age. They tended to be older buyers and tended to be with smaller organizations, where the CEO was more actively involved in the purchase decision. That was really the only variants we saw. If it’s a generational thing, then obviously that percentage is going to get smaller every year.

Burdick: Dana, could I ask Gord a follow-up question to that?

Gardner: Of course.

Burdick: I'm curious whether, as you dug into the data, you saw any differences between online follow-throughs to purchase on hard goods versus services. I'd think that people buy computers online, but if they're buying services from a B2B company, that tends to be offline.

Hotchkiss: When we were looking at influencing factors, B2B services was the one where word of mouth edged out online factors by a significant margin. When you're trying to retain a service, word of mouth is still very influential. In pretty much every other category, online was right up there with word of mouth, in some cases edging it out as an influencing factor.

Gardner: Okay, another number from this was that 95 percent said they use search to find what they want at some point or another, but 37 percent were still seeking other sources. There seems to be a recognition that search is very powerful, that it’s a tool that shouldn’t be ignored under any circumstances, but that it's not getting the entire job done. Bryan, I wonder if you could respond to that. What else needs to happen in order for these people to get what they need?

Burdick: The short answer is they just need to come to Seriously, I don’t think it’s a matter of needing more information, but, in some cases, finding better information. When you think about the traditional search engines -- the Googles and the Yahoos! of the world -- there are so many consumer-oriented search transactions on a day-to-day basis that they have optimized their experience with the consumer in mind.

Search engines like ZoomInfo and some of the other business-information search engines are taking a different approach and optimizing the search experience, and therefore the relevance of the results, with the business-information searcher in mind. You can much more efficiently and quickly get to the information you're looking for.

The simple example that I like to use is that if you search for "enterprise routers" on Google, you are going to get 32 million results that will include everything from Enterprise Rent-A-Car to the latest episodes of Star Trek. Search for that on a business search engine like ZoomInfo and you'll get 150 companies that sell enterprise routers or manufacture enterprise routers. It just becomes a much more efficient process.

Gardner: Well, even the alternatives cited in this survey are still very general. There was and Thomas Register. This is every good under the sun. It might as well be a general search. KnowledgeStorm was also mentioned, but it's very specific to IT. It seems like there’s a whole category that needs to be filled here around vertical business search.

Burdick: The original survey that Enquiro did for us in 2004 was a key factor in our decision to move to more of a search-engine model, because what we see happening is the same kind of evolution that happened with the big search engines way back. It’s happening now in the vertical-search categories, where search engines started out as directories or, if you think back to Overture in their early days, totally paid listings.

Eventually those two forces came together to provide a best-of-both-worlds situation, where you’ve got not only great relevance on the results, but also great relevance on the targeted ads, and now that’s starting to happen in the verticals as well.

So, you’re starting out with some of the business-directory sites or the business paid-listing sites, because those are easy to do. As the technology gets more sophisticated and you can provide more relevant results for the business information seeker, you are delivering the value that the information seeker is looking for. Plus, you can target the ads better and provide an overall better experience.

Gardner: Let's go back to Gord on that. The survey found a larger percentage of people looked at the organic results on the left, but they were pretty much limited to the top four. A smaller percentage, about 12 or 13 percent, said that they look over to the right-hand side for the ads. That 13 percent might sound small, but compared to a click-through rate in a Web advertising model of usually less than 1 or 2 percent, 13 percent is still a pretty large chunk of people. What’s your impression of the impact of the advertising model in search for B2B activities?

Hotchkiss: Those percentages, by the way, aren’t that different from what we've seen in consumer-based research. Those breaks between organic and sponsored tend to remain fairly consistent across a number of different channels. One thing that’s just golden about search is it will connect a motivated and engaged user with the content they are looking for.

If that content is provided by a relevant ad, then they're open to that. In fact depending on where they are in the buying cycle, they may even be biased toward that, because they are ready to get information from somebody who is trying to provide them what they need to decide whether this is the thing they need to buy.

There's a totally different interaction when you're on a search engine actively engaged in a task and actively looking for information. You're far more receptive to messaging at that point. You're actively looking for it. And this seems to be slowly breaking into the consciousness of most advertisers. They're getting it, but they're getting it slowly. Anyone who moves into the search space, if they do search in a smart way and they capitalize on the potential of it, is just amazed by the return they get on this.

Gardner: Let’s beg a little more from these results than was intended. I started to see in the findings some patterns about typical processes, about how people would go about this activity -- the awareness, the research, the purchasing, and so forth. It seemed to me that there was, on one hand, a pattern of word of mouth that led to a search, that led to a Website, that then led to a refined search based on what they found, which then led to a hand-off to a purchasing activity by maybe a different department or individual.

There also seem to be offline influences, perhaps trades shows, perhaps traditional sales calls and activities, but that also took into consideration word of mouth that then identified what to search on, and so on. Am I reading too much into this, Gord, or were there patterns of process around the use of search in the purchasing activity?

Hotchkiss: It goes back to what I said before. Search tends to be the thing that connects you, as you move through the buying process, and it’s used in different ways and places as you progress through that. As far as identifiable patterns and usage behavior, if you did an end-up study of a large enough dataset, patterns would emerge. They always do emerge, but I'm not sure we would be confident enough diving into this particular dataset to try to tease that out of it.

What we did see is that B2B buying decisions are tremendously complex when they are compared to an individual consumer buying decision, where you have one person going through all the phases. You have multiple individuals influenced by different factors going back and forth.

What is consistent in that is whatever is influencing you -- whether it’s online or offline, a discussion with a colleague or a recommendation by a paid consultant -- there tends to be a mirror activity, in which whatever happens offline generates some kind of online activity that typically is initiated through a search engine. Then, you pull that information back, and it dances back and forth between the online and the offline world.

Gardner: So, there’s a barrier here in some senses. I'm sure most companies, especially the larger ones, have a standard operating procedure about how purchases will happen. It will be form x, y, z, and it will go through process review a, b, c, and then we’ll have to get signatures from individual g, b, h. How can we bridge this value that people see in search, and somehow bake that into a procedural process inside of an enterprise. Or are we asking too much here?

Hotchkiss: One of the interesting things, being both a researcher and a vendor, is we get to see both sides of it. We have access to more information than ever before, and buyers out there are armed with better information before they ever initiate contact with a vendor. They are gathering a lot of information and then they are trying to cram it into an existing buying process, whether that’s an RFP process or whatever.

So, like most things with the Internet, the traditional systems are being challenged by this new access to information that we never had before.

Over the next two to three years, what we're going to see is organizational buying processes being streamlined and being able to incorporate the fact that you have better informed buyers than you may have had before. The whole RFP process was to eliminate risk. The reason was make sure that you are considering alternatives and to make sure that you are almost forced to gather the information you need to make a dispassionate judgment about what was the best choice.

Now, in a lot of cases, the decision is already 80 percent made before the RFP process ever begins. Somebody has researched a vendor, has a very strong feeling about the vendor but now has to try to fit that into the established procedure, and they say, "Okay, now we've got to go out and find two or three more alternatives."

Heaven help the other two or three alternatives that are getting involved in that process. They have to go through the whole dance, but usually the preferred vendor on the front end gets the business on the back end. The other two or three players are just used as negotiating chips to try to get the price down. It’s interesting to watch how information from the Internet is changing virtually everything out there. This is no exception.

Gardner: This might be a little bit out in the future, but the role of search could morph into the role of auction and brokering activities. Does that make sense?

Hotchkiss: Yes, and for players in the space -- I suppose ZoomInfo as well -- if we can streamline the marketplace, if we can take this access to the information and make the buyer’s job easier, that’s a tremendous saving. I would hate to think of the number of man-hours that are invested internally in an organization for a fairly major purchase decision. How much more efficient you can make that process by simply empowering them with the information that they are going out to look for anyway?

Gardner: Bryan, you said that the Enquiro survey in 2004 made an impact on ZoomInfo in terms of its direction. Have the findings from 2007 had a similar influence? What new directions might you be heading in?

