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Martin White News & Analysis

Enterprise Search's Future Relies on Information Science Skills

Clinton Gormley and Zachary Tong published an excellent new book on Elasticsearch. It weighs in at over 700 pages -- a commitment for even the most dedicated reader -- but worth the effort for those interested in the topic.

In it, the authors describe the information retrieval functionality of Elasticsearch. They describe several hundred functional elements in the book. The skill lies in knowing which to implement given the nature of the content and the type of query that will be used. This requires information science/information retrieval skills, not developer skills. There's a shortage of these skills, but they are essential in four areas of open source search implementation.

Plan for Migration Success with Search

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Migrating a website or an intranet to a new CMS or new information architecture comes with considerable challenges. Automated tools can support the process, but almost inevitably a great deal of discussion and work will need to take place around specific areas of the site. Having information management policies and strategies in place goes a long way in helping to define content quality, metadata and a taxonomy for the new site. Moving file shares and other repositories into a cloud storage and application environment such as Google Drive has emerged as another requirement.

Effective search will play a vital role in adoption if the migration results in any changes to the intranet structure, and will continue to do so until users have found their way around the information architecture (IA), new content types and repositories.

Unravelling Enterprise Federated Search

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Enterprise search helps employees find the information they need, confident in the knowledge that all potential repositories have been indexed. In an ideal world, queries could be entered in a single search box to generate all relevant results from across all information resources of the organization. These results would be presented in a visually consistent ranked order through a federated search application.

But we don't live in an ideal world. If federated search was easy, why would Google offer Google Scholar? Federated search presents a number of challenges and there are a few ways to approach the challenges. Let's look at a few of them.

CMSWire Top Contributors 2014 - Martin White

2014-22-December-Martin-White.jpgUK-based Martin White has been involved in information retrieval and search for nearly four decades as a consultant, author and columnist. A chemist by education but an information scientist by profession, he has a passion for intranets and enterprise search. As owner and managing director at Intranet Focus Ltd., he provides clients with vendor-independent advice on intranet and information management strategy development and implementation — and shares that same expertise with CMSWire readers.

A Future for Commercial Search

2014-10-December-Monopoly.jpgMany business managers -- mostly in IT -- try to develop an investment case for enterprise search. This is impossible. Search is only one element in the decision-making chain. The question to ask is whether all relevant information has been found to ensure that the decision (based partially or totally on this information) is in the best interests of the organization.

There's another aspect of ROI. 2014 has been marked by a significant level of financial investment in open source search. Venture funds are not charities, they expect a good return on their investment. While some of the businesses they back will not make an acceptable return, this means that others in the portfolio have to over-deliver to ensure that the investments pay off.

How Accessible is Your Search Application?

2014-13-November-Dyslexia-Center-Christchurch.jpgIt's estimated that one in 10 people has some degree of dyslexia. People with dyslexia have a cognitive disorder which hinders their ability to recognize words. Yet when I brought up the topic of web accessibility with some delegates at the recent J. Boye Aarhus 2014 Conference, I was concerned by the high percentage who had never considered whether their website and intranet search applications met an acceptable standard of accessibility.

The Search Landscape Surveyed

2014-14-October-Surveyor.jpgWe've reached an understanding over the last few years around issues related to the low level of enterprise search implementations and the lack of user confidence in search results. A number of surveys published in 2014 have investigated how search is being implemented and some wider issues of managing enterprise information. Let's take a look at the lay of the land.

Search Moves Up the Corporate Agenda

2014-16-September-Climb.jpgWe're gradually reaching a solid understanding of the state of enterprise search. Findwise started its Findability Survey in 2010 and the 2014 report will have been released by the time you read this. AIIM released its first survey for search implementation today. And while hurdles remain, search's prospects in the enterprise are finally looking up.

Enterprise Search Doesn't Fit in a 2-D Box

2014-14-August-Magic.jpgGartner's been getting a bit of attention lately. The Gartner Enterprise Search Magic Quadrant released in July resulted in criticism from Miles Kehoe, Stephen Arnold and Charlie Hull. Nuix heavily criticized the MQ on e-Discovery and Scott Liewehr has reservations about the Forrester Wave on Digital Experience Delivery Platforms. And now the lawsuit.

My own views on the Gartner Search MQ were a little less forthright. However the Search MQ raises issues which are much wider than whether the companies in the top right hand quadrant (Leaders) deserve to be there.

Metrics to Watch When Evaluating Search Performance

2014-08-July-Hide-and-Seek.jpgPeople are dissatisfied with the search applications they are using. This is the result -- without exception -- from surveys of search performance. Search managers charged with improving satisfaction levels face the problem of defining what "satisfaction" actually means. Search performance has to be evaluated on three criteria: technical performance, retrieval performance and impact performance, but it's impossible to bring all three together in some mathematical formula for "satisfaction."

Open Source Search Goes Commercial

In early June the open source search business arguably came of age when Elasticsearch closed on a $70M tranche of Series C investment funding. Elasticsearch is supported by both an open source search community and a commercial search business. In November 2012 the company received $10M in a Series A investment funding which was followed by a further $24M in a Series B funding in February 2013 -- making the total of investment funding now $104M.

Series C funding is usually seen as a substantial level of endorsement of the future of the company by the venture capital investment community. The next level, Series D, is seen as a prelude either to an Initial Public Offering or a trade sale.

Search Has A Future

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.

The Benefits of a Search Center of Excellence

All the evidence points to enterprise search teams still being significantly under-resourced. Often only a single part-time manager is responsible for an application widely used throughout the organization every day. One solution is to set up a virtual Search Center of Excellence (SCE). This provides the appropriate level of support by having a number of people around the organization contribute their skills and experience.

Enterprise Search Best Bets - Looking For a Sure Thing

During a presentation I gave to the Search track of the IntraTeam event in Copenhagen last month I caused some consternation by suggesting that Best Bets for a search application were a well meaning, but totally misguided approach to improving search performance.

Why do companies invest time and effort for less than ideal results?

Making the Case for Search Training and Support

searchtraining.jpgIf search is so easy, why is there a new book over 200 pages long on Google Search Secrets? 

 

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