Tag: Search case studies

Understanding the Smart Content Technology Landscape

If you have been following recent XML Technologies blog entries, you will notice we have been talking a lot lately about XML Smart Content, what it is and the benefits it can bring to an organization. These include flexible, dynamic assembly for delivery to different audiences, search optimization to improve customer experience, and improvements for distributed collaboration. Great targets to aim for, but you may ask are we ready to pursue these opportunities? It might help to better understand the technology landscape involved in creating and delivering smart content.

The figure below illustrates the technology landscape for smart content. At the center are fundamental XML technologies for creating modular content, managing it as discrete chunks (with or without a formal content management system), and publishing it in an organized fashion. These are the basic technologies for “one source, one output” applications, sometimes referred to as Singe Source Publishing (SSP) systems.

XML and Smart Content Landscape

The innermost ring contains capabilities that are needed even when using a dedicated word processor or layout tool, including editing, rendering, and some limited content storage capabilities. In the middle ring are the technologies that enable single-sourcing content components for reuse in multiple outputs. They include a more robust content management environment, often with workflow management tools, as well as multi-channel formatting and delivery capabilities and structured editing tools. The outermost ring includes the technologies for smart content applications, which are described below in more detail.

It is good to note that smart content solutions rely on structured editing, component management, and multi-channel delivery as foundational capabilities, augmented with content enrichment, topic component assembly, and social publishing capabilities across a distributed network. Descriptions of the additional capabilities needed for smart content applications follow.

Content Enrichment / Metadata Management: Once a descriptive metadata taxonomy is created or adopted, its use for content enrichment will depend on tools for analyzing and/or applying the metadata. These can be manual dialogs, automated scripts and crawlers, or a combination of approaches. Automated scripts can be created to interrogate the content to determine what it is about and to extract key information for use as metadata. Automated tools are efficient and scalable, but generally do not apply metadata with the same accuracy as manual processes. Manual processes, while ensuring better enrichment, are labor intensive and not scalable for large volumes of content. A combination of manual and automated processes and tools is the most likely approach in a smart content environment. Taxonomies may be extensible over time and can require administrative tools for editorial control and term management.

Component Discovery / Assembly: Once data has been enriched, tools for searching and selecting content based on the enrichment criteria will enable more precise discovery and access. Search mechanisms can use metadata to improve search results compared to full text searching. Information architects and organizers of content can use smart searching to discover what content exists, and what still needs to be developed to proactively manage and curate the content. These same discovery and searching capabilities can be used to automatically create delivery maps and dynamically assemble content organized using them.

Distributed Collaboration / Social Publishing: Componentized information lends itself to a more granular update and maintenance process, enabling several users to simultaneously access topics that may appear in a single deliverable form to reduce schedules. Subject matter experts, both remote and local, may be included in review and content creation processes at key steps. Users of the information may want to “self-organize” the content of greatest interest to them, and even augment or comment upon specific topics. A distributed social publishing capability will enable a broader range of contributors to participate in the creation, review and updating of content in new ways.

Federated Content Management / Access: Smart content solutions can integrate content without duplicating it in multiple places, rather accessing it across the network in the original storage repository. This federated content approach requires the repositories to have integration capabilities to access content stored in other systems, platforms, and environments. A federated system architecture will rely on interoperability standards (such as CMIS), system agnostic expressions of data models (such as XML Schemas), and a robust network infrastructure (such as the Internet).

These capabilities address a broader range of business activity and, therefore, fulfill more business requirements than single-source content solutions. Assessing your ability to implement these capabilities is essential in evaluating your organizations readiness for a smart content solution.

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.

