It is easy to become despondent about the state of enterprise search. Only 11 percent of organizations reported very high satisfaction with search in the latest The Digital Workplace in the Connected Organization report, which shows there has been little change over the last eight years. However, from April 29-30, while I was acting as the Chairman of the Enterprise Search Europe 2014 conference in London, despondency was certainly not on the agenda.

Over 100 delegates from 13 countries were in the main venue to hear Dale Roberts start the conference with reflections on the need to make better decisions. He focused on the role of searches in providing access to the wealth of information that organizations have invested in over the years and the importance of delivering information to the person making the decision. The business case is very persuasive.

Coincidentally, an independent report on the commercial problems affecting the Cooperative Bank in the UK was published during the conference. To quote from the report:

Effective boards need clear and relevant information, provided in a timely fashion. This is particularly the case when those receiving the information have little experience on which to rely in understanding what is important. Board papers examined during the course of the Review were frequently long on detail. But they sometimes omitted important information (or included it, but not in a prominent way), failed adequately to draw out key facts or gave an overly-optimistic picture of what was really happening.” (p. 136)

Big Data Plus Search

Many of the papers emphasized the importance of seeing big data and search as complementary technologies, a point very well made by Iain Fletcher of Search Technologies. The approach used is to combine caching and a Hadoop database to improve the overall performance of a search application when dealing with very large quantities of databased information. Ronald Hobbs of Reed Business International described a project requiring access to 100 million documents, 72 business units and up to 190 queries per second. Reed had originally used FAST ESP engine but they moved to an Apache Solr system, replacing the FAST processing pipeline with Search Technologies Aspire project.