Burdick: As Gord had said earlier, the findings in 2007 reinforced what they had already learned three years ago. So, in one sense, it confirmed our own strategic direction as well. We re-launched the site back on April 1, and moved into more of a traditional search-engine model, where all of the content, all of the search capabilities on are free and subsidized by advertising.

We’ve seen that piece of our business take off like crazy in the last couple of months. Search traffic has grown dramatically. We’re up to close to 5 million unique visitors a month doing about 16 or 17 million searches a month on our site. All that is really driven by this need, this desire, among B2B buyers to find a more efficient process to get at this type of buying information.

Gardner: What advice would you have for those folks that are on the selling side of this? What should they do to position themselves in order to take better advantage of what’s occurring on the buyer side, particularly, in their use of search?

Burdick: There are a couple of landmines or traps to avoid. The first is to try to avoid competing with the consumer brands, either on the traditional engines or with the same types of keywords. If you are buying the same keyword as a consumer brand is buying on one of the traditional engines, you are typically going to get drowned out by the noise.

The other thing is to make sure that your own search marketing is coordinated with channel partners. I’ve seen lots of examples where the manufacturer is buying a set of key words and their value-added resellers are buying the same keywords. They end up bidding up the same keywords just to attract the same eyeballs. At the end of the day, the manufacturer is going to direct them to one of the resellers anyway.

Gardner: So that leads to confusion, rather than streamlining that particular process.

Burdick: Exactly. The other key thing, which we already touched on, is leveraging not only on the marketing side, but the search-engine optimization of your site in general, and optimizing the search-for-information experience that the buyer has once they get to your site.

Hotchkiss: One thing I would add on a more fundamental note is to make sure that the perspective you are using to evaluate your search strategy is the customer’s perspective and not your internal one. One of the common pitfalls we see is companies get into a bad case of "internal think." They look at everything from their internal perspective, and they are not shifting the looking glass 180 degrees and looking at it from their prospect’s perspective.

It’s amazing how enlightening it can be, when you start looking at what types of sites they are going to. You need to catch their attention, and know what kind of messaging you have to present and what kind of onsite experience you have to present, once you are successful in capturing the click. If you can force yourself to see from that perspective, you're going to do more to improve the effectiveness of your campaign.

Gardner: Well, thanks very much. We’ve been discussing the recent survey by Enquiro Search Solutions. It was Enquiro’s 2007 B2B search survey, and to help understand it better we’ve been joined by Gord Hotchkiss, the president and CEO of Enquiro. Thanks, Gord. Is there anything meaningful in the survey that we didn’t cover and that you think we should?

Hotchkiss: The original release covers the high-level findings. What we're working on now are three follow-up white papers that will be available on the site through the next three to four months. We're going to take each of the three buying roles that a lot of people within the survey fell within -- the economic buyer, the technical buyer, and the user buyer.

We're going to do insight from that particular buyer on how to search more effectively, plod through the process a little bit more, and how those hand-offs happen from role to role. I imagine there are going to be new insights out of that. We're taking different slices of the data. So, for those of you who are interested in that, keep checking out on and we’ll ping you as those white papers become available.

Gardner: Terrific. And we’ve also been joined by Bryan Burdick, the chief operating officer at ZoomInfo. Is there anything that you’d like to cap the discussion with, Bryan?

Burdick: Only that I think from a vertical business information search perspective, that we’re really in the first inning here. A lot of interesting trends and enhancements are going to be coming down the road. One in particular that may have an influence in the next year or two is the community aspect within the search.

Gord, talked earlier about how there are multiple people that influence the B2B buying decision. I think that you’ll start to see a marriage of, not only B2B search, but also online community and a factoring into that whole process. Then, who knows where we’ll go from there? But I appreciate you having us on.

Gardner: I suppose that this notion of word of mouth being so important in shaping people’s direction that you might use search to find the word of mouth.

Burdick: Right, the word of community.

Gardner: There it is. Okay, well thank you, Bryan. This is Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions. You've been listening to a sponsored BriefingsDirect podcast. Thanks for joining.

Listen to the podcast here. Watch the video here. Sponsor: ZoomInfo.

Transcript of Dana Gardner’s BriefingsDirect podcast on B2B search usage, trends and future direction. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2007. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Content Becomes King Once More – This Time of Search Marketing

Edited transcript of BriefingsDirect[TM] podcast with Media Survey's Sam Whitmore, recorded April 24, 2007.

Listen to the podcast here. If you'd like to learn more about BriefingsDirect B2B informational podcasts, or to become a sponsor of this or other B2B podcasts, contact Interarbor Solutions at 603-528-2435.

Dana Gardner: Hi. This is Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you're listening to BriefingsDirect. Today, a podcast discussion about the future of marketing -- maybe we can call it Marketing 2.0?

We're going to talk about content creation as a strategic activity, and we're going to talk about what the PR and marketing folks in the field, in the enterprises, in businesses, are making of all of this.

Joining us to sift through it all, we have Sam Whitmore, founder and editor of Sam Whitmore’s Media Survey. Welcome to the show again, Sam.

Sam Whitmore: It’s great to be back, Dana.

Gardner: It’s been two years since we started these conversations. I came to you as a professional providing tools for the media pros, asking, were they making blogs, were they making podcasts, what about RSS? And you weren’t sure. But do we have a new state of the art? Are people into this now? Is it a fad or are we really into something substantial?

Whitmore: It’s as close to substantial as it’s ever been. There are many segments, and we should be careful about generalizing, but in our world are the people that are likely to listen to this podcast. People understand about RSS feeds now. Microsoft Vista, entering the market with Web feeds, moved the marble a little bit -- and it's a very exciting time.

Gardner: I just got back, Sam, from the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco and was very impressed with the use of RSS, particularly as a machine-to-machine capability. Folks that are creating content, and then creating distribution networks using these within the mashup interface, the rich-Internet application interfaces. RSS is really a very popular tool for developers, and that’s going to hasten its appreciation for those a little higher up the food chain who are thinking about strategies, marketing, outreach, community development and so forth.

Whitmore: We're now getting people to understand the concept of "You don’t have to browse anymore." They still search, of course, probably more than ever before. But think about the two ways that people get their information now. It's either through RSS syndication, or through search. And it’s almost quaint to think back about, "Yeah, I think I am going to go through my bookmarks and see what I haven’t visited in a while." I don’t know anybody who does that anymore.

Gardner: The thing that’s interesting to me, and what’s changed in my business in the last year or so is this emphasis on search. Search, from what some people tell me, is the "new media." When you want something, you know enough about it to start a search. If you're a little bit diligent, you can find just about anything you want. That includes B2B content that describes products, values, and services that companies want you to know about.

What’s been interesting for me is that as I have created content -- some of it of by my own creation and, and other content that is sponsored -- people want help in creating content. As an analyst, I can moderate a panel or discuss something with users, and then make that available to many people. But that content has now become a very powerful force in search, and I did not intend it that way.

I intended this content to be something that had more of an RSS play value. But what’s happened is that the content is a search-ranking benefit for the topics we cover. I will blog about this content on three blogs, and I share it with distribution partners who are often IT media companies like TechTarget and E-Commerce Times. I also share it with direct subscription-based content deliverers to IT decision buyers, including Books24by7, AnalystPerspectives, Gerson Lehrman Group's News, and Insight24.

There are a number of channels that this audio and text content then finds its way into -- where it's tagged, has a different URL, and is associated with a different Web domain. The search engine crawlers and the algorithms that rank content take a look at this content and say, “Wow, it's going across multiple domains, it's been tagged a lot, it’s been put into bookmarks, and linked to -- so it must be highly relevant." And this content tends to move up swiftly in the search ranks.

So, my question to you, Sam, is: Are you seeing search marketing as I am seeing search marketing -- that it is becoming as important as advertising?

