Month: May 2008

Thinking about Enterprise Search the Right Way

A major differentiator for search products used within enterprises to enable finding enterprise generated and re-purposed content is intent. For too long the focus has been on search for content based on keywords that are contained in target content. Target content has been determined by what repositories and document formats are explicitly included in the search engine “crawl.” This simplistic approach to search for the most appropriate content does not work.

At an upcoming session, EST-3, in the Enterprise Search track at the San Francisco Gilbane Conference, we want to change the discussion about why search is needed for enterprise content and how it should be implemented. This means putting a focus on the intent of a searcher. In an e-commerce Internet experience we assume that the intent of a searcher is to find information with an end goal of selecting or purchasing products. But much of the content that is crawled on the Internet is “discovered” by all kinds of searchers who begin with no particular intent but curiosity, self-education, or with a search for something entirely different. We all know where that lands us – in a pile of stuff that may contain the target of our intent but mostly stuff with little relevance.

Enterprise search has to be thought of as a value-added tool for enriching and improving our work experience and efficiency. If it is installed, implemented and tuned with little thought as to intent, it becomes another white elephant in the basement of legacy IT failures. Intent needs to be constantly explored and examined, which means that search administrators will routinely be talking to representative users, and surveying expectations and experiences.

In our enterprises we search for content for many reasons. It is what we do with that content that creates business value or not. Too often, organizations discover that the content workers need to perform at their highest levels is not found. This may be because search implementation(s) are not delivered to the desktop to fit easily into workflow, or the interface is hard to use. It can also be that required content never gets included as a retrieval option. Search experts can give us guidance to establish search tools in the ways that fit how workers seek information and find actionable content to better their work output.

On June 19th three such experts will talk about cases in which search solutions were designed for a particular audience. If you are in the audience to hear them, please comment through this blog on what you learn. New insights into applying search “the right way” are a refreshing addition to case study library.

Speakers:

Jean Bedord, Findability & Search Consultant, Econtent Strategies, Search for the Enterprise: Creating Findability
Mark Bennett, CTO, New Idea Engineering, Protecting Confidential Information within the Corporate Search Box
Mark Morehead, Senior VP, MuseGlobal, UWire: A Case Study in Using Search to Streamline Editorial Processes in the Enterprise

Search your Enterprise Really Needs

In the forthcoming Gilbane research report, Enterprise Search Markets and Applications Capitalizing on Emerging Demand, I describe several distinctly different scenarios for search applications. The variety of search products underscores innovative approaches to applying search and diversity of needs. The Enterprise Search track at the upcoming Gilbane Conference in San Francisco will feature numerous examples of why and how search is being applied across small, medium and very large domains of enterprise content. Hearing from those experienced in implementing and deploying search solutions will inform you when positioning your search “must haves” as you narrow possible options.
Our first group panel will feature two consultants and a solutions provider each with a perspective on aligning the search problem you are trying to solve with a business case and the type of product being offered. As moderator, I will be looking for examples from speakers that will resonate with the audience to provide a connection between what has been demonstrated as valuable and workable, and what conference-goers are seeking. These sessions are about matching experience with investigation and creating an environment for exchanging information and allowing inquiry and research to flourish.
Much has been made of the rise of “social” technologies in the past year, but technology is only a tool. Any meeting gathering with product exhibits facilitates your first-hand viewing of technology and the vendors offering products. But more important, are the professional social connections that give flesh and realism to the application of technology. If you set out to ask just one question of each speaker you meet or fellow attendee, make it one that will help you build a realistic picture around a product you are considering to meet a need. For example, ask not about whether product “A” can perform function “XYZ” but what it took in terms of human resources to deliver that terrific interface that the speaker is showcasing. Social networking gives you that opportunity.
Professional conferences are learning opportunities and, compared to today’s college tuition costs, a great bargain. Also, educational institutions are relatively limited, exposing you to controlled scenarios or short-term experiences. What you gain at meetings like the Gilbane conferences is opportunity to benefit from long-term experiences in real business situations by asking those who have been there and done that, how it came about, got built and what the demonstrable outcomes are.
A look at these topics for session EST-2 shows how our speakers will frame their experiences: Venkat Rangan, CTO, Clearwell Systems, Search and Information Retrieval Needs for eDiscovery; Randy Woods, Executive VP, Non-linear Creations, Best Practices for Tuning Enterprise Search; Sam Mefford, Enterprise Search Practice Lead, Avalon Consulting, Beyond Silos: Changing ‘Hide and Seek’ to ‘Index and Find.’ I’m always looking for new perspectives on search and ways of helping my clients understand their options. This will enrich my own learning experiences, as well.

Interview with Steve Arnold about “Beyond Search” with Jess Bratcher

Interview with Arnold-04162008.pdf

Enterprise Search and the Conference Season

My blog has been silent for several weeks as I wrapped up a study of the enterprise search marketplace. More information about the report will be forthcoming in the next week or so. In the meantime, the conference season is upon us with the Infonortics Search Engine conference just held in Boston, the Enterprise Search Summit in New York next week, TextAnalytics being held in Boston in mid-June and our own Gilbane San Francisco Conference being held June 18 – 20th. It is a feast for those in the market to buy or just become more familiar with the huge number of options. In my recent research on the marketplace I interviewed a number of people who had recently made a procurement of a search product. To a person there was significant pain expressed about how much time had been spent examining and rejecting options. With well over 100 search and “beyond search” products that are now commercially viable on the market, you need to find ways to winnow your choices efficiently. There is no better way to do this than to acquire publications that give you comprehensive information concentrated in one place PLUS going to conferences to:
a) To meet vendors and assess the type of business relationship you are likely to experience with them
b) Meet other users or potential users of the various technologies to learn, first hand, what their experiences have been buying and using search software
Attending conference sessions where case studies are being given by those deploying or using software is important, but discussions on the side can also be valuable. People who show up at our Gilbane Conferences are a sharing crowd and are easy to network with. As the track chairman for all the enterprise search sessions in San Francisco, I plan to hold at least one and maybe two roundtable discussions, open to anyone who wants to participate in a free flow of ideas about enterprise search. This will likely be in the location of the lunch venue – so we can pick at our food and each others’ brains, simultaneously.
Over the next couple of weeks, I plan to showcase the themes for our search sessions in San Francisco, beginning with the Search Keynote. Last year in Boston we had a panel discussion of search executives and analysts; that was a great discussion. This June I am going to thrust Steve Arnold, author of our new publication Beyond Search, into our spotlight with a series of questions about the marketplace to discover things that he thinks buyers should be focused on over the next six months plus soliciting some thoughts on selecting appropriate technologies. He will surely add commentary on the changing vendor landscape and what it means. Once I have had a go at questioning him, the audience will have a chance to seek his guidance. This is a “not to be missed” session so please put it on your calendar – it will not be recorded.
To warm you up to Mr. Arnold’s style and range of thoughts on the subject, check out this recent interview he gave to Jess Bratcher of Bratcher & Associates.

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