Search is Not Taking a Summer Break & Call for Papers

Amidst post Gilbane San Francisco business I have been reading what everyone else has been writing about search the past couple of months. While there continues to be much speculation and gossip about the Microsoft acquisition of FAST, and which companies may soon be absorbed into larger entities, there also continues to be interesting activity among the mid-tier and start-up search vendors. Meanwhile, I advise those who aspire to acquire a search solution for “behind the firewall,” don’t wait for the “big players” to come up with the definitive solution to all your search needs because it will never happen. I’m in good company with other analysts who advise moving on with point search solutions for specific business needs. You will save money, and time because many of the new products are optimized for rapid deployment, in weeks or months, not years.
If you check out my new research report, Enterprise Search Markets and Applications; Capitalizing on Emerging Demand, June, 2008, you will find a directory to companies offering search solutions with choices for what Steve Arnold refers to as “beyond search.” Deep test drives of many of these products can be found in his report, as well. Meanwhile, new releases of products listed, and new products both continue to be announced. ISYS, Coveo and Expert System (Cogito) have brought new offerings to market in the last month and Collexis, a relative newcomer, is drawing attention to itself by demonstrating its products at numerous meetings this year.
So, keeping reading and checking out the possibilities. While you are at it, be sure to put the Gilbane Boston Conference on your calendar for December 3 – 4. We are all busy rounding out the program right now.
I am particularly interested in hearing from those of you who have participated in the selection of a search product in the past two years, implementing or deploying a system anywhere within your own enterprise. Please consider sending me a brief proposal for a presentation at the conference. For your effort, you will get to attend all the conference sessions, as well as help the audience with the needed reality checks on what it takes to conduct a selection process and follow through with implementation. I particularly want you to share your learning experiences: the good, the frustrating, and the lessons you have accrued. Professional speaking experience is not required – we want stories. [You’ll find my email on the “Contacts” page of the Gilbane site and you should also look at the speakers guidelines for additional information.]

Case Studies: Enterprise Search Success Stories

It has been a week since the annual Gilbane Boston 2007 Conference closed and I am still searching for the most important message that came out of Enterprise Search and Semantic Web Technology sessions. There were so many interesting case studies that I’ll begin with a search function that illustrates one major enterprise search requirement – aggregation.
Besides illustrating a business case for aggregating disparate content using search, the case studies shared three themes:
> Search is just a starting point for many business processes
> While few very large organizations present all of their organization’s content through a single portal, the technology options to manage such an ideal design are growing and up to supporting entire enterprises
> All systems were implemented and operational for delivering value in less than one year, underscoring the trend toward practical and more out-of-the box solutions
Here is a brief take on what came out of just the first two of seven sessions.
Small-medium solutions:
> Use of ISYS to manipulate search results and function as a back-office data analysis tool for DirectEDGAR, the complete SEC filings, presented by Prof. Burch Kealey of the University of Nebraska. Presentation
> Support for search by serendipity across the shareable content domains of members of a trade association (ARF) by finding results that satisfy the searcher in his pursuit of understanding with Exalead, presented by Alain Heurtebise CEO of Exalead. Presentation
> A knowledge portal enabling rapid and efficient retrieval of the complete technical documentation for field service engineers at Otis Elevator to meet rapid response goals when supporting customers using a customized implementation of dtSearch, presented by project consultant Rob Wiesenberg of Contegra Systems, Inc. Presentation
Large solutions calling for search across multi-million record domains:
> Hosted Vivisimo solution federating over 40 million documents across 22,000 government web sites accessible with search results clustered; it records over a half million page views per day on http://USA.gov and was deployed in 8 weeks, presented by Vivisimo co-founder Jerome Pesenti. Presenation
> Intranet knowledge portal for improving customer services by enabling access to internal knowledge assets (over half a million customer cases with all their associated documents) at USi (an AT&T company) using Endeca, a search product USi had experience deploying and hosting for very large e-commerce catalogs, presented by development leader Toby Ford of USi. With one developer it was running in six months. Presentation
> Within a large law firm (Morrison Foerster) and the legal departments of two multi-national pharmaceutical companies (Pfizer and Novartis), Recommind aggregates and indexes content for numerous internal application repositories, file shares and external content sources for unified search across millions of documents, contributing a direct ROI in saved labor by ensuring that required documents are retrieved in a single search process. Presentation
In each of these cases, content from numerous sources was aggregated through the crawling and indexing algorithms of a particular search engine pointed at a bounded and defined corpus of content, with or without associated metadata to solve a particular business problem. In each case, there were surrounding technologies, human architected design elements, and interfaces to present the search interface and results for a predefined audience. This is what we can expect from search in the coming months and years, deployments to meet specialized enterprise needs, an evolving array of features and tools to leverage search results, and a rapid scaling of capabilities to match the explosion of enterprise content that we all need to find and manipulate to do our jobs.
Next week, I will reconstruct more themes and messages from the conference.

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