Whitmore: In a word, yes. I'll know a lot more in a couple of weeks, because at the end of the month, out in San Francisco, I will be going to ad:tech and hanging around with that crowd. But, it's been building for a while. The investment in search-engine optimization (SEO) and some of the acquisitions that we have seen, such as big, multi-national marketing companies now snapping up the iProspects, and iCrossings, are doing a great job. So, it’s definitely being built into the mix. That’s what Content 2.0 is. And you’ve really staked a high ground in that, haven’t you?

Gardner: I am trying.

Whitmore: So, you tell me. How are you doing with that? Is it driving your business?

Gardner: It is. About 90 percent of my business is now supported through custom podcast content creation. And I even hesitate to use the word podcast anymore, because for me, podcasting is really a means to creating content -- and not an ends. Just as you and I are having a discussion now on the phone, and I can create a transcript from this in about two or three days, that means this content can be widely distributed through multiple modes or modalities across different distribution networks and partnerships. We can even license it to people to use and create more content.

That’s sort of led me to another concept, which I call the "content pyramid." Interestingly enough, I’ve stumbled onto this in the same fashion that I stumbled onto search as an important element. Because I look at software development and deployment strategies as my main domain area for coverage -- and then I am more of a practitioner of Web 2.0 in terms of how I deliver content -- I’ve noticed over the past five years or so, a more strategic approach to software development.

That is to say, there's a new way, instead of small groups off doing their own thing, creating their applications that run autonomously on a monolithic stack of some kind, that have no real relationship to one another, and that at some point I might have to integrate and/or assimilate the data that they contain and create. The idea is to take a strategic overview and to think about applications from an architectural perspective.

The idea is to think of applications from their lifecycle, not just how we create them -- but how we might want to use them in the future, or even sunset them. Then think what we’re going to do with this pile of data that, in many cases, is about the same customer or the same product, but in a different format in a different application? This one-off approach is just not productive, and it’s expensive.

Companies are spending 70 to 80 percent of their IT dollars just on maintenance of these existing applications, and are not doing innovative new things. There has been a whole host of things that have happened around, "Hey, let’s create components, let’s use standards, and let’s develop around a common framework such as Eclipse." So, there’s more of a strategic approach to software.

Ultimately, the goal is a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) where you have lots of different business services that you can then package, mash up, and aggregate to create different processes. Then, you can tear them apart and build them up again. It’s more of a use-reuse, common-repository mentality, and not just one-off production.

Whitmore: All right, so let’s see how you pull this off with content.

Gardner: The idea is to start thinking strategically about your content, instead of having thousands of people around your company, each creating their own content without much interaction, without much coordination, but perhaps a lot of overlap and a lack of reuse, adding to redundancy. That goes for everything from mimeographs to RSS feeds, and all in between.

But when you think about content more strategically, and can plan for and create core content that can be reused and extended across different uses -- like marketing literature, the documentation you provide for your services and products, your advertising, as well as your communications with your investors, with analysts, with the press -- you create more of a coordinated core set of messages and documents and content. We'll be seeing more audio and video increasingly in this mix.

If a company can create this content core and allow people to use it and make it accessible -- in the same way as with the development of software tools and components -- you can better control your costs. You can better control your message, because more of your messaging will be in sync, because it's all coming off of the same core. You can create a lot of this core without having to go through a sixth-month review process, and without taking up your experts’ and your company’s time by forcing them to write 80-page papers.

Maybe this whole notion of the conversation that is prominent in social networking and in Web 2.0 -- of having a series of conversations, capturing it as audio, turning it into text, reusing it across different aspects of your communications, and increasingly, capturing it as video as well -- will allow for a much easier way of gathering knowledge from your experts and users, keeping it on message, and then making that available as a set of core content.

Now, it’s a vision. There is always going to be a lot of need for exceptions, but conceptually starting to think about content strategically to me makes a lot of sense now.

Whitmore: Well, I know that Netflix has somebody in the CCO position, Chief Content Officer, and that they have looked into that as a fundamental principle of communicating to their constituencies, their prospects, their customers, their investors, and people like that. So, it is a good idea.

Gardner: It’s really all about content discussion and community. As more companies outsource and offshore elements of their production and distribution, and as more business services become available off the wire, what is it that’s going to define the business of the future? It’s going to be their relationships, and the way that they foster those relationships is through ongoing content-based discussion.

We now have the ability to distribute content far more widely, but, at the same time, in a more granular sense -- that long-tail concept -- more widely, yet more targeted, and more cheaply than ever. So, you can create a 30-minute movie, put it on YouTube, and almost anyone on the planet has access to it. Anyone, by the way, who does a search on the key issues about your value, your products, or your company gets to the content.

More companies will be making some pretty high-quality, interesting, 30-minute, maybe 15-minute movies. We are already seeing this. There was a great one on SOA that IBM did not too long ago. Are you, as a marketer, going to want to have someone else define your messaging for you? Or are you going to start thinking about doing this yourselves?

Again, IBM is a bellwether in this, at least in the IT space. They’re just creating scads of content. And when you go to Google, if you type in "SOA" or "Services Oriented Architecture," which is an important direction and business opportunity for IBM, the left hand side of the search page, that free-content stuff, is littered with IBM content. Discussions with developers, whitepapers, mentions in press – these are the things that get vetted by the search engine algorithms as being relevant.

Any company that has a strategic direction in which they are taking their business should say, “What are the keywords that relate to our future? What is the content we can create that will drive recognition from those keywords of our value, specifically as an individual company? And how can we create an ongoing process by which we’re feeding that algorithm machine over and over again to retain that high ranking?"

That to me is Marketing 2.0.

Whitmore: That model works hand-in-glove in uber-search environments like a Yahoo!, YouTube, or Google. But in the world that I follow, you've got the IT and tech media really trying to drive their brand, because they don’t want you to go to Google and type in “SOA.” That would be a terrible defeat for them.

Gardner: But, you don’t want to limit yourself to one media company’s input. What these media companies should be doing is the same thing their customers are doing. That is to create the very best possible content on the key subjects of interest of the day, and have them appear high up in the general search ranking. So, when I do a Google search on “SOA,” I’d just as well see an article up there by InfoWorld as one that is from IBM. But either way, if it's good and valuable information, that’s what I’m going to look at.

Whitmore: But as you get closer to, “I've got to make a decision on a reseller or a solution provider or vendor," then I think that I am not going to trust IBM. They are not going to be my goal because they are going to be omitting the stuff about BEA and its competitors.

Gardner: Well, we hope that BEA and its competitors are creating content about their value and that it’s also available. Obviously, buyers will be moving from research, into creating a shortlist, into an RFP process, getting into weighty, detailed discussions, and then ultimately buying negotiations. This Marketing 2.0 approach is completely complementary to a traditional sales, research, and then execution process.

Whitmore: It absolutely is. They can work in parallel, and these IT trade titles and these people that are being rapidly disintermediated need to figure out how to get some of their content to rank well in generic search environments. That brings us back to SEO and the fact that you can subscribe to RSS search results. These people really are getting hammered.

Gardner: We're now leveling the playing field. The best content that is vetted through the algorithmic search process is what’s going to be most prominent. We know that when people do searches, they don’t go more than one or two pages in. Therefore, the IT media, those companies covering IT, need to come up with great content, great columnists, podcasts, RSS, video, whatever it might be, that would show what is voted on as best and vetted.

Whitmore: I have an editorial bias, when I hear the word "content." I think about generic, by-the-pound content. Whitepapers have their place, and product documentation too, but as the 20-somethings and 30-somethings take over the world – and that’s happening – they are not going to accept the same blandness and pseudo-authority that a lot of content has for us.

Gardner: I agree. People need to loosen up, and I've written a number of whitepapers. The way you go about a whitepaper is you do research, you get information, and you do interviews – primary research. And what is an interview? It’s a discussion. Why not just create a great discussion with the experts and put that up, instead of putting it into some sort of a turgid-prose, 80-page tome of which people only read the executive summary?

