Tag: SharePoint

Collaboration, Convergence and Adoption

Here we are, half way through 2011, and on track for a banner year in the adoption of enterprise search, text mining/text analytics, and their integration with collaborative content platforms. You might ask for evidence; what I can offer is anecdotal observations. Others track industry growth in terms of dollars spent but that makes me leery when, over the past half dozen years, there has been so much disappointment expressed with the failures of legacy software applications to deliver satisfactory results. My antenna tells me we are on the cusp of expectations beginning to match reality as enterprises are finding better ways to select, procure, implement, and deploy applications that meet business needs.

What follows are my happy observations, after attending the 2011 Enterprise Search Summit in New York and 2011 Text Analytics Summit in Boston. Other inputs for me continue to be a varied reading list of information industry publications, business news, vendor press releases and web presentations, and blogs, plus conversations with clients and software vendors. While this blog is normally focused on enterprise search, experiencing and following content management technologies, and system integration tools contribute valuable insights into all applications that contribute to search successes and frustrations.

Collaboration tools and platforms gained early traction in the 1990s as technology offerings to the knowledge management crowd. The idea was that teams and workgroups needed ways to share knowledge through contribution of work products (documents) to “places” for all to view. Document management systems inserted themselves into the landscape for managing the development of work products (creating, editing, collaborative editing, etc.). However, collaboration spaces and document editing and version control activities remained applications more apart than synchronized.

The collaboration space has been redefined largely because SharePoint now dominates current discussions about collaboration platforms and activities. While early collaboration platforms were carefully structured to provide a thoughtfully bounded environment for sharing content, their lack of provision for idiosyncratic and often necessary workflows probably limited market dominance.

SharePoint changed the conversation to one of build-it-to-do-anything-you-want-the way-you-want (BITDAYWTWYW). What IT clearly wants is single vendor architecture that delivers content creation, management, collaboration, and search. What end-users want is workflow efficiency and reliable search results. This introduces another level of collaborative imperative, since the BITDAYWTWYW model requires expertise that few enterprise IT support people carry and fewer end-users would trust to their IT departments. So, third-party developers or software offerings become the collaborative option. SharePoint is not the only collaboration software but, because of its dominance, a large second tier of partner vendors is turning SharePoint adopters on to its potential. Collaboration of this type in the marketplace is ramping wildly.

Convergence of technologies and companies is on the rise, as well. The non-Microsoft platform companies, OpenText, Oracle, and IBM are placing their strategies on tightly integrating their solid cache of acquired mature products. These acquisitions have plugged gaps in text mining, analytics, and vocabulary management areas. Google and Autonomy are also entering this territory although they are still short on the maturity model. The convergence of document management, electronic content management, text and data mining, analytics, e-discovery, a variety of semantic tools, and search technologies are shoring up the “big-platform” vendors to deal with “big-data.”

Sitting on the periphery is the open source movement. It is finding ways to alternatively collaborate with the dominant commercial players, disrupt select application niches (e. g. WCM ), and contribute solutions where neither the SharePoint model nor the big platform, tightly integrated models can win easy adoption. Lucene/Solr is finding acceptance in the government and non-profit sectors but also appeal to SMBs.

All of these factors were actively on display at the two meetings but the most encouraging outcomes that I observed were:

  • Rise in attendance at both meetings
  • More knowledgeable and experienced attendees
  • Significant increase in end-user presentations

The latter brings me back to the adoption issue. Enterprises, which previously sent people to learn about technologies and products to earlier meetings, are now in the implementation and deployment stages. Thus, they are now able to contribute presentations with real experience and commentary about products. Presenters are commenting on adoption issues, usability, governance, successful practices and pitfalls or unresolved issues.

Adoption is what will drive product improvements in the marketplace because experienced adopters are speaking out on their activities. Public presentations of user experiences can and should establish expectations for better tools, better vendor relationship experiences, more collaboration among products and ultimately, reduced complexity in the implementation and deployment of products.

Enterprise Search 2008 Wrap-Up

It would be presumptuous to think that I could adequately summarize a very active year of evolution among a huge inventory of search technologies. This entry is more about what I have learned and what I opine about the state-of-the-market, than an analytical study and forecast.

The weak link in the search market is product selection methods. My first thought is that we are in a state of technological riches without clear guideposts for which search models work best in any given enterprise. Those tasked to select and purchase products are not well-educated about the marketplace but are usually not given budget or latitude to purchase expert analysis when it is available. It is a sad commentary to view how organizations grant travel budgets to attend conferences where only limited information can be gathered about products but will not spend a few hundred dollars on in-depth comparative expert analyses of a large array of products.

