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In the Field: The Enterprise Search Market Offers CHOICES

Heading into the Gilbane Boston conference next month we have case studies that feature quite an array of enterprise search applications. So many of the search solutions now being deployed are implemented with a small or part-time staff that it is difficult to find the one or two people who can attend a conference to tell their stories. We have surveyed blogs, articles and case studies published elsewhere to identify organizations and people who have hands-on-experience in the trenches deploying search engines in their enterprises. Our speakers are those who were pleased to be invited and they will be sharing their experiences on December 3rd and 4th.
From search appliances Thunderstone and Google Search Appliance, to platform search solutions based on Oracle Secure Enterprise Search, and standalone search products Coveo, Exalead, and ISYS, we will hear from those who have been involved in selecting, implementing and deploying these solutions for enterprise use. From a Forrester industry analyst and Attivio developer we’ll hear about open source options and how they are influencing enterprise search development. The search sessions will be rounded out as we explore the influences and mergers of text mining, text analytics with Monash Research and semantic technologies (Lexalytics and InfoExtract) as they relate to other enterprise search options. There will be something for everyone in the sessions and in the exhibit hall.
Personally, I am hoping to see many in the audience who also have search stories within their own enterprises. Those who know me will attest to my strong belief in communities of practice and sharing. It strengthens the marketplace place when people from different types of organizations share their experiences trying to solve similar problems with different products. Revealing competitive differentiators among the numerous search products is something that pushes technology envelopes and makes for a more robust marketplace. Encouraging dialogue about products and in-the-field experiences is a priority for all sessions at the Gilbane Conference and I’ll be there to prompt discussion for all five search sessions. I hope you’ll join me in Boston.

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Enterprise Search: Leveraging and Learning From Web Search and Content Tools

Following on my last post in which I covered the unique value propositions offered by a variety of enterprise search products, this one takes a look at the evolution of enterprise search. The commentary by search company experts, executives, and analysts indicates some evolutionary technologies and the escalation of certain themes in enterprise search. Furthermore, the pursuit of organizations to strengthen the link between searching technologies and knowledge enablers has never been more prominently featured taking search to a whole new level beyond mere retrieval.
The following paraphrased comments from the Enterprise Search Keynote session are timely and revealing. When I asked, Will Web and Internet Search Technologies Drive the Enterprise (Internal) Search Tool Offerings or Will the Markets Diverge?, these were some thoughts from the panelists.
Matt Brown, Principal Analyst from Forrester Research, commented that enterprise search demands much different and richer content interpretation types of search technologies. What Web-based searching does is create such high visibility for search that enterprises are being primed to adopt it, but only when it comes with enhanced capabilities.
Echoing Matt’s remarks, Oracle search solution manager Bob Bocchino commented on the difficulty of making search operate well within the enterprise because it needs to deal with structured database content and unstructured files, while also applying sophisticated security features that let only authorized viewers see restricted content. Furthermore, security must be deployed in a way that does not degrade performance while supporting continuous updates to content and permissions.
Hadley Reynolds, VP & Director of the Center for Search Innovation at Fast Search & Transfer, noted that the Web isn’t really making a direct impact on enterprise search innovation but many of the social tools found on the Web are being adopted in enterprises to create new kinds of content (e.g. social networks, blogs and wikis) with which enterprise search engines must cope in richer contextual ways.
Don Dodge, Director of Business Development for the Emerging Business Team at Microsoft further noted that the Internet’s biggest problem is scale. That is a much easier problem to solve than in the enterprise where user standards for what qualifies as a good and valuable search results are much higher, therefore making the technology to deliver those results more difficult.
Among the other noteworthy comments in this session was a negative about taxonomies. The gist of it was that they require so much discipline that they might work for a while but can’t really be sustained. If this attitude becomes the norm, many of the semantic search engines which depend on some type of classification and categorization according to industry terminologies or locally maintained lists will be challenged to deliver enhanced search results. This is a subject to be taken up in a later blog entry.
A final conclusion about enterprise search was a remark about the evolution of adoption in the marketplace. Simply put, the marketplace is not monolithic in its requirements. The diversity of demands on search technologies has been a disincentive for vendors to focus on distinct niches and place more effort on areas like e-commerce. This seems to be shifting, especially with all the large software companies now seriously announcing products in the enterprise search market.

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