Catching-up on developments that occurred while we were away on summer holiday, we call attention to Supply Chain Matters readers that Enterprise Information Management (EIM) technology provider OpenText held its OpenText Enterprise World 2017 customer conference in Toronto earlier this month.

The most significant announcement generated from this conference was the announced availability of OpenText Magellan, a new artificial intelligence and analytics technology platform designed to allow users the abilities to acquire, merge, manage and analyze volumes of data and content resident across various enterprise systems.

We initially called attention to the Magellan effort in our highlights of last year’s OpenText Enterprise World conference. At that time, Project Magellan was described as a next generation cognitive platform designed to integrate voice, video, natural language processing and other content. It was outlined as an open-systems based platform that would leverage both the Spark Apache platform along with the analytics capabilities of Actuate, OpenText’s prior acquired advanced analytics provider.

A year ago, CEO Mark Barrenechea was not shy in making a direct head-to-head technology comparison with the IBM Watson Cognitive platform and that his company will compete directly as an alternative platform in the market. As promised, OpenText management timed the formal announcement of general availability at this year’s conference.

An on-stage demonstration of this new platform described the application as an artificial intelligence based data discovery tool where data scientists or sophisticated users can utilize drag and drop technology to build rather advanced algorithms to collections of existing data sets. Once such algorithms are established, they can be applied to subsequent analysis of existing data to provide a basis for more predictive analytics related to areas such as customer buying patterns, refining of specific customer demographics or even specific supply chain management decision needs such as predictions of specific product or customer demand based on buying and other external patterns.

Once again, there was an emphatic emphasis on the leveraging of standard open languages such as Apache Spark vs. the proprietary technology approach of IBM’s Watson platform.  The important emphasis for OpenText is the ability to deliver a cognitive AI platform with pre-integrated open stack components with minimized efforts and expertise required to go-live, at a more attractive price point.

From our lens, the obvious question is whether the market is currently ready to adopt such a platform. Candidly, OpenText has not previously been viewed for its openness approach, but Magellan represents a bold pivot in company and product strategy. The opportunity to present a direct and perhaps more attractive alternative to IBM Watson is predicated on three unanswered questions.

The first and most obvious is the ability of the company’s sales, marketing, technical representatives, or systems integration partners to provide a cohesive and comprehensive sales development approach related to an enterprise class cognitive platform vs. a custodial information management platform. This is where market readiness will provide the litmus test as well as the notions of targeting the most obvious starting points that large collections of customers need technology to solve. Our belief is that there could well be various mission-critical supply chain management decision-making needs in such evaluations, especially approaches that can leverage externally based information sources that represent the entire product or services value-chain.  To its credit, OpenText has recruited individuals with experience in such areas.

The second is the ultimate price-point established for Magellan, which we have not been able to ascertain up to this point. Total cost competitiveness remains a rather sensitive criterion for technology adoption, especially in enterprise dimensions. Head-to-head competition can be based on price or functionality. In most cases and by our observations, price trumps functionality.

The third, and likely most important open question is the development of a record of accomplishment of installed customer value and active cognitive platform customer advocates. This has been an area where IBM Watson, as well as other providers, have had a mixed record of accomplishment to-date, and will serve as OpenText’s greatest opportunity over the coming months. While OpenText has established valued relationships with enterprise vendors such as SAP and Oracle, being perceived as a direct competitor in cognitive platform requires walking a very fine line.

Supply Chain Matters we continue to monitor this area and will provide timely updates in the coming weeks.

Bob Ferrari

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