Google Enterprise Search Appliance's days are numbered. 

And while the announcement has already received some great coverage in this space, I'd like to look at how the announcement may affect your strategy — whether or not you're a Google Search Appliance customer.

But before we get into that, let's reiterate a few points from the previous coverage: Miles Kehoe (@miles_kehoe) covered what to look for in a replacement if you’re a current GSA customer. The main takeaway — don’t panic! There are plenty of good alternatives out there and while we don’t know what replacement Google will push, we do know it will be cloud based and not on your network, within your firewall.

Martin White (@intranetfocus) covered this and other elements of the announcement, including an excellent resource for those who need to get started building a search strategy — “A-Z Search Strategy Checklist.”

Enterprise Search Strategy vs. Enterprise Search Capability

So where to begin? As with many topic areas — enterprise collaboration, enterprise content management, knowledge management — technology is never the answer. There is no technological “one system to rule them all” in any domain.

What you need my dear readers, is a strategy. A clear strategy allows you to formulate plans, and good plans prevent poor performance against your objectives. So what is your vision for enterprise search in your particular organization, with its multiple stakeholders performing different, yet highly valuable types of work?

The “W5H” questions can help examine your needs:

  • Who: Who needs to search for content within your organization?
  • What: What are they searching for?
  • When: When are they conducting searches, at what stage of a business process?
  • Where: What different corpus’ of information/data do they need to search?
  • Why: Why are they searching, how is it connect to their business processes?
  • How: How do they currently search? How would they like to search?

The answers may depend on the groups of stakeholders answering. You will have to choose what to prioritize in your strategy, and plan accordingly when executing your strategy.

To add a further layer of complications is the dispersed nature of the information systems we use on a daily basis — both in an enterprise architecture sense and geographically. Small businesses may rely on the cloud for everything, highly regulated financial institutions may do everything within the firewall, and global enterprises may have sophisticated hybrid scenarios. 

This simple (and absolutely not-comprehensive) picture below captures the essence of this:

Enterprise Search Universe

Your requirements may lead you to make a considerable investment in a single overarching enterprise search platform solution to enable your strategy. Or you may choose a federated search solution, leveraging existing investments by adding a presentation layer that issues all searches and presents all results from a single interface. 

Or you may just decide that you'd rather spend your money on something else. If employees have to go to the cloud CRM to search it, and then move to the on premises HR system to search it, and then on to search the Intranet, and you can live with that? So be it …. 

It’s All in the Requirements!

Now's the part where I repeat my mantra: understand your requirements and build them into your strategy before you act. And as Kehoe states — don’t panic!

Get yourself a copy of White's “Enterprise Search Book” and gain an understanding of what you truly need to do. 

Enterprise search is not about the shiny enticing software that vendors promise will provide magical results. It's about understanding your information. It's about frankly unsexy subjects like metadata and inherent findability. It's about people and building a team that ensure the rest of your employees have the information they need at their fingertips — without searching 20 separate tools. 

Requirements, strategy and planning, oh my …

Title image "Adios" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by  tnarik