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The Enterprise Search "Essay Test"—Extended Remix

This article is part of the Best Practices White Paper Enterprise Search [May 2008]
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Andy Moore, KMWorld: Everyone’s retreating from the adjective "enterprise." The simple explanation: there is no single vendor or technology that truly qualifies. And of them all, "search" is probably the hardest to justify as an "enterprise" application…isn’t it?

Jason Hekl , vice president, corporate marketing, InQuira: I take exception to the qualification that an "enterprise solution" be a single application with universal appeal and applicability to all constituents. The reality is that large businesses often operate from multiple silos, each with its own interest and needs. So though we do see companies implementing InQuira across the enterprise, it often evolves to that from a more targeted initiative specific to the needs of one or two groups.

We are, however, seeing more and more companies that: 1. understand the importance of a consistent, relevant customer experience; 2. appreciate the role that search, knowledge management and analytics play in defining it; and 3. recognize the value of a single platform to deliver it. Applications, though, vary by group, and could include call center solutions integrated with CRM applications, Web self-service portals, intranet sites, internal knowledgebases, help-desk environments and more. We strive to provide the best of both worlds: a single platform with advanced linguistic comprehension capabilities that provides enterprise-level insights into a broad range of user interactions (across multiple languages), but also allows each department or division the flexibility to implement the best solution for their needs. So if "enterprise solution" can be defined as a single platform that spans divisions and geographic silos, then I argue, YES, that is exactly what InQuira’s customers are doing today.

One final comment. I interpret the move away from "enterprise search" as a reaction to the public’s association of "anything search" with Google. Gartner moved to "information access," AMR moved to "navigation, search and retrieval"…I have to think these changes were, in part, due to a "googlization" of public perceptions about search.

John McCormick, general manager, knowledge worker business unit, content management and archiving division, EMC Corporation: The requirements for an enterprise-class search engine, admittedly, are significant in number and scope. Today’s market offers multiple technical approaches, price levels and implementation strategies. In the standalone search platform market, the more robust search offerings have provided exceptionally sophisticated technology, but at an equally exceptional price—with much of that cost (and frustration) derived from the implementation phase. In fact, some stalwart search platform vendors generate as much as 50% of their top-line revenues from professional services. Seems like a lot of heavy lifting for a simple search box, doesn’t it?

EMC Documentum addresses one of the most frustrating problems knowledge workers experience each day—finding and accessing information. The problem has grown increasingly acute with the rapid, enterprisewide proliferation of business information. Information is stored in content repositories, databases, groupware applications, intranet and extranet sites, public websites, online databases, enterprise applications and other places, inside and outside the company. Knowledge workers spend as much as 40% of a typical business day just sorting through these locations to find specific content. The EMC Documentum ECI solution enables organizations to locate and access, in real time, information stored in many different locations. With a single query, the Documentum ECI solution assimilates content from all internal and external sources and enables customers to logically and easily search and organize that content.

Jerome Pesenti, chief scientist and co-founder, Vivisimo: While people can (and often should) use different tools to generate different types of content, you cannot ask end users to search where to find content before searching. So, search not only needs to be ubiquitous—i.e., be embedded in all localized applications and work in a localized way—it also needs to be universal and search across applications. This does not mean that search should behave the same way for everybody and in every place. But it means that you should try to leverage a single enterprisewide search architecture across the organization.

In the same way people use a primary Web-wide search engine for all of their Web search needs, while occasionally using a localized search (which, by the way, they do very infrequently due to the poor state of these tools), what they really want is a single point of entry for enterprisewide information in conjunction with the ability to search within an application.

Yes, Vivisimo’s search product qualifies as an enterprise solution. We currently have customers using the Velocity Search Platform for enterprise search for tens of thousands of employees across a wide variety of content sources (SharePoint, Documentum, Exchange, intranet, file Shares, email archives, Oracle databases, etc.)

Vijay Koduri, product marketing manager, Google Enterprise: Google believes strongly that search is an enterprise application, and companies that deploy search across the enterprise benefit the greatest. A unified search across the enterprise provides several advantages:

First, organizations are trying to break down silos, not encourage them. For instance, they understand that marketing interacts primarily with sales, product management, engineering and PR, and secondarily with HR, finance, legal and the other departments. This cross-functional nature of work is true of any other department. Furthermore, these departments can be scattered around the world—and even when they are in the same geography, they might be in different buildings. Contact centers are a perfect example. Contact centers are typically isolated in a random corner of the world, and they usually have a separate knowledgebase that they tap for customer answers. Initially, providing search for this knowledgebase helps them in their jobs—but is only a first step. In many cases, agents still don’t have access to detailed product or technical information.

Certain contact centers are enjoying the benefits of true enterprise search. For instance, Agile Software Corporation, a customer of Google: While employees in many departments enjoyed the benefits, the return on investment was greatest within the customer support team. Whereas before the support team had to "recreate the wheel" with each issue, now the customer support team has immediate and easy access to engineering and other departments’ information. Customer support team members can quickly and easily access work histories by entering customer numbers.

Second, enterprise search technology should deliver for the varying needs of its different users, without separate implementations within each department. The trick to doing that is high relevancy. Many traditional search technologies have suffered from poor relevancy, and have bandaged the problem by limiting their end-user’s search to only one or two departmental repositories. But with high relevancy, a search engine can be liberated to search the entire enterprise, and users would have the confidence that they would get the right results from the right repository that pertain to their needs.

James Waters, vice president, global marketing, Coveo: The word "enterprise" in enterprise search refers to the level at which you can access knowledge across the company—in all its different forms, in all its different locations. If you can’t index and render robust results from ALL the content within the company, you shouldn’t be considered as an enterprise search technology.

Harald Jellum, CEO, Intellisearch: Yes, the IntelliSearch platform qualifies as an enterprisewide search solution. You may argue that search technology still is in its formative days, and not a mature application-oriented technology. However, if you look at our customers’ search adoption areas, you will see that our search platform is used by customers in a wide variety of business processes. Examples are in corporate information access across functions, e-commerce search, community sites and business analysis. Our strategy is to develop a generic product platform that we build functional solution sets on top of. We expect end-customers to want to standardize on one set of search technology, as there are especially competence synergies in doing so.

Dr. Johannes C. Scholtes, president and CEO, ZyLAB North America LLC: Yes, we have been doing search for 25 years and every year we add more technology to search new electronic formats…often more than 25 formats per year. Some are electronic file formats, other support email, paper, internal databases or multimedia. But there will always be non-supported file formats and therefore the need to integrate your own enterprise search engine through federation technology with other search engines. In many cases that may also be more cost-effective and faster. It is, for instance, very hard to full-text index a complex relational database and also take all security into consideration.

Happily, we live in a time where it is so much easier to link computers together. Open communication formats as SOAP, XML and Web Services make our lives much easier to implement such federations.

Bottom line: with the diversity of tasks taking place in most organizations—as well as the market demand for better information sharing and connectivity between various business units—to claim that a "one-size-fits-all" enterprise search solution is the best or only choice for most organizations is just simply not true.

More important than "enterprise search" is "information access," where all aspects of information access are taken into consideration…think of security, controlled data entry, controlled data export, data analytics and enrichment, etc.

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