My sources for this observation are numerous, confirmed by speakers in our Gilbane conference search track sessions in Boston and San Francisco. As they related their personal case histories for selecting products, speakers shared no tales of actually doing literature searches or in-depth research using resources with a cost associated. This underscores another observation, those procuring search do not know how to search and operate in the belief that they can find “good enough” information using only “free stuff.” Even their review of material gathered is limited to skimming rather than a systematic reading for concrete facts. This does not make for well-reasoned selections. As noted in an earlier entry, a widely published chart stating that product X is a leader does nothing to enlighten your enterprise’s search for search. In one case, product leadership is determined primarily by the total software sales for the “leader” of which search is a miniscule portion.

Don’t expect satisfaction with search products to rise until buyers develop smarter methods for selection and better criteria for making a buy decision that suits a particular business need.

Random Thoughts. It will be a very long time before we see a universally useful, generic search function embedded in Microsoft (MS) product suites as a result of the FAST acquisition. Asked earlier in the year by a major news organization whether I though MS had paid too much for FAST, I responded “no” if what they wanted was market recognition but “yes” if they thought they were getting state-of-the-art-technology. My position holds; the financial and legal mess in Norway only complicates the road to meshing search technology from FAST with Microsoft customer needs.

I’ve wondered what has happened to the OmniFind suite of search offerings from IBM. One source tells me it makes IBM money because none of the various search products in the line-up are standalone, nor do they provide an easy transition path from one level of product to another for upward scaling and enhancements. IBM can embed any search product with any bundled platform of other options and charge for lots of services to bring it on-line with heavy customization.

Three platform vendors seem to be penetrating the market slowly but steadily by offering more cohesive solutions to retrieval. Native search solutions are bundled with complete content capture, publishing and search suites, purposed for various vertical and horizontal applications. These are Oracle, EMC, and OpenText. None of these are out-of-the-box offerings and their approach tends to appeal to larger organizations with staff for administration. At least they recognize the scope and scale of enterprise content and search demands, and customer needs.

On User Presentations at the Boston Gilbane Conference, I was very pleased with all sessions, the work and thought the speakers put into their talks. There were some noteworthy comments in those on Semantic Search and Text Technologies, Open Source and Search Appliances.

On the topic of semantic (contextual query and retrieval) search, text mining and analytics, the speakers covered the range of complexities in text retrieval, leaving the audience with a better understanding of how diverse this domain has become. Different software application solutions need to be employed based on point business problems to be solved. This will not change, and enterprises will need to discriminate about which aspects of their businesses need some form of semantically enabled retrieval and then match expectations to offerings. Large organizations will procure a number of solutions, all worthy and useful. Jeff Catlin of Lexalytics gave a clear set of definitions within this discipline, industry analyst Curt Monash provoked us with where to set expectations for various applications, and Win Carus of Information Extraction Systems illustrated the tasks extraction tools can perform to find meaning in a heap of content. The story has yet to be written on how semantic search is and will impact our use of information within organizations.

Leslie Owens of Forrester and Sid Probstein of Attivio helped to ground the discussion of when and why open source software is appropriate. The major take-way for me was an understanding of the type of organization that benefits most as a contributor and user of open source software. Simply put, you need to be heavily vested and engaged on the technical side to get out of open source what you need, to mold it to your purpose. If you do not have the developers to tackle coding, or the desire to share in a community of development, your enterprise’s expectations will not be met and disappointment is sure to follow.

Finally, several lively discussions about search appliance adoption and application (Google Search Appliance and Thunderstone) strengthen my case for doing homework and making expenditures on careful evaluations before jumping into procurement. While all the speakers seem to be making positive headway with their selected solutions, the path to success has involved more diversions and changes of course than necessary for some because the vetting and selecting process was too “quick and dirty” or dependent on too few information sources. This was revealed: true plug and play is an appliance myth.

What will 2009 bring? I’m looking forward to seeing more applications of products that interest me from companies that have impressed me with thoughtful and realistic approaches to their customers and target audiences. Here is an uncommon clustering of search products.

Multi-repository search across database applications, content collaboration stores document management systems and file shares: Coveo, Autonomy, Dieselpoint, dtSearch, Endeca, Exalead, Funnelback, Intellisearch, ISYS, Oracle, Polyspot, Recommind, Thunderstone, Vivisimo, and X1. In this list is something for every type of enterprise and budget.

