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 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.
We are getting ready for the third in which “search” has been a significant part of the presentation landscape in San Francisco, June 17 – 20th.Six sessions will be filled with case studies and enlightening “how-to-do-it-better” guidance from search experts with significant “hands-on” experience in the field. I will be conducting a workshop, immediately after the conference, . Presentations by speakers and the workshop will focus on users’ experiences and guidance for evaluating, buying and implementing search. Viewing search from a usage perspective begs a different set of classification criteria for divvying up the products.
In February, Business Trends published an interview I gave them in December, Revving up Search Engines in the Enterprise. There probably isn’t much new in it for those who routinely follow this topic but if you are trying to find ways to explain what it is, why and how to get started, you might find some ideas for opening the discussion with others in your business setting. The intended audience is those who don’t normally wallow in search jargon. This interview pretty much covers the what, why, who, and when to jump into procuring search tools for the enterprise.
For my report, I have been very pleased with discussions I’ve had with a couple dozen people immersed in evaluating and implementing search for their organizations. Hearing them describe their experiences guides other ways to organize a potpourri of search products and how buyers should approach their selection. With over eighty products we have a challenge in how to parse the domain. I am segmenting the market space into multiple dimensions from the content type being targeted by “search” to the packaging models the vendors offer. When laying out a simple “ontology” of concepts surrounding the search product domain, I hope to clarify why there are so many ways of grouping the tools and products being offered. If vendors read the report to decide which buckets they belong in for marketing and buyers are able to sort out the type of product they need, the report will have achieved one positive outcome. In the meantime, read on the whole topic of enterprise tacked onto any group of products.
As serendipity would have it, a colleague from Boston KM Forum, Marc Solomon, just wrote a blog on a new way of thinking of the business of classifying anything, “Word Algebra.” And guess who gave him the inspiration, Mr. Search himself, Steve Arnold. As a former indexer and taxonomist I appreciate this positioning of applied classification. Thinking about why we search gives us a good idea for how to parse content for consumption. Our parameters for search selection must be driven by that WHY?
May-be it is this everlasting winter of weather events, but I’m ready for some big changes across the gray landscape. Experiencing endless winter has for me become a metaphor for what I observe within some enterprises as serial adoptions of search.
As I work on my forthcoming report, Enterprise Search Markets and Applications: Capitalizing on Emerging Demand, I am interviewing people who are deeply engaged in search technologies. They are presenting a view of search deployment and implementation that reinforces my own observations, complete with benefits and disappointments. However, search in enterprises is like recurring weather events, some big, some small but relentless in the repetitiveness of certain experiences. It seems that early adopters in the early stages of adoption often experience the euphoria of a fresh way to find stuff. Then inertia sets in as some large subset of adopters settles in to becoming routine but faithful users. The rest are like me with winter, looking for a really big change and more; the nitpicking begins as users cast their eyes to better options hyped by the media or by compatriots in other organizations with newer “bells and whistles.” Ah, what fickle beasts we are, as my husband will be very quick to remind me the first hot, humid day of summer when I complain in a desultory sulk.
So, I was delighted to read this article in the New York Times, Tech’s Late Adopters Prefer the Tried and True, by Miguel Helft, on March 12. I particularly loved this comment from the article: “Laggards have a bad rap, but they are crucial in pacing the nature of change, said Paul Saffo, a technology forecaster in Silicon Valley. Innovation requires the push of early adopters and the pull of laypeople asking whether something really works. If this was a world in which only early adopters got to choose, we’d all be using CB radios and quadraphonic stereo.” It helps to put one’s quest for the next big thing into perspective.
It included another quote from David Gans who, from the community of the Well in which people communicate using text-only systems, “Just because you have a nuclear-powered thing that can dry your clothes in five minutes doesn’t mean there isn’t value to hanging your clothes in the backyard and talking to your neighbors while doing it.” As one who has never owned a clothes drier, this validated one of my own conscious decisions.
Seriously though, given all the comments collected from my interviews and my own experiences, it is really time to remind adopters, early and late, to give thought to appropriateness, what benefits us or adversely distracts us in the technologies we implement in our working worlds. (I’ll leave your personal technology use for you to sort out.) Taking time to think about your intentions and “what comes next” after getting that “must have” new search system is something only you can control. Nobody on the selling side of a bakery will ever remind you that you don’t really neeeed another cookie.