Why not give the long tail its due, put up a series of five key discussions with the experts you would have interviewed anyway for the whitepaper, let people either read the transcript or glance at the executive summary of each individual interview or discussion, and then pick and choose? To me, that’s just a better way to learn. And it's also a lot easier for the experts as well as the authors. So, it really is a discussion.

There are more young people thinking about community and social networking, and so why not combine all of this into a happy discussion that is also substantive and educates at the same time?

Whitmore: It reflects real people with real attitudes, and not created by the lawyers and the PR people and the conservative forces within companies because that’s simply not going to work. One of my last points questions is, when are we going to see an example of a company relying on "content pyramid" philosophy, and could we prove that they were successful doing so? When are we going to see that?

Gardner: We're seeing dribs and drabs of it. The idea is to look at what’s effective in terms of engagement with your communities. If you can engage your community with a whitepaper from the people doing lead generation, and they get 300 or 400 leads, it’s a success. But when you put something up on YouTube, you get 30,000 to perhaps hundreds of thousands of potential downloads and click-throughs and looks.

The scale is much greater and the cost can be comparable or even lower. You are going to start to see what works in the field. When people recognize that if they are number one or assumed to be in the top several media outlets, they are going to have to be there. Vendors will cultivate the search option too through PR and AR and Investor relations and operate among different channels or distributions of content to reach their end-users and communities.

I can see "search relations (SR)" as another possible definition of people’s approach to this.

Whitmore: That’s a very interesting concept, but from a VP of sales perspective, Dana, I don’t want 30,000 leads. I want the 25 that are in an advanced state of consideration for the product that I sell.

Gardner: Then, you just vet them. You take that 30,000 potential community and bring them down into another level of content that will slough off those who are not interested very much. That’s to say, if they’ll click through and look at a five-minute video, that means there’s mild interest. If they click further down and read a transcript of hear a podcast on a similar topic, but more refined, that shows even more self-selecting and interest.

Then, if they listen to the podcast, you get down to the where it’s a lead generation benefit. That’s where you separate the wheat from the chaff and you get real leads. It's also where the content pyramid works. You need the content to walk them down that path of self-selection.

But, I would rather start with a large universe and work it down, creating brand affinity and relationships with those people, and then find the content and the mechanisms that then bring them to the point where they are ready to sign up for the product or service.

The pyramid is, in that case, inverse – you start wide and you go narrow. But the content creation process should start specific and narrow and then go wide. It has to be two-way discussion. Once you engage the people on a discussion, that’s where you have a myriad of opportunities for bringing them into your business.

Whitmore: Are there examples of people that are prospering with this philosophy?

Gardner: The notion of getting people to a sales-and-marketing activity requires community, affinity, and interest, and you have to lure them in there and then get them to click – whether the click is a download or it’s a lead generation form.

I’d look at some companies that are good at that. I'd again bring up IBM, but I have also noticed that BMC has a very good page, where you can go for information. And this page has got a listing of all sorts of content that has to do with specific values about what they bring their customers.

And they're saying, "Here’s the content that we have created. Here’s content that we found out there that others have created. Here are links to blogs and podcasts that we think are relevant to this. Here’s a download of whitepapers in the traditional marketing literature." It's really just a site or a destination around a topic that’s a subset of their business that people can go to, and then they could get an RSS feed from.

In a sense, BMC is doing their community a service through a knowledge triage around a specific topic that then hopefully will engage the community. So, BMC is a good example. They still have to populate this. People who come back, people who have a subscription to RSS, are going to need something new and fresh coming down their pipe every week or two.

But, they're creating this funnel, qualifying people, and then hopefully getting them into an engagement. It therefore requires these companies to become publishers themselves.

Whitmore: But, most companies don’t have the headcount for that.

Gardner: Why not?

Whitmore: Because usually the executives are going to say, “If I had any spare headcount, I'm going to put it in sales and field marketing and they're not going to get into the publishing business.” They might subcontract it out, but I don’t think they're going to bring it in-house. I’d be very surprised.

Gardner: I was thinking the same thing when I started my business, Sam. I thought that I would be one of those subcontractors – and I am. I basically help people figure out how to make content distributed and keep it credible and valuable. But, I'm seeing more and more companies are actually saying, “We're going to create a studio – a video studio -- inside of our company.”

Whitmore: What kinds of companies?

Gardner: Well, Red Hat, for example, recently had a job posting that they are looking for someone who has experience as a video producer. And they are going to start doing this in house, I suspect. I expect to see the same thing from other companies.

Whitmore: That’s interesting, because they live in a viral world. And Apple’s the same way.

Gardner: Their goal is to get people to download the code that then leads to support and maintenance. That interests business.

It will be a mixture. Some companies aren't going to be interested in being in the content business. They’ll outsource the whole thing. Other companies will say, “Listen, it just makes more sense for us to make this a core competency. We'll still use traditional media, but we're going to create our own media too.”

Let’s think about the numbers here. Let’s say you're a $5 billion-a-year company, revenue-wise, in the IT space. You and I have worked for large IT publications. What was the total editorial budget?

Whitmore: Back in my day? It was at least $1 million.

Gardner: Let’s say you could create an entire weekly news publication that’s the best in its field for a couple of million a year, and you're a $5 billion company. Wouldn’t you throw $750,000 or $1 million at a core competency of content creation, and perhaps soon dominate your space for content, and dominate all of the keyword searches because you're putting up the best, most interesting content?

Whitmore: If I had strong enough leadership, I would.

Gardner: If I were spending five times that much on just advertising -- and half of that advertising was wasted, but I didn’t know which half it was -- wouldn’t I take some of that money and devote it to my own content creation competencies? This is no-brainer. Any company, after a certain critical mass of size and revenue, should look at -- among their marketing spend and advertising spend -- their content creation spend.

Whitmore: Being a student of media, I have observed a collective lack of will across most segments most of the time. When you see the exceptions to this, that’s when you see a feature story. That’s when you see a Q&A. The journalists are out there beating the bushes to find people with spines who do something other than what's expected of them.

Gardner: You know as a former journalist -- and I should say you're still a journalist in what you're doing -- when you beat the bushes, there are always stories out there. There is another thing that's interesting, there's something called News@Cisco, and Cisco Systems created it like a newsroom.

Whitmore: I love that site. That is the absolute archetype for vendor publishing, as far as I'm concerned.

Gardner: There it is. You can go in and say, “We want to talk to you. We're just fine in the field -- whether it’s a sales person, an engineer, another blogger, an evangelist -- what's news and interesting and happening in the communities that affect Cisco? Let’s talk about it. Let’s publish it.” There's plenty of great stuff in there.

Whitmore: Well, that’s a good place to send people. It’s I believe or is it

Gardner: Or you could just go to Google and type News at Cisco, right? I mean, why even think about the site? You go to the search engine. It’s the same way that your clients and prospects are going to find your stuff.

Whitmore: Well, I guess I’m old school and I never realized it. I tried to think of the destination but you're right, I don’t need to, and that sort of makes your point.

Gardner: You can call it lazy but, darn it, it works, it’s productive. If you use search, not just for search, but for navigation, that’s just another reason to look at that as a place you have to be.

Well, we've been having an interesting discussion. I want to thank you Sam, but we're out of time. We have covered some Marketing 2.0, maybe even some press release 2.0. I've been tracking what folks like Shift and Edelman and some of these other firms are doing, where they create a whole slew of rich content that becomes available when a press release or a news event happens, I think it’s very similar thinking to what we've been describing.

Whitmore: That’s right, a content stack. We probably don’t have the time to get into that, but here are the two things, the two litmus tests, that I would point to regarding this social media press-release thing. Number one, who are the vendors using this approach and do they continue to use it once they have started? Do they stick with it?

The other thing is, are journalists publicly saying, "This helps me do my job better and I'm inclined to write longer or richer pieces when I'm communicated to in this new way?" When I start to see critical mass in both of those areas, then we’ll know that the trend is taking hold. Until we see that, I'm still skeptical

Gardner: Well, I would offer one more opportunity for how it could be gauged as a return on investment, and that would be when you do a search on a company. If any of those pieces of press release 2.0 content actually start rising up, then it’s served its purpose too.

