Fast Search: It’s Pretty Easy but Training Helps

April 19, 2008

A news release arrived in my mailbox with the headline, “FAST University Receives IACET Accreditation”. Please, read the full release here before it becomes difficult to find. (PR “news” can disappear with little warning.) The course originator is Fast Search & Transfer, the object of Microsoft’s $1.2 affection. Fast Search like Autonomy bills itself as a “leader” and “award winner” in enterprise search. There’s no accreditation program for search vendors, so any vendor can don the laurels of a leader.

The key point in the news release, from my point of view, is:

FAST University, the company’s award-winning education program, is now an International Association of Continuing Education and Training (IACET) Authorized Provider able to grant Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for customers, partners and employees who successfully complete FAST University instructor-led classes and self-paced eLearning.

I was not aware that Fast Search had a university. Other vendors of enterprise search systems (what I prefer to call behind-the-firewall search) should consider this type of program for three reasons:

  1. Licensees are unaware of the complexity of the building block solutions that some vendors offer. Without significant experience with these modular systems, training–regardless of type–is useful if only to help the licensee have a better sense of when to pay for additional professional support.
  2. Vendors have training programs, but these are in step with the times; that is, somewhat disorganized. At the recent Buying and Selling eContent conference, a panel of buyers told vendors that organized, professional training is sorely needed. No comments were made about online training, but that may be better than indifferent in-person training.
  3. For-fee training can contribute to the bottom line. Once a course has been converted to online form, the single course can be shown without the vendor having to pay humans to teach. Training has shifted from an expected service as it was in the Dark Ages circa 1970 to a source of revenue.

One final point may be worth noting. Google has emphasized that its Google Search Appliance is much simpler to configure, deploy, maintain, and customize than other vendors’ search systems. Having had the pleasure of configuring search appliances and modular search systems, Google may be on the right track with its simplicity argument.

I recall waiting several days for a specialist to deal with a problem with a modular search system which the licensee’s engineers, the search specialists from a third-party consulting firm, and the vendor’s on-site engineer could not figure out. That system was not just complex; it was convoluted with unknown, undocumented dependencies.

Maybe these online university programs are a way to solve the problem I couldn’t. Simplicity, Google-style, may be the wave of the future. Now that such vendors as Coveo, Exalead, ISYS Search Software, Siderean Software, and Vivisimo use the “s” word in their marketing, search that requires a “college” course may be a sign that complexity has become a way to sell training in order to sell more search options to an educated licensee? My experience suggests simplicity in search pays dividends. Complexity can create an insatiable appetite for resources.

Stephen Arnold, April 20, 2008


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