Funnelback: Another Enterprise Search Solution Founder Offers Shoulds to Potential Licensees

May 1, 2015

Funnelback, as I have mentioned, has lost some of its marketing oomph. I think some staff shuffling took place. The company is now stepping up its effort to remain visible in a darned tough, crowded, and struggling market sector: Enterprise search.

I read “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Enterprise Search?” My answer is and has been, “One does not. One solves specific information access problems.” The wreckage of Convera, Delphes, Entopia, Fast Search, et al is evidence that enterprise search is a sticky wicket. The howls of pain on the LinkedIn forums and the odd collection of content in the Paper.Li round up about enterprise search make the challenges quite visible.

Read the article. Here are two points I found interesting.

According to the founder of Funnelback:

A holistic enterprise search solution should include:

  • Bird’s-eye view metrics of all content, showing where it’s stored (e.g. web vs. enterprise vs. social media), how much exists in each repository, how old it is, missing metadata, poor quality titles, duplication, accessibility metrics, and the link graph. This provides information managers with a means to prioritize organizational investment in managing information, and thereby enhancing search effectiveness.
  • Intelligent guidance on how to make content more visible/findable. Search engines generally attempt to hide the internals of their ranking systems and this makes it difficult for customers to learn how to make content more findable. An enterprise search engine should use its internal ranking knowledge to show content authors why pages rank the way they do and provide guidance on how to increase each page’s findability.
  • The ability to surface and promote content based on user context with simple rules such as “User is in Department A”, “User is located in New Zealand”, “User is in the finance industry”, “User works for LexisNexis”. These rules can then be overlaid to form more sophisticated rules, without the need to create rules for every distinct possibility. Funnelback goes even further by allowing these rules to be applied to anonymous users by looking up their IP address in an internal database and inferring information based on the organization that owns the IP address.

These are darned interesting “shoulds.” The problem of access controls, contractual and regulatory constraints, and the human practice of creating silos of information are tough nuts to crack. “Shoulds” are easy. Delivering is tough, and Funnelback is neither more or less well equipped than open source or proprietary information retrieval solutions.

The second point illustrates the flawed logic that many champions of enterprise search as a grand solution make. Here’s the passage:

The first question every organization should ask is: Who are the stakeholders affecting the success of our organization and what information do they need to maximize our success?

At a more practical level, this includes questions like:

  • What are the personas in our organization? (i.e. the archetypes that represent the different roles)
  • What information do they need in order to maximize productivity and make better decisions?
  • What are our customer personas?
  • What information do they need in order to maximize engagement and have a positive customer experience?

Without asking these questions, organizations sometimes assume that searching everything with a single query (access controls permitting) is the answer. Sometimes it is the answer, but it can be a more complicated and costly exercise than necessary. For example, do users want to use an enterprise search tool to search their own email, or would they prefer to use the search on their mail client?

Sorry, Funnelback. Asking the questions is the first step. The work is to answer the questions and then use that information to tailor a solution that does  not anger the users, lead to litigation, or just not work.

Today’s flagship enterprise search vendors seem to include Coveo, dtSearch, Elastic, Funnelback, and a handful of other firms with low profiles. The present crisis in information access has been created by the actions of previous industry leaders in enterprise search.

The fix is to focus on solving a problem for a specific group of users. Lawyers have specialized search tools. Chemists have specialized search tools. Regular employees have Google and whatever findabiliy solution is available within specific applications.

Want to get in a pickle? Sell a clueless senior executive a solution that solves the information access challenges for the entire organization. Didn’t work for STAIRS and won’t work for today’s systems.

The history of search is a painful one. There are options, but these are next generation systems, not yesterday’s systems wrapped with shoulds.

Stephen E Arnold, May 1, 2015


One Response to “Funnelback: Another Enterprise Search Solution Founder Offers Shoulds to Potential Licensees”

  1. Nicholas Foggin on June 24th, 2015 11:28 am

    Hi Stephen,

    I recently joined Funnelback to head up their Enterprise Search division in the UK. I would be interested to speak to you further around this, if you are agreeable?

    Nick Foggin

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta