Sinequa: A Logical Leap

December 21, 2020

The French have contributed significantly to logic. One may not agree with the precepts of Peter Abelard, the enlightened René Descartes, or the mathiness of Jean-Yves Girard. A rational observer of the disciplines of search and retrieval may want to inspect the reasoning of “How Apple’s Pending Search Engine Hints at a Rise in Enterprise Search.”

The jumping off point for this essay is the vaporware emitted by heavy breathing thumb typers that Apple will roll out a Web search engine. The idea is an interesting one, but, as I write this, Apple is busy with a number of tasks. But vaporware is a proven fungible among those engaged in enterprise search. The idea of finding just the information one needs when working in a dynamic company is a bit like looking for the end of a rainbow. One can see it; therefore, there must be an end. Even better, mothers have informed their precocious progeny that there is a pot of gold at the terminus.

What can one do with the assumption that an Apple Web search engine will manifest itself?

The answer is probably one which will set a number of French logicians spinning in their graves.

According to the write up from an “expert” at the French enterprise search firm Sinequa:

So, if Apple is spending (most likely) billions of dollars recreating a tool that effortlessly finds us the global sum of human knowledge, then isn’t it about time we improve the tools that knowledge workers have to do their jobs?

That’s quite a leap, particularly for a discipline which dates from the pre-STAIRS era. But from a company founded in 2002, the leap is nothing out of the ordinary.

But enterprise search is a big job; for example:

The complication is that enterprise data is more heterogeneous in nature than internet data, which is homogeneous by comparison. As a result, enterprise data tends to reside in silos, so if we need to find a document, we can narrow down where we look to a couple of places – for instance, in our email or on a particular SharePoint. However. further complication arises when we don’t know where to look – or worse still, we don’t know what we’re looking for. A siloed approach works fairly well but at some point, we start to lose track of where to look. According to recent Sinequa research, knowledge workers currently have to access an average of around six different systems when looking for information – that’s potentially six individual searches you need to make to find something.

And why has enterprise search as a discipline failed to deliver exactly what an employee needs to do his or her job at a particular point in time?

That’s a good question which the logical confection does not address. No problem. Vendors of enterprise search have dodged the question for more than half a century.

Here’s how the essary nails down its stunning analysis:

It’s only a matter of time before enterprise search reaches a similar tipping point. There will be a time when the silos become too many or the time taken to search them becomes too great. The question is whether the reason for enterprise to take search seriously is because a lack of search is seen as an existential threat, or an opportunity to differentiate.

Okay, 50 years and counting.

Do you hear that buzzing sound? I surmise that it is René Descartes trying to contact Jacque Ellul to discuss how French logic fell off the wine cart.

My hunch is that Messrs. Descartes and Ellul will realize that providing access to information in response to a particular business need is a digital version of running toward the end of the rainbow. Some exercise, d’accord, but the journey may end in disappointment.

Par for the course for a company whose product pricing begins at $0.01 if Sourceforge is to be believed. Yep, $0.01. Logical? Sure. It’s marketing consistent with the hundreds of companies which have flogged enterprise search for decades.

Rainbows. Pots of gold. Yep.

Stephen E Arnold, December 20, 2020


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