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Enterprise Search: Messages Confuse, Confound

I review a couple of times a week a free digital “newspaper” called Paper.li. I learned about this Paper.li “newspaper” When Vivisimo sent me its version of “search news.” The enterprise search newspaper I receive is assembled under the firm hand of Edwin Stauthamer. The stories are automatically assembled into “The Enterprise Search Daily.”

The publication includes a wide range of information. The referrer’s name appears with each article. The title page for the March 18, 2015, issue is looks like this.

image

In the last week or so, I have noticed a stridency in the articles about search and the disciplines the umbrella term protects from would-be encroachers. Search is customer support, but from the enterprise search vendors’ viewpoint, enterprise search is the secret sauce for a great customer support soufflé. Enterprise search also does Big Data, business intelligence, and dozens of other activities.

The reason for the primacy of search, as I understand the assertions of the search companies and the self appointed search “experts” is that information retrieval makes the business work. Improve search. It follows, according to the logic, that revenues will increase, profits will rise, and employee and customer satisfaction will skyrocket.

Unfortunately enterprise search is difficult to position at the alpha and omega of enterprise software. Consider this article from the March 18 edition of The Enterprise Search Daily.

Why Enterprise Search is a Must Have for Any Enterprise Content Management Strategy

The article begins:

Enterprise search has notoriously been a problem in the content management equation. Various content and document management systems have made it possible to store files. But the ability to categorize that information intuitively and in a user-friendly way, and make that information easy to retrieve later, has been one of several missing pieces in the ECM market. When will enterprise search be as easy to use and insightful as Google’s external search engine? If enterprise search worked anywhere near as effectively as Google, it might be the versatile new item in our content management wardrobes, piecing content together with a clean sophistication that would appeal to users by making everything findable, accessible and easy to organize.

I am not sure how beginning with the general perception that enterprise search has been, is, and may well be a failure flips to a “must have” product. My view is that keyword search is a utility. For organizations with cash to invest, automated indexing and tagging systems can add some additional findability hooks. The caveat is that the licensee of these systems must be prepared to spend money on a professional who can ride herd on the automated system. The indexing strays have to be rounded up and meshed with the herd. But the title’s assertion is a dream, a wish. I don’t think enterprise content management is particularly buttoned up in most organizations. Even primitive search systems struggle to figure out what version is the one the user needs to find. Indexing by machine or human often leads to manual inspection of documents in order to locate the one the user requires. Google wanders into the scene because most employees give Google.com a whirl before undertaking a manual inspection job. If the needed document is on the Web somewhere, Google may surface it if the user is lucky enough to enter the secret combination of keywords. Google is deeply flawed, but for many employees, it is better than whatever their employer provides.

Read more »

Interviews

Interview with Dave Hawking Offers Insight into Bing, FunnelBack and Enterprise Search

The article titled To Bing and Beyond on IDM provides an interview with Dave Hawking, an award-winner in the field of information retrieval and currently a Partner Architect for Bing. In the somewhat lengthy interview, Hawking answers questions on his own history, his work at Bing, natural language search, Watson, and Enterprise Search, among other things. At one point he describes how he arrived in the field of information retrieval after studying computer science at the Australian National University, where he the first search engine he encountered was the library’s card catalogue. He says,

“I worked in a number of computer infrastructure support roles at ANU and by 1991 I was in charge of a couple of supercomputers…In order to do a good job of managing a large-scale parallel machine I thought I needed to write a parallel program so I built a kind of parallel grep… I wrote some papers about parallelising text retrieval on supercomputers but I pretty soon decided that text retrieval was more interesting.”

When asked about the challenges of Enterprise Search, Hawking went into detail about the complications that arise due to the “diversity of repositories” as well as issues with access controls. Hawking’s work in search technology can’t be overstated, from his contributions to the Text Retrieval Conferences, CSIRO, FunnelBack in addition to his academic achievements.

Chelsea Kerwin, December 09, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

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