Enterprise Search: A Confused Stew

November 29, 2015

Every culture has a stew. A stew is a mélange of ingredients; for example, tripe, brains, chicken fat, water, rutabaga, etc. Your parental beacon probably used an off-the-shelf product and added grocery store goodies. Heat and serve. Yummy.

I read two articles which make vivid the sad state of enterprise search. I think the experts who cooked up these write ups are doing the best with the ingredients in the fridge. I am not sure about the palatability of the meals the items presage.

Get the Right Search Tool

First, I read “Choosing an Enterprise Search Tool.” Okay, tool, not utility. The word tool does not deliver the calories I need. Let’s move forward. I learned that search has these important ingredients:

  • Text analytics functions, including “entity co reference resolution”. Got it.
  • Pipeline architecture, which means no reprogramming. Love that if it is indeed Grade A chuck.

That’s it. The write up wants me to be sure the solution is scalable. Okay. No problem in cloud land unless there are some pesky contractual and security requirements to keep the system close at hand and in conformance with rules, regulations, and laws.

The notion of security is good. I am all for a secure enterprise search tool. The problem is that security is a slippery fish. Toss it into this mix with the analytics and the pipeline. It will be just fine, a mantra crock pot manufacturers use in their advertisements.

Go for the open standards. None of that Kobe beef technology.

Then the write up enjoins me to do what I think is a pretty tough task in the overheated kitchen under the gaze of the chief financial officer:

you need to make sure you first know what type of information your users will need to find.

I don’t know what information I need until I encounter a problem which I cannot resolve with what I know, have in my archive, or a colleague with hopefully a clue. Where did I put that venison bone? Right, I don’t have a venison bone, and I don’t know anyone who has one. Is there a difference between a cow bone and a deer bone? Help, I need a food centric search system without Yelp and TripAdvisor filters.

I am not sure about this recipe.

Do the Enterprise Search Engine Optimization Thing

The second article I read was “Kickstart Your Enterprise Search Program.” The approach I am urged to follow involves getting on the road to better search. Happy users are important.

To reach this goal:

You need to undertake your own Enterprise SEO, or ESEO. I first wrote about ESEO in 2009, and it’s as relevant today as it was then — and suffers the same lack of tools even now. However, there are methodologies you can use.

How do I do that? It’s as easy as microwaving a burrito. Just look at the search terms the users employ. In my experience, those search terms often mislead when users are hunting for their own documents or tackling a topic about which the user lacks information and vocabulary.

One I know the terms, the rest of the enterprise search task is even easier. I don’t have to puncture the cellophane wrap after microwaving the El Monterey wonder.


Stew and microwaved SEOs. Enterprise search requires more substantive fare than these two write ups deliver. Little wonder that enterprise search vendors are struggling to find purchase in a business environment looking for Red Bull solutions.

My thought: Do not rely on either of these chefs’ suggestions. Analytics and not precision and recall. SEO and not substantive nutrition? Not for me.

Stephen E Arnold, November 29, 2015


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