You have probably noticed a fair degree of skepticism among technology bloggers about search products and search add-ons to other products. There have been quite a few articles lately that generalize “search” into one monolithic group of technologies. You need to really read between the lines to find the “kind of” search that is meaningful to your “kind of” enterprise. If you go back to one of my first blog entries you’ll see I noted that “the market is, frankly, a real mess.” Sue Feldman has been clear that she, too, believes the field to be a “muddle.” Steve Arnold routinely lets us all know how Google’s patent filings suggest a path toward future disruptions in the search marketplace.
Why then would anyone invest in search today? Do it because there are certainly enough really good and appropriate solutions for most enterprises. These may not be in the price range you would like, and may require more overhead support to implement than you think you should need, but you cannot be paralyzed by what the “next big thing might be” because it might not happen for a really long time or at all. You may find a solution today that solves a lot of immediate searching problems for your enterprise and continues to evolve with the needs of your organization.
That said, you need to keep educating yourself and your peers. This article appeared in the paper version of Information Week Aug. 6, 2007 as The Ultimate Answer Machine, but in the online version as The Ultimate Search Engine. It conflates all kinds of search in a single message that the average non-expert buyer wouldn’t be able to sort out. In its product box you have 13 products including Web search and enterprise search mixed together with no differentiation. I’m tracking over 80 products that solve some kind of enterprise search problem and new ones come to my attention every week. Take a look at the online article and be sure to look at reader comments to see more diverse views than just mine. Think about whether what you read makes good business sense.
I could load you up with two dozen interesting articles from just the past week but recently these have caught my attention for more self-education. Check out: Fight Against Infoglut, in Information Week on April 7, 2007, Search technologies for the Internet by Henzinger, Monika. Science, pp. 468-471, 07/27/2007, and Enterprise Search – More than just Google, Analyst Perspectives Consensus Report (these last two are paid content).
Going forward, you will find some interesting perspectives on Oracle’s position in the enterprise search marketplace if you sit in on their Webinar, Oct. 10th. Finally, I hope you can attend the upcoming Gilbane Boston Conference, Nov. 27th – 29th. The case studies and panel discussions will have something for every type of solution. I’ll keep you posted on selected upcoming happenings as they appear; keep your ear to the ground and eyes focused.
Drew Robb has written an excellent article that reflects new thinking about the convergence of older and emerging technologies. In Search Converging with Business Intelligence for CRM Daily.com on August 28, 2007 I see similarities to my own way of viewing what is possible with newer search tools. Be sure to read it.
In addition to enterprise search, I actively follow enterprise knowledge management. It has been much debated because of confusion about its links to inappropriate technologies and well-intentioned but costly and failed initiatives in many organizations. But, in spite of rumors about its death, KM will remain a boundless frontier of opportunity. At its best, it leverages collaborative and sharing practices to maximize the value of organizations’ discoveries, developments and learning using innovative and often simple practices that work because they suit a particular culture’s way of operating.
Popular writings about business and technology innovation, plus tools and techniques for collaboration and sharing abound. 2007 is surely the year when search has come to dominate the technology landscape as vendors in BI, text mining and text analytics, data management, and countless semantic and Web 2.0 entrants vie to add refinements, and conversely search integrates features from those technologies.
In August I commented on search offerings that have made a point of highlighting their “Sharepoint” connectivity. Similarly, many products are adding claims for exploiting emails. I have long assumed that email should be part of the search engine crawling and indexing mix for any intranet. Given email structure, it seems to have more useful and usable metadata than a lot of other content. Social network analysis tools have been terrific at revealing fascinating relationships and internal communications within organizations, especially in the discovery area as emails have been a source for exploring questionable business practices in legal proceedings.
More sophisticated analytic and semantic techniques for exploiting concepts in content give hints about how technologies can integrate content by mapping experts to the expertise they contribute, even when it is scattered throughout their work, including emails where so many nuggets may reside. An area for development would correlate nuggets of knowledge in emails to reveal hidden and latent expertise, pointing to other content an individual has produced using search with BI and analytics algorithms.
Maybe I’m overreaching but I suspect that a lot of experts may not be sufficiently motivated, disciplined or expected to aggregate their small but useful contributions into more valuable knowledge. Regardless of the reasons for that failure, much could be revealed with the right blending of search, indexing, analytics and business intelligence technologies. The components already exist but implementation to get desired results are not necessarily easy to deploy. A truly innovative expertise exploitation engine would be a knowledge engine of note, able to synthesize new knowledge in unique and interesting ways. Historically, much has been made about the role of serendipity in the “search for truth” and “quest for knowledge.” With the aid of enhanced search technologies to blend any or many expert nuggets, a lot more serendipity might happen.