Business and analytics focused software with intelligence gathering search: Attensity, Attivio, Basis Technology, ChartSearch, Lexalytics, SAS, and Temis.

Comprehensive solutions for capture, storage, metadata management and search for high quality management of content for targeted audiences: Access Innovations, Cuadra Associates, Inmagic, InQuira, Knova, Nstein, OpenText, ZyLAB.

Search engines with advanced semantic processing or natural language processing for high quality, contextually relevant retrieval when quantity of content makes human metadata indexing prohibitive: Cognition Technologies, Connotate, Expert System, Linguamatics, Semantra, and Sinequa

Content Classifier, thesaurus management, metadata server products have interplay with other search engines and a few have impressed me with their vision and thoughtful approach to the technologies: MarkLogic, MultiTes, Nstein, Schemalogic, Seaglex, and Siderean.

Search with a principal focus on SharePoint repositories: BA-Insight, Interse, Kroll Ontrack, and SurfRay.

Finally, some unique search applications are making serious inroads. These include Documill for visual and image, Eyealike for image and people, Krugle for source code, and Paglo for IT infrastructure search.

This is the list of companies that interest me because I think they are on track to provide good value and technology, many still small but with promise. As always, the proof will be in how they grow and how well they treat their customers.

That’s it for a wrap on Year 2 of the Enterprise Search Practice at the Gilbane Group. Check out our search studies at http://gilbane.com/Research-Reports.html and PLEASE let me hear your thoughts on my thoughts or any other search related topic via the contact information at http://gilbane.com/

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:

Surrounding and Supporting Enterprise Search

In a week when the KMWorld and Enterprise Search Summit were running concurrently in San Jose, Microsoft made an enterprise search product announcement that was actually a well-kept secret for Microsoft. There was plenty of other new product news floating about the marketplace, too. Mark Logic, MuseGlobal, Cognos, SchemaLogic, and Brainware all had their own announcements.
Between November 6 and November 13, these five companies had interesting news to share. The announcements all related to leveraging enterprise content in tandem with search engines. This underscores a strong trend in software product deployment, specifically, that much of it is being rolled out in partnerships in highly heterogeneous environments. While Microsoft’s announcement about free Search Server 2008 Express establishes them as the last major software company to adopt search as a platform, the other technology announcements remind us that integration activity is a core operational consideration and even a necessity for gaining value from search.
In order to tie all the bits and pieces of content across the enterprise into a tidy bundle for simple retrieval, or in order for content to really bring value to solving business problems, it needs packaging. It needs to be packaged at the front end so that search engines can grab useful context and metadata for smarter indexing. It also needs to be well packaged at the output end to present results meaningfully for a particular audience or purpose.
Here is a quick look at what these five complementary technologies do for search plus a link to each of their latest announcements:
> Brainware – combines data capture with a content extraction and distillation learning engine for enhancing categorization relevancy in preparation for natural language queries. It will be embedded in search for a leading enterprise library system, Sirsi/Dynix.
> Cognos – a leading Business Intelligence (BI) software company is being acquired by IBM, whose search products are often paired with Cognos.
> Mark Logic – is a company with an XML content server platform for managing or converting content in XML formats. They just announced MarkMail, a community-focused searchable message archive service, which stores emails as XML documents. Expect more from them on this front.
> MuseGlobal – offers solutions that integrate content from multiple search engines. They just announced availability for presenting results in a fully unified and consistent format from multiple search engines in a SharePoint portal interface.
> SchemaLogic – specializes in content and document type modeling, metadata and vocabulary management using SchemaServer. In the past two weeks they have announced integration with SharePoint to manage metadata. A webinar this week described the interplay with Documentum for document production and retrieval using the FAST search engine.
And what do the other enterprise search vendors have to say about the “surprise” Microsoft announcement? Comments ranged from “we knew it was just a matter of time before they announced” to “good for business, enterprise search is officially now a market.” To the first comment I say, “Not so fast.” For several years rumors have been floated about the imminent acquisition of any number of search companies by MS but nothing materialized. Yes, Microsoft was doing something about enterprise search but until last week “what” was still the question. To the latter I say, “We’ve had an enterprise search market for several years, Microsoft just wanted to be sure it was well established before joining the club.” That was smart of them; let others lay the foundation for a growth industry. It also looks like this is a leveling of the field with Google already playing in Microsoft’s backyard in the free office tools area.
Now the positioning really begins.

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