And in one more point, if you are in the market for search+, Steve Arnold does a fine job of positioning the appropriateness of each of the 24 systems he reviews in . It might just help you resist the superfluous and take a look some other options instead.
Called to account for the nomenclature “enterprise search,” which is my area of practice for The Gilbane Group, I will confess that the term has become as tiresome as any other category to which the marketplace gives full attention. But what is in a name, anyway? It is just a label and should not be expected to fully express every attribute it embodies. A year ago I defined it to mean any search done within the enterprise with a primary focus of internal content. “Enterprise” can be an entire organization, division, or group with a corpus of content it wants to have searched comprehensively with a single search engine.
A search engine does not need to be exclusive of all other search engines, nor must it be deployed to crawl and index every single repository in its path to be referred to as enterprise search. There are good and justifiable reasons to leave select repositories un-indexed that go beyond even security concerns, implied by the label “search behind the firewall.” I happen to believe that you can deploy enterprise search for enterprises that are quite open with their content and do not keep it behind a firewall (e.g. government agencies, or not-for-profits). You may also have enterprise search deployed with a set of content for the public you serve and for the internal audience. If the content being searched is substantively authored by the members of the organization or procured for their internal use, enterprise search engines are the appropriate class of products to consider. As you will learn from my forthcoming study, Enterprise Search Markets and Applications: Capitalizing on Emerging Demand, and that of Steve Arnold ( ) there are more than a lot of flavors out there, so you’ll need to move down the food chain of options to get it right for the application or problem you are trying to solve.
OK! Are you yet convinced that Microsoft is pitting itself squarely against Google? The Yahoo announcement of an offer to purchase for something north of $44 billion makes the previous acquisition of FAST for $1.2 billion pale. But I want to know how this squares with IBM, which has a partnership with Yahoo in the of IBM’s OmniFind. This keeps the attorneys busy. Or may-be Microsoft will buy IBM, too.
Finally, this dog fight exposed in the Washington Post caught my eye, or did one of the dogs walk away with his tail between his legs? Google slams Autonomy – now, why would they do that?
I had other plans for this week’s blog but all the Patriots Super Bowl talk puts me in the mode for looking at other competitions. It is kind of fun.
Enterprise search applications abound in the technology marketplace, from embedded search to specialized e-discovery solutions to search engines for crawling and indexing the entire intranet of an organization. So, why is there so much dissatisfaction with results and heaps of stories of buyer’s remorse? Are we on the cusp of a new wave of semantic search options or better ways to federate our universe of content within and outside the enterprise? Who are the experts on enterprise search anyway?
You might read this blog because you know me from the knowledge management (KM) arena, or from my past life as the founder of an integrated enterprise library automation company. In the KM world a recurring theme is the need to leverage expertise, best done in an environment where it is easy to connect with the experts but that seems to be a dim option in many enterprises. In the corporate library world the intent is to aggregate and filter a substantive domain of content, expertise and knowledge assets on behalf of the specialized interests of the enterprise, too often a legacy model of enterprise infrastructure. Librarians have long been innovators at adopting and leveraging advanced technologies but they have also been a concentrating force for facilitating shared expertise. In fact, special librarians excel at providing access to experts.
We are drowning in technological options, not the least of which is enterprise search and its complexity of feature laden choices. However, it is darned hard to find instances of full search tool adoption or users who love the search tools they are delivered on their intranets. So, I am adopting my KM and library science modes to elevate the discussion about search to a decidedly non-technical conversation.
I really want to learn what you know about enterprise search, what you have learned, discovered and experienced over the past two or three years. This blog and the work I do with The Gilbane Group is about getting readers to the best and most appropriate search solutions that can make positive contributions in their enterprises. Knowing who is using what and where it has succeeded or what problems and issues were encountered is information I can use to communicate, in aggregate, those experiences. I am reaching out to you and those you refer to complete a five minute survey to open the door to more discussion. Please use this link to participate right now. You will then have the option to get the resulting details in my upcoming research study on enterprise search.
