Search is Much More Than “Search”
Embedded or Not, Search is Reaching Beyond Its Roots
"Search as a term is about entering a query, getting a set of responses and filtering through those," adds Charlie. "But information access is more about ‘human-to-machine’ interaction as well as ‘machine-to-machine’ interaction. There’s clearly a need for ad hoc query in the enterprise—digging through the massive repositories of information—but there’s also a lot of transaction processing that is today still highly manual." And those manual processes are too expensive to ignore.
"Search is always embedded," says Jan. "It’s inside ERP systems, inside Oracle. It’s inside e-commerce apps and customer service. It’s inside of just about any back-office application you can name. Search is an important component—we think the MOST important—but there’s more. There’s security, there’s data capturing, there’s compliance with rules... search is much more than just ‘search’."
Embedded or Not
"We can talk about the terminology all day," says Nitin. (In fact, I think we have! I note) "The more important thing is the vision. Nobody cares what we call the market. Around here we call it universal search. Which means, searching across all the content sources, ranking the results appropriately in real time without any manual tagging or categorization and then giving the human user an integrated set of results without having to log in and out of multiple systems."
I comment that for some of the panelists, their customer inquiries come primarily as the result of a specific business need, such as "legal discovery" or "regulatory compliance," such as in Jan and ZyLAB’s case. Jan claims that his Web inquiries almost never include the word "search" in them. "It’s fascinating," says Rebecca, "Because for us it’s the exact opposite. Our Web logs show people are typing in ‘enterprise search,’ ‘search solutions...’ If you go to LegalTech or any of the life sciences trade shows, there will be search vendors there. But there are not many vertical solutions vendors who are simply selling search wrapped in industry-related jargon. There IS an understanding that search is the functioning component, in a very horizontal slice of industries," insists Rebecca.
Jan’s not so sure about that: "Three or four years ago, there was still a large number of general search vendors, but now they’ve all consolidated or have been acquired... now every platform has some form of search embedded into it. The search vendors go into areas where they can best leverage their specializations. Search without any application is very difficult to sell," he says.
"I guess it’s a matter of whom you ask," says Charlie. "We think search should be embedded in other applications. The ability to get information INTO the big ERP or content management systems is under control. The ability to get information OUT of these packages is severely lacking."
Because raw data collection is one thing; gaining actionable knowledge is another matter altogether, and this month’s panelists make it clear that there’s room in the world for both sides of that continuum. Rebecca adds a thought: "Today’s search is like content management without a database... it’s sort-of ‘content management with a virtual database.’ It’s astounding how important having expertise within the market is. It’s not just about what people write in their bios; it’s what they’re actually working on," she notes.
If there’s any common ground that this diverse panel can agree on, it’s the fact that for the buyers of search tools, whether they’re embedded or not, the downstream benefits are surprisingly greater than expected. Maybe your original goal in reading the following articles in this KMWorld White Paper is to learn about the technology and application of search. But if you’re anything like the typical customers of Brainware, Google, Vivisimo, ZyLAB or any of the other sponsors on these pages, you will undoubtedly benefit from your search-technology investment LONG after your pressing business need is solved, or the current economic situation is resolved. As Jan says: "After our customers have solved their discovery problems, and after they have addressed the CAUSE of their discovery problems (which is typically records management), and all their back-office archives are organized... THEN they can start talking about knowledge management as the ultimate benefit."
I like the sound of that.