I seem to be attending a lot of presentations because I think they are going to be about “enterprise search.” Instead they cover a new offering or positioning strategy by a search company seeking to help enterprises monetize their Web sites. There are great business models in this space as Yahoo, Google and Amazon have illustrated. These will morph to offerings, as yet, unimagined. The trouble is that for my audience, I want to help them understand offerings that will help them with searching content already in the enterprise or from outside that they can leverage for business uses: competitive intelligence, product development, supply chain improvements, marketing collateral development. That is what enterprise search is to most people working inside organizations. Admittedly, this is not a new or “sexy” market. I think that vendors of search may be so worn down by how they can make money offering their search tools for searching inside the organization that they may just be talking up other markets to stave off their own boredom with the “inside the enterprise market.” Horizontal markets are tough to deal with (more about that in a later blog entry).
To all you vendors who would like to cut and run, I respectfully ask that you stay. There is a crying need albeit a very big financial challenge in all of this. Enterprises have no idea what their true monetary loses are because workers can’t find “stuff.” There have been plenty of guesses put forth by analysts, but until we see search solutions that don’t take decades (OK years) to implement, who actually knows what gains could be made by really good and easy search tools that find both structured and unstructured content with a minimum of set-up.
The pricing models of tools need to make better sense, including ways to chunk the expenditures incrementally with “quick start,” and low overhead options. Why do the search tools with the mightiest claims also come with the highest price tags for licensing but the least out-of-the box functionality?
To all you enterprise information technology seekers of “true enterprise search” you bear responsibility for some of the mess this market is in. You’ve got to write better specifications, learn to start small and demand small to get started, and come to the selection process with real users and professional searchers on the team who will test drive products before they are purchased. If a product doesn’t solve the specific search problem you are trying to solve, don’t buy it. May-be it doesn’t feel like your money when you purchase for your enterprise but it really is your professional responsibility. Would you buy a car that will only take you to the beach or a lake but not to the grocery store?