The annual KM World & Intranets 2007 Conference / Expo in San Jose keeps growing, adding a West Coast version of the successful Enterprise Search Summit (ESS) held in May in New York. The co-location of Taxonomy Bootcamp and Streaming Media West creates a dynamic interplay between different aspects of the information business, from technology to enterprise content.
Attendees voiced the value of the range of tracks from strategic management of knowledge to the practical aspects of selecting and living with search software and applications, down to the nitty-gritty of taxonomy implementations. Traffic was good in the vendor booths of the Expo area, as technologists and content managers mingled over receptions, meals and seminars.
The opening keynoter for ESS was Susan Feldman, Research Vice President, Content Technologies, IDC. describing a market in flux with many competing technologies. Search is the missing piece for enterprise software, and large software vendors are entering the market. SaaS options are good solutions due to the complexity of search technology, and need to have the latest version.
The keynote was a nice lead into the session that I chaired on "Solving the Multiple Search Engine Problem" addressing approaches to the proliferation of departmental search vendors within organizations. Rennie Walker, Wells Fargo, described "waking up one morning with the multi-search engine blues", resulting in creating a Search Center of Excellence (COE). Swetswise uses a federating search software, Museglobal, to deliver a subscription delivery product incorporating multiple search indexes. Miles Kehoe, New Idea Engineering, identified the challenges of maintaining distributed search engine indexes--a practicality not addressed by vendors.
Security, ediscovery and regulatory compliance were themes in other presentations. Search across multiple repositories brings the thorny problems of access control to the underlying content. Depending on the application, different levels of security may be necessary, down to the sub-document level. Choices include "early binding" vs. "late binding" options for access. Additional challenges include the changes in Federal Rules of Civil Procedure of 12/1/2006, making risk management of the enterprise search environment more critical.
Steve Arnold, highly regarded industry expert on search engines chaired a keynote panel originally entitled "Giants Do Stumble: Are Google and Microsoft in Decline?" modified in the final program to "What's Next for the Search Engine Giants", questioning product managers from Google and Microsoft, who provided little new insight. Both companies are relative newcomers to the enterprise search space, and had vendor booths in the expo, joining traditional vendors. Arnold, in a later session, honed in on Google and his analysis of their patents to predict new directions.
Findability is more than keyword search in full text documents, a message which came through in both the sessions and vendor presentations. Sessions on semantic search indicate progress in actual implementation, which is closely tied to classification and taxonomy systems. Improved navigation, particularly faceted search, are another approach to improve the user experience, and improve findability.
Niche software vendors on the exhibit floor, demonstrated other approaches to improving findability. Siderean uses a relationship approach which intuitively fits research and discovery processes, to improve findability. Cognition was demonstrating their linguistic search software with great promise for in depth research, particularly in scientific and technical literature, with a plethora of potential search terms. Deep Web Technologies showed the power of federating search software, as implemented at science.gov and scitopia.org.
Enterprise search and management of organizational intellectual capital have become mission-critical. The challenge is finding the right approaches for the organization, then the technical tools for implementation. Increasingly, behavioral and linguistic aspects are being recognized as essential factors in the process of adding value to the organization. Search is not easy, and delivering answers to people is not straightforward. It's finding the right combination of solutions that challenges the attendees at these conferences..there is no one-size-fits-all!