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