Accenture Redefines Enterprise Search

October 21, 2008

A happy quack to the reader who alerted me to a white paper–a brief white paper–from Accenture. As you may know, Accenture is a consultancy spawned by an accounting firm. Unlike Price Waterhouse Coopers, Accenture has continued under its own electric motor and it has worked hard to rank among the McKinseys and the Booz, Allen & Hamiltons of the world. Accenture publishes essays and studies to buttress its position as a “thought leader”. I downloaded the paper “In Search of Answers: Enterprise Search and the High Performance Business” here. I did not pause in my goosely quest to ponder the jarring “in search of answers” or the oxymoronic “high performance business”. That’s standard consulting word smithing. I dived into the meat of the six page document. When you retain a High Street consulting firm, you get more than six pages. The white paper is an intellectual appetizer, not an entire meal. I assert that Accenture is delivering the information equivalent of  low fat yogurt or “search lite”.


This is a watercress salad. Not too filling and probably not a meal for a lumberjack.

The most interesting aspect of the write up to me was what it did not contain. Accenture pauses briefly on the problem that exists in most organizations; namely, enterprise search is a source of dissatisfaction. The company’s pundits also bound happily over the pain points of cost, complexity, and deployment time. This addled goose assumed that these issues are understood and documented in the reports to paying customers.

What struck me was the the placement of “what lies ahead” before the “how does it work” discussion. Since I am on record as the person who first proclaimed that “search is broken” then “search is dead”, it came as a surprise that Accenture sought to educate me about the future of a not too lively business sector. I thought briefly of the Fast Search & Transfer tangle in Oslo, Norway; the case studies of failed search vendors such as Delphes and Entopia; and the growing number of search vendors gasping for oxygen. You can read about the TeezIR and SurfRay businesses in this Web log. In short, from giants like IBM and Oracle to smaller companies, enterprise search is a bit of a challenge for vendors and users alike.


A more substantive solution to information access in an organization delivers calories and longer-lasting satisfaction.

What did Accenture say about the future? I am not going to quote from the firm’s document. It is the consultants’ intellectual property. The gist is that the future of search is analytics and monitoring, sentiment analysis, and multimedia. These are subjects that I assume will provide answers to a high performance business.

In reality, the Accenture white paper contributes to the problem of enterprise search. A high performance business won’t be a high performance business if it loses sight of one simple point–employees need information to help them do their jobs better. Making an employee type a query and watch a video to get an answer is sillier than the band playing as the Titanic goes down.

If you thrive on consulting firm input, you will find the Accenture white paper food for thought. If you have a more discerning palate, you will look for a more substantial starter. The Accenture white paper about enterprise search is what I consider “search lite”. You are welcome to a different opinion. I want substance, not MBA floundering.

Stephen Arnold, October 21, 2008


9 Responses to “Accenture Redefines Enterprise Search”

  1. Accenture Redefines Enterprise Search | Bookmarks URL on October 21st, 2008 2:35 am

    […] Accenture Redefines Enterprise Search In reality, the Accenture white paper contributes to the problem of enterprise search. A high performance business won’t be a high performance business if it loses sight of one simple point–employees need information to help them do … […]

  2. Lee Romero on October 23rd, 2008 1:52 pm

    Stephen – Thanks for highlighting that white paper. I’d missed it. I also appreciate your interpretation of the paper and the market – enterprise search is a very tough nut to crack and the key to focus on is the delivery of the right information to the right people at the right time.

    I do think that the items you mention that are the “future” per the white paper can lead into that but only if they are treated as actionable and are given time / mindshare to help an organization refine their search.

  3. Stephen E. Arnold on October 23rd, 2008 5:20 pm

    Lee Romero

    No problemo. Keep in mind that this Web log is my diary and my opinion. I am surprised that two or three people read my content recycling. The thanks goes to the person who point me to the Accenture’s thought piece. By the way, the future is search enabled applications, not enterprise search. One reader says I say that too much. Another says I emphasize that most users think their existing search systems are disappointing or just lousy. I hear from vendors each time I make these points. The vendors, not surprisingly, remind me that I am an addled goose. Well, I am. And I am an old one.

    Stephen Arnold, October 23, 2008

  4. Andreas ringdal on October 23rd, 2008 6:47 pm

    “the future is search enabled applications, not enterprise search.”
    And the day the applications acutally is capabale of searching not only themselves, but also the other applications of the company, you will be right.
    Untill then, enterprise search is all we’ve got.


  5. Stephen E. Arnold on October 23rd, 2008 10:52 pm


    Thanks for your view. Check out Clearwell Systems. That’s a search enabled application in an appliance form factor.

    Stephen Arnold, October 23, 2008

  6. Andreas ringdal on October 25th, 2008 3:23 pm

    I watched the online demo of the Clearwell e-Discovery platform, and what struck me, is that their solution is just and enterprise search solution where advanced search is the default, and not and not a secondary option.

    What I think of then I read the phrase “search enabled applications” is making all the information on the inside of the firewall (ond some of the outside information) available for use in all applications. Both legacy and custom built.

    Being able to integrate an enterprise search solution into the customers applications is vital for customers that needs search, but does not want just another applications for their users. Somethimes it is about adding features not products.


  7. Stephen E. Arnold on October 25th, 2008 5:29 pm

    Andreas Ringdal

    Right. Clearwell is search in a software application. That’s the difference between Clearwell’s startling revenue growth and companies like Entopia and Delphes that essentially couldn’t crack the revenue calculus problem.

    Stephen Arnold, October 25, 2008

  8. Lee Romero » Blog Archive » The future is search enabled applications, not enterprise search on November 5th, 2008 11:34 am

    […] an exchange in comments on Stephen Arnold’s blog, Stephen states the line that is the title of this post: “the […]

  9. Lee Romero on November 5th, 2008 11:38 am

    Stephen – Thanks for your reply! I took a minute to write up a response on my own blog – . I think I’m in agreement with you on your argument, but I may be reading more into it then you intend.

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