Month: November 2008

Case Studies and Guidance for Search Implementations

We’ll be covering a chunk of the search landscape at the Gilbane Conference next week. While there are nominally over 100 search solutions that target some aspect of enterprise search, there will be plenty to learn from the dozen or so case studies and tool options described. Commentary and examples include: Attivio, Coveo, Exalead, Google Search Appliance (GSA), IntelliSearch, Lexalytics, Lucene, Oracle Secure Enterprise Search, Thunderstone and references to others. Our speakers will cue us into the current state of the search as it is being implemented. Several exhibitors are also on site to demonstrate their capabilities and they represent some of the best. Check out the program lineup below and try to make it to Boston to hear those with hands-on experience.

EST-1: Plug-and Play: Enterprise Experiences with Search Appliances

  • So you want to implement an enterprise search solution? Speaker: Angela A. Foster, FedEx Services, FedEx.com Development, and Dennis Shirokov, Marketing Manager, FedEx Digital Access Marketing.
  • The Make or Buy Decision at the U.S. General Services Admin. Speaker: Thomas Schaefer, Systems Analyst and Consultant, U.S. General Services Administration
  • Process and Architecture for Implementing GSA at MITRE. Robert Joachim, Info Systems Engr, Lead, The MITRE Corporation.

EST-2: Search in the Enterprise When SharePoint is in the Mix

  • Enterprise Report Management: Bringing High Value Content into the Flow of Business Action. Speaker: Ajay Kapur, VP of Product Development, Apps Associates
  • Content Supply? Meet Knowledge Demand: Coveo SharePoint integration. Speaker: Marc Solomon, Knowledge Planner, PRTM.
  • In Search of the Perfect Search: Google Search on the Intranet. Speaker: June Nugent, Director of Corporate Knowledge Resources, NetScout Systems,

EST-3: Open Source Search Applied in the Enterprise

  • Context for Open Source Implementations. Speaker: Leslie Owen, Analyst, Forrester Research
  • Intelligent Integration: Combining Search and BI Capabilities for Unified Information Access. Speaker: Sid Probstien, CTO, Attivio

EST-4: Search Systems: Care and Feeding for Optimal Results

  • Getting Off to a Strong Start with Your Search Taxonomy. Speaker: Heather Hedden, Principal Hedden Information Management
  • Getting the Puzzle Pieces to Fit; Finding the Right Search Solution(s) Patricia Eagan, Sr. Mgr, Web Communications, The Jackson Laboratory.
  • How Organizations Need to Think About Search. Speaker: Rob Wiesenberg, President & Founder, Contegra Systems

EST-5: Text Analytics/Semantic Search: Parsing the Language

  • Overview and Differentiators: Text Analytics, Text Mining and Semantic Technologies. Jeff Catlin, CEO, Lexalytics
  • Reality and Hype in the Text Retrieval Market. Curt Monash, President, Monash Research.
  • Two Linguistic Approaches to Search: Natural Language Processing and Concept Extraction. Speaker: Win Carus, President and Founder, Information Extraction Systems

Exhibitors with a Search Focus:

Enterprise Search is Everywhere

When you look for an e-mail you sent last week, a vendor account rep’s phone number, a PowerPoint presentation you received from a colleague in the Paris office, a URL to an article recommended for reading before the next Board meeting, or background on a company project you have been asked to manage, you are engaged in search in, about, or for your enterprise. Whether you are working inside applications that you have used for years, or simply perusing the links on a decade’s old corporate intranet, trying to find something when you are in the enterprise doing its work, you are engaging with a search interface.
Dissatisfaction comes from the numbers of these interfaces and the lack of cohesive roadmap to all there is to be found. You already know what you know and what you need to know. Sometimes you know how to find what you need to know but more often you don’t know and stumble through a variety of possibilities up to and including asking someone else how to find it. That missing roadmap is more than an annoyance; it is a major encumbrance to doing your job and top management does not get it. They simply won’t accept that one or two content roadmap experts (overhead) could be saving many people-years of company time and lost productivity.
In most cases, the simple notion of creating clear guidelines and signposts to enterprise content is a funding showstopper. It takes human intelligence to design and build that roadmap and put the technology aids in place to reveal it. Management will fund technology but not the content architects, knowledge “mappers” and ongoing gatekeepers to stay on top of organizational change, expansions, contractions, mergers, rule changes and program activities that evolve and shift perpetually. They don’t want infrastructure overhead whose primary focus, day-in and day-out, will be observing, monitoring, communicating, and thinking about how to serve up the information that other workers need to do their jobs. These people need to be in place as the “black-boxes” that keep search tools in tip-top operating form.
Last week I commented on the products that will be featured in the Search Track at Gilbane Boston, Dec. 3rd and 4th. What you will learn about these tools is going to be couched in case studies that reveal the ways in which search technology is leveraged by people who think a lot about what needs to be found and how search needs to work in their enterprises. They will talk about what tools they use, why and what they are doing to get search to do its job. I’ve asked the speakers to tell their stories and based on my conversations with them in the past week, that is what we will hear, the reality!

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.

Apples and Orangutans: Enterprise Search and Knowledge Management

This title by Mike Altendorf, in CIO Magazine, October 31, 2008, mystifies me, Search Will Outshine KM. I did a little poking around to discover who he is and found a similar statement by him back in September, Search is being implemented in enterprises as the new knowledge management and what’s coming down the line is the ability to mine the huge amount of untapped structured and unstructured data in the organisation.

Because I follow enterprise search for the Gilbane Group while maintaining a separate consulting practice in knowledge management, I am struggling with his conflation of the two terms or even the migration of one to the other. The search we talk about is a set of software technologies that retrieve content. I’m tired of the debate about the terminology “enterprise search” vs. “behind the firewall search.” I tell vendors and buyers that my focus is on software products supporting search executed within (or from outside looking in) the enterprise on content that originates from within the enterprise or that is collected by the enterprise. I don’t judge whether the product is for an exclusive domain, content type or audience, or whether it is deployed with the “intent” of finding and retrieving every last scrap of content lying around the enterprise. It never does nor will do the latter but if that is what an enterprise aspires to, theirs is a judgment call I might help them re-evaluate in consultation.

It is pretty clear that Mr. Altendorf is impressed with the potential for Fast and Microsoft so he knows they are firmly entrenched in the software business. But knowledge management (KM) is not now, nor has it ever been, a software product or even a suite of products. I will acknowledge that KM is a messy thing to talk about and the label means many things even to those of us who focus on it as a practice area. It clearly got derailed as a useful “discipline” of focus in the 90s when tool vendors decided to place their products into a new category called “knowledge management.”

It sounded so promising and useful, this idea of KM software that could just suck the brains out of experts and the business know-how of enterprises out of hidden and lurking content. We know better, we who try to refine the art of leveraging knowledge by assisting our clients with blending people and technology to establish workable business practices around knowledge assets. We bring together IT, business managers, librarians, content managers, taxonomists, archivists, and records managers to facilitate good communication among many types of stakeholders. We work to define how to apply behavioral business practices and tools to business problems. Understanding how a software product is helpful in processes, its potential applications, or to encourage usability standards are part of the knowledge manager’s toolkit. It is quite an art, the KM process of bringing tools together with knowledge assets (people and content) into a productive balance.

Search is one of the tools that can facilitate leveraging knowledge assets and help us find the experts who might share some “how-to” knowledge, but it is not, nor will it ever be a substitute for KM. You can check out these links to see how others line up on the definitions of KM: CIO introduction to KM and Wikipedia. Let’s not have the “KM is dead” discussion again!

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