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Is enterprise search still surging?

Based on what I heard in May at the Enterprise Search Summit (ESS) in New York, the answer is a qualified "yes." In fact, a strong argument can be made that enterprise search is more important than ever because more is at stake to maintain a competitive edge.

The technology continues to be increasingly vibrant and offers previously unheard of capabilities. Nevertheless, there is plenty of room for improvement from all quarters, including, most importantly, from the enterprise itself, which in so many cases seems to fail to fully exploit the vendors’ offerings.

Our "Industry Snapshot" on page one highlights a recent AIIM survey that discovered nearly 50 percent of respondents found that locating the information they needed to do their job was "difficult and time-consuming." I don’t think the solutions are to blame for that. So don’t blame the solution providers. Nearly 70 percent of the respondents from the 500 companies surveyed believe only 50 percent or less of their organization’s content is searchable online. Any finger pointing should be directed to the companies themselves, most of which have not taken a strategic approach to a robust enterprise search implementation.

Now, with tighter budgets, is not the time for an enterprise to skimp on a well-conceived investment in search, one that considers an organization’s full complement of constituencies. The best search solutions were on display in May, and the conference program drew a search-savvy crowd of experts and information-hungry attendees who were keenly aware of the integral role search plays in today’s most successful organizations. So, I found my conversations with vendors, speakers and attendees at the conference enlightening.

One chap told a colleague, "We should go with [vendor X]." His friend shook his head and replied, "Yeah, but what about IT?" Both emphasized that many in the enterprise still fail to appreciate what the IT department does. Instead, they assume it will seamlessly resolve the inevitable complexity created by implementation of a new search initiative. To counter this, a number of top vendors offer plug-and-play solutions that place a very light administrative load on their customers. And, with further engagement, those customers can achieve full search robustness when required.

Although a "go as you grow" strategy is the right approach for some of those I spoke with, others believed the future is now. To paraphrase: "High-end search and services will allow us to transform the organization. We need to jump in; waiting is a waste."

Search is infrastructure for the knowledge economy. And for some organizations, "good enough" is a legitimate approach. But a number of ESS attendees insisted that a deep implementation with the full capabilities of a robust information discovery platform be put into practice. Only then can search’s ultimate goal be realized: personalized results, in context, for all knowledge workers.

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