Just to prove that I still follow exciting technologies, as well, I want to relay a couple of new items. First is a recent category in search, “active intelligence,” adopted as Attivio’s tag line. This is a start-up led by Ali Riaz and officially new blog, a lead up to the forthcoming Beyond Search: What to Do When Your Search Engine Doesn’t Work to be published by The Gilbane Group. You’ll be transported from the historical, to the here and now, to the newest tools on his radar screen as you page from one blog entry to another.from Newton, MA. Then, to get a steady feed of all things enterprise search from guru Steve Arnold, check out his
I closed 2007 with some final takeaways from the Gilbane Conference and notes about semantic search. Already we are planning for Gilbane San Francisco and you are invited to participate. There is no question that enterprise search, in all its dimensions, will be a central theme of several sessions at the conference, June 17th through 19th. I will lead with a discussion in which a whole range of search topics, technologies and industry themes will be explored in a session featuring guest Steve Arnold, author of . To complement the sessions, numerous search technology vendors will be present in the exhibit hall.
A most important conference component will be a highlight for conference goers, shared-experiences about selecting, implementing and engaging with search tools in the enterprise. Everyone wants to know what everyone else is doing, learning and what they know about enterprise search. You may want to present your experiences or those of your organization. If you are interested, considering presenting, know of a good case study, usability or “lessons learned” from implementing search technology, please raise your hand. You can do this by reaching out through thisto submit a proposal and make reference to the “enterprise search blog call for papers.” You can be sure I’ll follow-up soon to explore the options for you or a colleague to participate. This is a great opportunity to be part of a community of practitioners like you and attend a conference that always has substantive value for participants.
Leave it to Microsoft to end the year with a bigger one. We knew that the world of enterprise search was going to contract in terms of the number of established vendors, even though it is expanding in new and innovative offerings. Microsoft had to make a bold play in an industry where Google has been the biggest player on the WWW stage while reaching deeper into the enterprise, tickling at Microsoft’s decades-old hold on content creation and capture. So, with the acquisition of FAST Search & Transfer, whose technology may not be the best in the enterprise search market but is certainly the most widely deployed at the high-end, Microsoft opens with a direct challenge to its largest competitor.and open the next one with an even
Boy! Have the emails been flying this morning. At least I know there will be plenty of material to ponder in the next few weeks and months. P.S. Don’t miss the action in San Francisco!
Steve Arnold of blog summary of Steve’s New York speech by Larry Digman sounds like vintage Arnold, to the point and right on it. Steve, not for the first time, is making points that analysts and other search experts routinely observe about the lack of serious infrastructure vested in making content valuable by enhancing its searchability.struck twice in a big way last week, once as a contributor to the Bear, Stearns & Co. research report on Google and once as a principal speaker at Enterprise Search in New York. I’ve read a copy of the Bear Stearns report, which contains information that should make IT people pay close attention to how they manage searchable enterprise content. I can verify that this
First is the Bear Stearns report, summarized for the benefit of government IT folks with admonitions about how to act on the technical guidance it provides in this article by Joab Jackson in GCN. The report’s appearance in the same week as Microsoft’s acquisition of aQuantive is newsworthy in itself. Google really ups the ante with their plans to change the rules for posting content results for Internet searches. If Webmasters actually begin to do more sophisticated content preparation to leverage what Google is calling its Programmable Search Engine (PSE), then results using Google search will continue to be several steps ahead of what Microsoft is currently rolling out. In other words, while Microsoft is making its most expensive acquisition to tweak Internet searching in one area, Google is investing its capital in its own IP development to make search richer in another. Experience looking at large software companies tells me that IP strategically developed to be totally in sync with existing products have a much better chance of quick success in the marketplace than companies that do acquisitions to play catch up. So, even though Microsoft, in an acquiring mode, may find IP to acquire in the semantic search space (and there is a lot out there that hasn’t been commercialized), its ability to absorb and integrate it in time to head off this Google initiative is a real tough proposition. I’m with Bear Stearn’s guidance on this one.
OK, on to Arnold’s comments at Enterprise Search, in which he continues a theme to jolt IT folks. As, already noted, I totally agree that IT in most organizations is loath to call on information search professionals to understand the best ways to exploit search engine adoption for getting good search results. But I am hoping that the economic side of search, Web content management for an organization’s public facing content, may cause a shift. Already, I am experiencing Web content managers who are enlightened about how to make content more findable through good metadata and taxonomy strategies. They have figured out how to make good stuff rise to the top with guidance from outside IT. When sales people complain that their prospects can’t find the company’s products online, it tends to spur marketing folks to adjust their Web content strategies accordingly.
It may take a while, but my observation is that when employees see search working well on their public sites, they begin to push for equal quality search internally. Now that we have Google paying serious attention to metadata for the purpose of giving search results semantic context, maybe the guys in-house will begin to get it, too.