Whitmore: You've done it to me again. I didn’t think of "search" first.

Gardner: "Search" -- it’s the new media.

Whitmore: Even though I started with it in this podcast interestingly enough.

Gardner: Search and RSS, yeah.

Whitmore: That’s right. Well, Dana, I enjoyed it as always. It’s great to talk with you.

Gardner: Right, we've been talking here today with Sam Whitmore. He is the founder and editor of Sam Whitmore’s Media Survey at or, heck, just go to Google and type in "Media Survey" or "Sam Whitmore," and you’ll get there.

This is Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you have been listening to BriefingsDirect. Thanks.

Listen to the podcast here. Produced as a courtesy of Interarbor Solutions: analysis, consulting and rich new-media content production.

If any of our listeners are interested in learning more about BriefingsDirect B2B informational podcasts or to become a sponsor of this or other B2B podcasts, please fill free to contact Interarbor Solutions at 603-528-2435.

Transcript of Dana Gardner’s Podcast on Marketing 2.0 with Sam Whitmore. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2007. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 08, 2007

BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Analysts on Defining the New Role of 'SOA Architect'

Edited transcript of weekly BriefingsDirect[TM] SOA Insights Edition podcast, recorded March 23, 2007.

Listen to the podcast here. If you'd like to learn more about BriefingsDirect B2B informational podcasts, or to become a sponsor of this or other B2B podcasts, contact Interarbor Solutions at 603-528-2435.

Dana Gardner: Hello and welcome to the latest BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Edition, Vol. 15. This is a weekly discussion and dissection of service-oriented architecture (SOA) related news and events with a panel of industry analysts and guests. I'm your host and moderator, Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, ZDNet software strategies blogger and Redmond Developer News Magazine columnist.

Our panel this week consists of Jim Kobielus. He’s a principal analyst at Current Analysis. Welcome to the show, Jim.

Jim Kobielus: Hi, Dana. Hi, everybody.

Gardner: Also joining us from the U.K., Neil Macehiter. He's a research director at Macehiter Ward-Dutton. Welcome, Neil.

Neil Macehiter: Hi, Dana. Hi, everyone.

Gardner: Also joining us today we have Steve Nunn. He's the vice president and COO of The Open Group. Welcome to the show, Steve.

Steve Nunn: Thanks very much, Dana, and good morning, everyone.

Gardner: Also joining us is John Bell, an enterprise architect at Marriott International. Hello, John.

John Bell: Hello.

Gardner: We're going to be discussing the role and concept of what’s becoming defined as the "SOA Architect." This is a different role, as we’re finding out, than the enterprise architect, but certainly seems to be part of an evolution of the role of architect within the enterprise and within IT in general.

We’ve invited a representative from The Open Group, in this case Steve Nunn, to join us, because The Open Group has taken some steps to try to define the role of the SOA architect, has created some certification around that role, and is trying to get in front of this role in terms of what will be required in the marketplace. That is, to try to encourage more people to step up and understand this role and to certify themselves, so that the progress and maturity of SOA practices can continue and not face a human resources crunch.

So, with that, why don’t we hand it off to you, Steve? Why don’t you tell us a little bit more about what The Open Group is doing and why?

Nunn: Thanks, Dana. The Open Group and its members have been working in the architecture space for over a decade now, primarily developing something called The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF), but, as you’ve mentioned, we're running certification programs in two specific areas. One is in relation to TOGAF, but perhaps more relevant to this discussion is our IT Architect Certification (ITAC) program.

I guess that sets a caveat at the outset. The terminology around what type of architect it might be -- IT architect, enterprise architect, SOA architect -- is still very much settling down as a topic of debate in its own right, but our program that I can talk about is the IT Architect Certification Program, which is a broad skills- and experience-based program. It's aimed at creating a vendor-neutral program by which individuals can be certified. It provides them with a transferable qualification in the industry, and it enables employers to know that if they prefer recruiting certified individuals, they would be getting somebody who has been through an accreditation process.

Briefly, the process would be that a resume is compiled, which can be quite extensive, up to 52 pages in some cases.

Gardner: Wow!

Nunn: Yeah and then there’s a peer review by a panel of three certified architects themselves who would probe a little on the resume, ask questions of the candidate, and conclude whether or not that individual meets the conformance requirements.

Gardner: Is this process already up and running, or is it something you're still pulling together in terms of how you want to approach it?

Nunn: No, this is up and running. We launched this in July 2005, and as of today, we have just a shade under 2,000 individuals from all sorts of companies and all over the world who are certified under this program.

Gardner: This is the SOA Architect Certification?

Nunn: This is actually what we call ITAC, the IT Architect Certification.

Gardner: I see.

Nunn: It has several levels and covers various disciplines. The SOA-specific part of it is one that we are still working on. We have various horizontal levels under this program. The conformance requirements for meeting those levels have been agreed upon. There’s an entry level and a higher level. We are working on the highest level right now, but what’s also going on is work on the individual aspects of that certification, of which SOA is one. What we’re quite proud of in this program is the conformance requirements for the overall program, and what we're now focusing on are the conformance requirements for the individual disciplines.

Gardner: Perhaps this is a good time to go around the room, so to speak, and see if we’re in some agreement that an SOA architect is fundamentally different from an enterprise architect and why? Why don’t we start with you Jim Kobielus. Do you see these as significantly different roles?

Kobielus: Not really. You have to be an IT architect to be an SOA architect. It seems to me that an SOA architect, or that discipline, is a subset of the overall enterprise architect. I would like to know precisely what other disciplines or practices that one needs to be certified in to be a SOA architect, versus just an overall enterprise architect, I’m still unclear on that.

Gardner: When we hand it back to you, Steve, one of the helpful concepts for me in understanding this was the notion of the "city planner" or "town planner" role. The analogy is that an SOA architect needs to like a city planner, looking at all the resources and infrastructure and how the entire community comes together, managing constituencies and political relationships, whereas an IT architect might have a smaller role. Can you expand on that a little bit?

Bell: Actually, an enterprise architect from my perspective would have the view of the town planner. When they’re looking at the entire city, they're looking at how the various neighborhoods, how the various business zones, etc., fit into that city. The SOA architect, from my point of view, is really more interested in, "Hey, how does that underlying infrastructure allow different neighborhoods to communicate with each other and exchange messages? How are health services delivered across neighborhoods?"

So, it’s more interested in, "Okay, I’ve got a firehouse. Can the fire truck get to the house before it burns down?" The vision of the SOA architect is more associated with the communications pieces within the community.

Gardner: So, the hierarchy might be that the enterprise architect is in the town planner role, the more holistic, oversight uber-architect role, and then a subset of that is making sure that the communication channels between and among these different facets of resources and functionality are behaving well and conforming to what needs to happen.

Bell: Conforming to the standards so that they’ve got a consistent set of standards for exchanging information, those kinds of things.

Gardner: Okay. Neil Macehiter, what you make of this?

Macehiter: In that that classification of the difference between enterprise architecture and the SOA architect, it sounds to me that the premise is that the SOA architect is focused primarily on the plumbing. From a bottom-up perspective, the challenge that many SOA architects face is more around understanding what the services are that need to be delivered in a business-meaningful way, not just about communication and plumbing. It’s also about understanding the high-level, business-meaningful services.

There is a business strategy, there are business processes and priorities, and there are the services we need at a business level. Then, there's a handoff to what’s currently defined as the SOA architect, who will actually define how those services are deployed in technology terms. So, the distinction is quite blurred. A service-oriented approach is one of the methodologies and the approaches that you can utilize to deliver or to support an enterprise architecture initiative. So, I still find a distinction difficult.

Kobielus: I second what Neil’s saying. I’m uncomfortable with just reducing SOA to the plumbing. In the three-layer stack that I carry in my head, the plumbing level is the enterprise service bus, and then SOA refers to development and reuse practices within the development organization to enable maximum sharing and reuse. Then, there’s the layer above that, which is the applications, services and data -- the business processes.

