* Oh My God! Rolling on the floor laughing! “Distinguishing the Indistinguishable: Exploring Differences in Supply Chain Software Packages Using Centering Resonance Text Analysis” What the f*ck? You mean he’s serious?
One of the presentations I just had to sit in on at the 5th Annual International Symposium on Supply Chain Management was called “Distinguishing the Indistinguishable: Exploring Differences in Supply Chain Software Packages Using Centering Resonance Text Analysis” because I had to figure out whether it was real, or the organizer’s attempt at introducing some comic relief into a symposium that can get a little heady without a break once in a while.
Here’s the abstract: Distinguishing among large supply chain management (SCM) software packages is difficult due to the complexity and breadth of the software. In this paper, we use text mining tools to perform a comparative analysis of documentation covering the seven most popular supply chain software packages (from SAP, i2, Oracle, PeopleSoft, Manhattan Associates, IBS, and Manugistics). Concept maps created for each of the packages indicate a high degree of similarity among the 20 most influential concepts, yet significant differences exist beyond the top 20 concepts. This suggests that any distinguishing features are deeply buried in the documentation, while at a surface level all seven vendors address the same concepts. The resultant concept maps contribute a more precise understanding of the similarities and differences between SCM software packages. Guidelines for using this knowledge to make more rational and informed software selection decisions are discussed.
Before continuing, you should read it again just to make sure you read it right. (Because I know you’re wondering if you did.)
Now you should take thirty to sixty seconds to process the shock of what you just read. The resultant concept maps contribute a more precise understanding of the similarities and differences between SCM software packages. I don’t know if I should laugh or cry. However, having attended the presentation, and, more importantly, found out that ( a ) this paper is getting published and ( b ) some of the audience members thought that this is a fantastic idea, I now know I should be instilled with fear!
The reality is that I can barely wrap my head around everything that is wrong with the abstract, let alone the presentation, and, more importantly, the paper that the presentation is backed on. However, knowing me as you do, you know I’m going to give it my best.
- There is not necessarily any correlation between documentation about any given platform and the platform itself. The documentation could be help documentation, which might have a moderate correlation, but could just as easily be position papers, analyst reviews, or “what’s missing” analysis that does not necessarily have to have any correlation with the software.
- Even if the documentation is limited to help documentation, the documentation is still going to focus on how to use the system and not how it solves your supply chain problem. Thus, the most common terms could be “drop-down” and “dialog” and “field” … not at all useful.
- There is not a one-to-one correlation between a word and a concept or a concept and a word. Let’s take the word order. It could be referring to order placement or order management or order fulfillment or to the ordering of options in a text-box. Also, let’s take the concept of order fulfillment. It could be called order fulfillment or it could be called customer delivery.
- There’s no guarantee that two products that implement the same features will document them with standard terminology, or even document the features at all! Thus, two products with high correlations in capability are not at all guaranteed to have any correlation at all in documented capability.
I could go on, but you can see that the statement that the resultant concept maps contribute a more precise understanding of the similarities and differences between SCM software packages is absolutely ludicrous, even if centering resonance text analysis did what many researchers claim it can do. (It really can’t, but hopefully the linguist at the conference who also had more problems with this presentation and paper than I can easily count will chime in with a comment on everything I missed.)
Now, apparently, after heated discussions with one of the researchers (and presenter) in question (who will not be named to protect the guilty), I have it all wrong, and what I’m assuming is being stated is not being stated at all, but I believe I have a relatively high degree of comprehension of the English language, and I just do not understand how any rational human being could interpret it in any other way.
“It’s the thought that counts … and so far I’m up to zero.”
Stephen Colbert, The Colbert Report, Sept 25, 2007