I’ll put enterprise architecture at that very top layer, concerned with the end-to-end set of resources: app services, data, etc. The SOA architect would be the middle layer of the development and reusing. The layer below that, the enterprise service bus (ESB) or whatever, I call that "IT architect" in the sense that it's the infrastructure architect.

Bell: And to be fair, I didn’t mean to imply that the SOA was limited to the plumbing. My intent was saying that the enterprise architect has a much broader spectrum and scope that they have to deal with than your SOA architect has to deal with. Putting it into that city paradigm, you kind of limit it as to how to describe some of the roles. I try to clarify that by saying it’s not just how they communicate, it’s things like, "Hey, where’s the fire station? Do you have a fire station? Where’s your police station? Where are your schools? Where are all those pieces that are providing services to that community and are they adequate for providing the services to their community?" That’s a subset of what a city planner has to do but it’s still an important city-planning kind of function.

Gardner: John, you’re in the trenches, you’re an enterprise architect in a large global concern. How do you see this hierarchy and is this really the right discussion that we’re having?

Bell: My view is that the enterprise architect is at the top of the hierarchy, and at some place, working with the enterprise architect is an SOA architect, and their focus is on, "What are the services that are being delivered, how am I delivering them? What’s the infrastructure I am using to deliver it? Do I need – using that town model -- a police station? Do I need a fire station? Do I need a school? Do I need a museum? And, if I do, how do I get that service out to the community or to the entire city, not just an individual neighborhood?"

So, from my perspective, using a city planner paradigm, the role of the SOA architect, is identifying what are the services that need to be available to the city and how to deliver those services out to the city.

Gardner: Back to you, Steve Nunn. It seems to me that there needs to be a fair amount of flexibility, enterprise by enterprise, and circumstance by circumstance, as to how this SOA architect role pans out. How much standardization and methodological consistency can we bring to something that, in fact, will probably be dealing with huge variability from organization to organization?

Nunn: Something that we’ve had to address in putting the program together is that there are huge differences. Even taking the frameworks that might be used in implementing an enterprise architecture, there are huge differences among organizations. Some organizations are required to use a certain framework. Our approach is not to specify exactly how enterprise architecture or SOA architecture is done in the certification program, but more about the experience of the individual who's implementing it.

It doesn’t seek to define a particular way of implementing the architecture, but is more about the skills and experience of the individuals who are playing that role inside an organization. They could be part of a team in larger organizations, or could be one person in a much smaller organization who is playing this role. The whole idea of raising the value of the architects of various titles in the organization is what we are seeking to achieve with our efforts in the certification program. It’s about raising the standards of that role, and getting people to understand that it’s a valuable role and, apart from anything else, it should be compensated as such.

Macehiter: Dana, could I chip in with a quick question there?

Gardner: Certainly.

Macehiter: It’s about the approach and the experience, rather than framework, and I agree completely with that. Given that the SOA discipline is currently within the IT architect certification, to what extent do you look at the approach and experience in terms of the interface to the business, business understanding, or collaboration with the business? I think that key elements of the SOA architect role are skill and capability, as well as the more IT-oriented skills and capabilities.

Nunn: Well, that's not so different between SOA and enterprise architecture. I’d say exactly the same about the enterprise architect -- that ability to translate the business need into the systems underlying or delivering the needs of the business. It’s something the enterprise architect absolutely needs to have, and that’s why we think there’s a special set of individuals who play this role. So, there isn’t really a difference in that respect between the SOA architect and the enterprise architect.

Kobielus: I like what you do. Thinking about the whole notion of certification, there are two ways to go about it. One approach that you can easily take -- and this is the way it’s usually perceived -- is when you are certifying a CPA, you’re certifying somebody as a skilled in an established and knowledgeful body of practice, be it law, medicine, whatever. But when there’s no consensus body of practice that everybody agrees upon -- for example SOA, which is still evolving -- a certification in that regard is more like when somebody is applying to college. You’ve got to send in your transcripts, write essays, and you also might have to go and do an interview in the admissions office. They look you over and say, "Oh, this is a smart person. Yeah."

So, they consider the sum total of everything you’ve done and who you are in certifying that. They say, "Yes, you’re good enough to be admitted into this college," and then proceed from there. That’s sounds like what you’re doing. You’re certifying the competency of a particular individual in this general field called a enterprise architect (EA) or a SOA architecture.

Nunn: That’s right, Jim, and it’s not a bad analogy at all. It's about assessing the individual. It’s a relatively young discipline in its own right. One of the things that we look at in a conformance requirement is the role that those individuals have played in the projects that they have been involved in, and whether they had been in a lead role or support role, or a combination of the two, but it certainly is about the individual, rather than the specific approach that they take or any particular body of knowledge.

Macehiter: Just one other quick comment on this, if I may. The other dimension for this, I think, is rather than thinking about the role, thinking about SOA as an approach. Then, thinking about how that approach applies to different types of architect. What I mean by this is that a lot of the emphasis and focus on SOA today has been around application development and integration, when, in fact, there’s a broader perspective that really extends across more traditional IT architecture and other disciplines, for example, a service-oriented approach to infrastructure architecture and the service-oriented approach to the operations and operational management of IT.

So, there are two dimensions that a body such as The Open Group might want to think about. One is the role of a service-oriented architect, and the second is how service orientation impacts other architecture disciplines and other IT functions or operation capabilities. If we don’t do that, we risk driving SOA into a particular stovepipe focused on application development and integration, and aren't thinking about it more broadly as an approach that it is an enabler of whatever the enterprise architects are driving out.

Gardner: Thanks, Neil. I suppose, too, that the role of the SOA architect will shift, as the maturity of SOA principles and methods evolves inside of an organization. They might have to start out a bit more focused on application development and deployment issues, move up toward being mindful of the business issues, and then move up more toward being the communications conduit between the fire house and the police station, for example. Does that make sense?

Macehiter: Absolutely. It’s about gradually extending through the life cycle.

Gardner: One of the reasons we are discussing this is that we’ve seen some warnings from analysts and others saying that we are moving toward SOA, but we really might find ourselves without the people with the background and abilities to move this. So, we’re worried a little bit about a dearth of qualified people, which might, in fact, stifle the progress here for SOA.

Do you see that is the case, Steve Nunn? Do you have any sense of numbers and what the demand is going to be? The second part of the question is, if there aren’t enough people, aren’t these roles going to fall upon the enterprise architect anyway?

Nunn: Dana, what we’re hearing is there aren’t enough enterprise architects to start with. So, I think it’s a given, therefore, that the SOA specialists are in short supply too. We’re hearing from our members that if they spot a good enterprise architect or somebody they think has potential for that, then they try and grab them. They’re pretty few and far between right now in terms of folks with experience.

Obviously, there are other folks that we just talked about with the college analogy who might well be groomed into that role in the future. So, certainly there is a shortage right now. That's what we are hearing from our membership. I don’t have specifics on numbers, but the message we hear is that demand is out-stripping supply right now.

Macehiter: This is not new. We’ve been through this with every major technology advance or discipline advance. You used the word "potential" there. I think there are individuals within organizations that have the potential to fulfill that role. Part of the benefit of this certification approach, providing conformance and definitions of what constitutes the role, is that it will help organizations identify the individuals within that company that have that potential, even if they don’t have the 50-page resume that demonstrates that they have been there and done it, because the key element in a service-oriented approach, and an enterprise architect more broadly, is an understanding of the business.

If you’ve got individuals within the organization that understand how the business works, have been around, and know the right individuals to talk to, that that can be of much benefit in terms of enabling effective EA and SOA, as can be going outside, finding someone from a different vertical market or different industry, and bringing them in because they’ve done six SOA projects elsewhere.

Gardner: Thanks Neil. Let’s take that point back to John Bell. Now, as an enterprise architect with Marriott International, I assume that you’re going to be in the position of having to hire or find SOA architects in this climate of scarcity. Where do you think these people will come from and what kind of backgrounds would you look for?

Bell: I think what we are going to have to do -- fortunately or unfortunately, however you look at it -- is end up training our own people. A lot of it goes back to what was just said about having to have an understanding of the business. You have to know the people in the business. You have to understand what the business of the business is. You have to have a lot of domain knowledge in order to create an effective SOA environment.

Because of that, when you pull somebody from outside, they may understand the technology, but they have to come up and learn the business, which is harder to train than somebody who has a general technology background, but knows the business pretty well, because he has been working in the business. Marriott happens to be a company that retains employees for years and years on end. So, in our IT department we have people who may already have 5, 10, 15 years of experience working directly in the business. And we can’t afford to lose that.

Gardner: Do you find that a developer is a fast-track path to SOA architect or a business analyst, even though it makes great sense to have someone with longevity in your organization? Is there particular type of role that they would have played that seems to conform to this need for SOA process management and evangelism?

Bell: In our experience, we are finding developers, as they move through their technology career path, since they have been developing within the context of the business, if they take that broader view, they understand the basis for the SOA architecture that’s installed in this particular company. They tend to make a good SOA architects with the proper training, and sometimes that training isn’t the technology training; it’s the people training -- teaching them how to conduct interviews, how to talk to people, how to get information from people, particularly in a company like Marriott where the business is not technically oriented.

Kobielus: This is all very good, but it doesn’t address the need that many companies have which is, "Hey, we need to hire people straight out of college who have some background in architecture, and where are we going to find these people and how are they going to get certified?"

Everything I'm hearing says that, an EA or a SOA architect is somebody who has experience and, by definition, somebody right out of college doesn’t have experience. So, is this the kind of thing that we can actually train in school or does somebody have to be in their career for 5, 10, 15 years before they’ve been steeped enough in all of this architectural infrastructural development and integration stuff to the point where they can be certified?

Bell: I’m also an adjunct faculty member at Towson State University, and this is an issue that we’re dealing with at the university level so that the university can provide the skills that the local businesses in the Baltimore area need. So, at the graduate school level, we are looking at what we offer in the way of architecture courses that take architecture from an enterprise or SOA perspective, so that we can enable our students who are finishing graduate school to be more and better prepared as they enter their new job market.

Gardner: These are excellent points. Steve, you and I discussed, when we spoke about some of these issues a month or so ago, that you were also trying to encourage universities to create the curriculum and the definition of these jobs. Can you fill in our listeners a little bit on what you’ve seen?

Nunn: That’s right, Dana. Something The Open Group launched at the end of January this year was the Association of Open Group Enterprise Architects (AOGEA), which really is -- the analogy here is the one somebody used earlier with attorneys or CPAs -- to do for enterprise architects what the Bar Association, for example, would do for attorneys, all joking aside. I think one of the things that we’re trying to do is partner with various types of organization in creating this community and this professional association.

One of those groups is the academic community, so we are putting out feelers to various universities to explore the possibility of getting enterprise architecture on the curriculum. There is one university that we are aware of where there is actually a TOGAF module in some of their courses. Obviously, changing a curriculum is a multi-year project, or multi-year plan. It’s not going to happen overnight, but in the interim, one of the categories of membership for the association is students.

So, those who are on a course of some description inside the university or even working in a job and doing part-time study, can join the association, be part of the community, get the information that’s available there, be on the news groups, maybe take part in the local chapter, or whatever they want to do to start building up some experience.

I had somebody come up to me a couple of weeks ago, after a talk I gave, and said, "This is exactly what I’ve been looking for, because in my organization I’m quite junior and the people above me really aren’t that interested in enterprise architecture, and certainly not SOA, but they won’t listen to me because I’m too junior. So, I need to get some experience or immerse myself in this field. Some kind of virtual community that allows people to do that is going to be a great help to me."

So, that’s one of the thing we’re trying to do. There are various membership categories, and student is just one of those.

Gardner: Now, it does seem that we have a climate of opportunity here. There’s the track for developer to move above that role and embrace more business understanding in domain expertise, and that would be a track. We’re looking at more universities preparing people for these types of roles. We’re probably going to find, again, variety within organizations in terms of business analysts or non-tech people coming into this role, because it requires influencing and consensus building, and so forth.

Usually, in markets, when there’s opportunity and there’s scarcity -- and these are probably well-paying jobs -- we would expect for the supply and demand to even out at some point. For those in the field like yourself, John Bell, am I overly optimistic that this supply and demand is going to mesh, or are we looking at something a bit more serious in terms of the next three to five years where there’s going to be a serious deficit of talent?

Bell: I think that the supply and demand will eventually mesh, but there may be a gap in the next year or two. I don’t know if it will carry out for three to five years.

Gardner: Well, thank you very much. Let’s move on to our next subject of the day.

In March an announcement came from the consortium of large IT vendors including SAP, IBM, Oracle, BEA, and Cisco. They have formed a series of proposed standards, the Service Component Architecture (SCA) specification and the Service Data Objects (SDO) spec. We are not quite at the standards level, but that seems to be the goal, to take this approach through OASIS, which is the organization that’s overseeing the Web services specifications and standards, WSDL, UDDI and SOAP and so forth and all the WS-* specifications.

It seems that the vendors have stepped up and said, "Listen, we need a level of standardization. We are going to do some heavy lifting, create some specifications, and then we are going to hand them off to the standard organization." This strikes me as an important juncture in the maturity and real-world applicability of SOA, and I wanted to test that hypothesis on Jim Kobielus.

Kobielus: Yeah, it’s very important. It’s clear that the SOA paradigm requires ever more high-level abstractions to enable easy development of very complex, orchestrated, end-to-end services. The SCA and SDO specifications – the initiative has been being going on for a couple of years – have come a long way and they’ve got pretty significant support throughout the industry. Microsoft is one of the few important holdouts. It's not only the high-level abstraction for developing competence services, but also, especially, in my area, the SDO, the high-level abstraction for working with heterogeneous data. I see the SDO, in itself, becoming potentially the standard industry framework for what’s called the semantic layer for any data integration.

So, I’m very keen on the potential for SDO, for example, within the business intelligence space, the data warehousing, and the enterprise, information, integration space. The fact that now OASIS will be taking over ongoing development of SDO, puts it on a very important fast track. Hopefully, we’ll get some of the business intelligence (BI) vendors like Business Objects and Cognos behind it. That’s one of my fond hopes.

Gardner: Jim, you’re tracking the data management side on this quite deeply. Do you think that SDO has the potential to become the ODBC/JDBC of SOA in terms of what those things enabled and empowered for distributed architecture?

Kobielus: It’s quite likely, because it’s leveraging the whole WS-* stack and the whole notion of semantic web that’s been kicking around for long time. Tim Berners-Lee keeps this going. It’s really a utopia of interoperability, where the semantic layer is the resource description layer for describing metadata. If you look at the so called semantic web’s specifications like OWL, RDF and a few others, they have not achieved takeoff velocity in the data management world. I can count on one hand the number of the BI or data warehousing vendors that are implementing OWL, for example. The semantic web has not really gotten any traction with standards or specifications where it counts.

With SDO, I still don’t see significant traction yet in the whole BI space, but the fact is that every BI vendor is SOA-focused and enabled and getting ever more so. That’s one of the clear gaps I’ve been seeing in the whole enterprise information integration (EII) side of it all in terms of distributed master data management (MDM). Every vendor, including Business Objects and the others, have their own semantic layer. That’s what Business Objects calls it.

As yet, there is no federated semantic layer specifications, but customers are asking for federation of say, Business Objects, Teradata, Microsoft, Oracle, and I believe that at some point BI and EII will converge around a common set of standards. I’m getting further and deeper into SDO, and it really looks like this is a strong potential framework for them all to work together going forward.

Gardner: A framework for a common and federated metadata approach, is it not?

Kobielus: Yeah, exactly.

Gardner: Now, the politics here struck me as a little bit interesting. Ed Cobb of BEA, who was on the call describing the movement of these specifications to OASIS, said that he hopes that this does for SOA what J2EE did for n-tier in distributed computing, which is to create a climate of growth with application server vendors coming together and ISVs building applications that take advantage of these. That sort of exploded during the mid- and late-1990s into what is now a predominant architecture for enterprise applications, as well as large Web commerce and online commerce types of applications.

Neil Macehiter, what do you make of the politics here? If J2EE did for distributed computing what they hope this does for SOA, why aren't SDO and SCA going into the Java process?

Macehiter: You've hit the nail on the head there. I think there are a couple of issues here. First is, if it went into the Java Community Process (JCP), you’re talking about SOA based on purely Java. As my colleague put it at the time, it’s like a three-legged dog running in a race. If you’ve only got Java, then you’re not really addressing one of the core propositions of SOA -- that it is about heterogeneous interoperability, with services based on multiple languages.

Gardner: What happened to "write once, run anywhere?" Wasn’t that heterogeneity and interoperability?

Macehiter: One programming language, and that’s the distinction. The SCA and the SDO are multi-program, multi-language.

Gardner: So, an abstraction above Java their pointers will make sense?

Macehiter: Yeah. Actually, the second point is that, in part, the creation of SCA and SDO was motivated by the frustration with the J2EE process. Enterprise JavaBeans (EJBs) and things like that never really took off. Some of the lightweight programming frameworks, Spring and Hibernate, were just taking great chunks out of J2EE in terms of deployment.

Then there was a significant amount of discontent among the Java community around the support for Web services, which is clearly one of the key enablers of SOA. Those three things, plus what Microsoft was doing with the Windows Communication Foundation (WCF), and the work they’ve been doing around it, caused the big J2EE players to think, "Well, actually we need to do something different." That was the motivation.

Gardner: I suppose it’s water over the dam at this point, but perhaps if the J2EE and a variety of Java framework specifications had moved into a standards organization like OASIS five years ago or so, the SOA specifications and the Java specifications could find themselves in the same organization. That seems now not to be the case.

On the other hand, if Microsoft has been the holdout in terms of embracing SDO and SCA, and is focusing more on .NET Framework -- but OASIS was a place where Microsoft felt comfortable going when it came to working with folks like IBM on the Web services standards -- do you think that this might move the hearts and minds of Redmond, Washington toward a bit more SOA compatibility and the programmatic approach to SOA, rather than just the interoperability approach?

Macehiter: My gut feeling is "no." And the reason is that Microsoft has collaborated with the likes of IBM, BEA and others, its historical competitors, up to a certain level up the stack. But the level at which SCA and SDO are operating is at the level where Microsoft has a massive investment, and a significant proportion of its business has been driven out of this at the programming model level.

So, I think it would take a lot for Microsoft to move to support SCA and SDO within the composition framework that they have, which is fundamentally around Visual Studio. Whether we are talking about BizTalk or Sharepoint or Office, it’s all around that programming model, which is tied into WCF and Windows Workflow Foundation. So, I just think the battle line is drawn at that level.

Gardner: What we are facing is perhaps an important decision within enterprises and service providers, software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers, and ISVs as to which role you perceive for .NET playing in Microsoft’s tools and process runtimes. Are they a subset of SOA, or are they in fact the master -- and the rest of the SOA componentry is the slave?

That would be one way of looking at it. The other would be that .NET should be just another spoke in the hub of all SOAs. Jim Kobielus, do you think we are going to be facing this sort of a face-off between the role of Microsoft as the hub or the spoke?

Kobielus: I think Microsoft has gotten much more open to being just one spoke. But I wouldn't use the hub vs. spoke analogy here. They’ve become more comfortable with the notion that they’re just one node in a vast mesh on the Internet in terms of Web services and SOA. So I don’t see Microsoft in face-off mode in the SOA world, or where SCA or SDO are concerned. A couple of years ago it might have been different, but it has changed.

Gardner: How about in terms of the role of their communications, their ESB, WCF (the former Indigo) and the role of BizTalk? It seems as if they are happy to be a spoke on one level, but they’d also like to be where business process is coded and logic is instantiated, and therefore become "the place" where SOA is driven, the dashboard from which SOA is driven.

Kobielus: Well, pretty much every BPM vendor wants to be that hub, that business-process hub, and Microsoft is not alone. Companies like TIBCO with ActiveMatrix, are interesting, because basically what it is doing is it is virtualizing the app server or the integration server, so you can run your .NET logic and your J2EE logic, and so forth in different containers on the same platform. That kind of architecture is more where the industry is going. In that case, TIBCO necessarily isn’t trying to be the one and only integration and logic hub out there. It is simply trying to be the hub of all hubs, but one of the hub of many hubs federated to each other.

Gardner: Is it that you don’t agree with Neil then, that if Microsoft is a bit more ecumenical on this, would we expect them to embrace SCA and SDO? Is that what you expect?

Kobielus: It’s a relative thing -- getting ecumenical. They get ecumenical when they are good and ready, like they’re doing right now in the identity space, with this whole notion of user-centric identities. It’s taken them a couple of years of sitting back, watching things like OpenID and Higgins develop. And then finally they make a token offering that says, “Okay, we’ll implement OpenID in the next generation of the Vista Card Space."

And, once again, my sense is they’re going to wait quite a period of time, at least a year, before they make any public pronouncements on the extent to which they are going to work with OASIS on SCA and SDO. It’s just their nature, and they are going to pursue their proprietary approach, as long as it holds out, and as long anybody will implement it.

Macehiter: I’m not suggesting that this a face-off. What I am suggesting really is that it comes down to the point of control that an organization or vendor has. Microsoft does not want to be denigrated to the plumbing, even if that’s interoperable plumbing. The point you raised about TIBCO with ActiveMatrix is that it’s actually using the SCA programming model in order to provide this abstraction.

So, ultimately in that environment who’s controlling it? TIBCO is becoming the master, and it will be the same in an IBM environment. SCA may be under the hood, but ultimately there will be a point of control that IBM wants to wrest for its process server for its development tools, and that’s what Microsoft wants to do. The challenge is that SCA and SDO are trying to do the same thing as Windows Communication Foundation and Microsoft tooling around .NET and SOA.

Gardner: To wrap up, it seems that it's not a face-off, but perhaps there are, as Jim points out, a lot of vendors who would like to be that over uber-dashboard, point of control. Some are BPEL-focused and others are taking different tacks. SCA seems to be playing a role for many of them, and Microsoft would like to play that role as well -- but perhaps thinks that it has an advantage through the way it’s architected up to this point. The market will, I suppose, determine who the ultimate winner is.

Macehiter: I think a lot will depend how quickly the tooling comes out around SCA and SDO, as an alternative to Visual Studio.

Bell: The other piece too is, as Microsoft tends to build those kinds of capabilities in as part of the operating system, other vendors tend to create them as standalone products and infrastructure pieces. If you are a small company, having it built into the operating system is a value to you, but in large, heterogeneous environments that can be costly to you. So, that’s always been used by Microsoft. If you look at CORBA versus COM and DCOM, it’s the same story.

Macehiter: Absolutely.

Gardner: You’ve been listening to yet another BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Edition, Vol. 15, for the week of March 19, 2007. We’ve been joined by Jim Kobielus, principal analyst at Current Analysis. Neil Macehiter, a research director at Macehiter Ward-Dutton. Steve Nunn, the vice president and COO of The Open Group, and John Bell, enterprise architect at Marriott International.

I'm your host and moderator, Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions. Thanks everyone, and thanks for listening.

Listen to the podcast here. If any of our listeners are interested in learning more about BriefingsDirect B2B informational podcasts or to become a sponsor of this or other B2B podcasts, please fill free to contact Interarbor Solutions at 603-528-2435.

Transcript of Dana Gardner’s BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Edition, Vol. 15. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2007. All rights reserved.