6 posts categorized "SCOE"

February 20, 2018

Search, the Enterprise Orphan

It seems that everywhere I go, I hear how bad enterprise search is. Users, IT staff, and management complain, and eventually organizations decide that replacing their existing vendor is the best solution. I’d wager that companies switch their search platforms more frequently than any other mission-critical application

While the situation is frustrating for organizations that use search, the current state isn’t as bad for the actual search vendors: if prospects are universally unhappy with a competing product, it’s easier to sell a replacement technology that promises to be everything the current platform is not. It may seem that the only loser is the current vendor; and they are often too busy converting new customers to the platform to worry much.

But in fact, switching search vendors every few years is a real problem for the organization that simply wants its employees and users to find the right content accurately, quickly and without any significant user training. After all, employees are born with the ability to use Google!


Higher level story

Why is enterprise search so bad? In my experience, search implemented and managed properly is pretty darned good. As I see it, the problem is that at most organizations, search doesn’t have an owner.  On LinkedIn, a recent search for “vice president database” jobs shows over 1500 results. Searching for “vice president enterprise search”? Zero hits.

This means that search, recognized as mission-critical by senior management, often doesn’t have an owner outside of IT, whose objective is to keep enterprise applications up and running. Search may be one of the few enterprise applications where “up and running” is just not good enough.

Sadly, there is often no “search owner”; no “search quality team”; and likely no budget for measuring and maintaining result quality.

Search Data Quality

We’ve all heard the expression “Garbage In, Garbage Out”. What is data quality when it comes to search? And how can you measure it?

Ironically, enterprise content authors have an easy way to impact search data quality; but few use it. The trick? Document Properties – also known as ‘metadata’.

When you create any document, there is always data about the document – metadata. Some of the metadata ‘just happens’: the file date, its size, and the file name and path. Other metadata depends on the author-provided properties like a title, subject, and other fielded data like that maintained in the Office ‘Properties’ tab. And there are tools like the Stanford Named Entity Recognition tool (licensed under the GNU General Public License) that can perform advanced metadata extraction from the full text of a document

Some document properties happen automatically. In Microsoft Office, for example, the Properties form provides a way to define field values including the author name, company and other fields. The problem is, few people go to the effort of filling the property fields correctly, so you end up for bad metadata. And bad data is arguably worse than no metadata.

On the enterprise side, I heard about an organization that wanted to reward employees who authored popular content for the intranet. The theory was that recognizing and rewarding useful content creation would help improve the overall quality and utility of the corporate intranet.

An organization we did a project for a few years ago were curious about poor metadata in their intranet document repository, so they did a test. After some testing of their Microsoft Office documents, , they discovered that one employee had authored nearly half of all their intranet content! It turned out that one employee, an Office Assistant, had authored the document that everyone in the origination used as the starting point for a of their common standard reports.

Solving the Problem

Enterprise search technology has advanced to an amazing level. A number of search vendors have even integrated machine learning tools like Spark to surface popular content for frequent queries. And search-related reporting has become a standard part of nearly all search product offerings, so metrics such as top queries and zero hits are available and increasingly actionable.

To really take advantage of these new technological solution, you need to have a team of folks to actively participate in making your enterprise search a success so you can break the loop of “buy-replace”.

Start by identifying an executive owner, and then pull together a team of co-conspirators who can help. Sometimes just by looking at the reports you have and taking action can go a long way.

Review the queries with no results and see if there are synonyms that can find the right content without even changing the content.  Identify the right page for your most popular queries and define one or two “best bets’. If you find that some frequent queries don’t really have relevant content? Work with your web team to create appropriate content.

Funding? Find the right person in your organization to convince that spending a little money on fixing the problems now will break the “buy-replace’ problem and save some significant but needlessly recurring expenses.

Like so many things, a little ongoing effort can solve the problem.

November 08, 2011

Are you spending too much on enterprise search?

If your organization uses enterprise search, or if you are in the market for a new search platform, you may want to attend our webinar next week "Are you spending too much for search?". The one hour session will address:

  • What do users expect?
  • Why not just use Google?
  • How much search do you need?
  • Is an RFI a waste of time?   

Date: Wednesday, November 16 2011

Time: 11AM Pacific Standard Time / 1900 UTC

Register today!

December 05, 2010

Share your successes at ESS East next May

ESSSpringLogo Our friends over at InfoToday who run the successful Enterprise Search Summit conferences have asked us  to announce that the date for submitting papers to their Spring show in New York in May 2011 has been extended until Wednesday, December 8. You can find out what they are looking for and how to submit your proposal online at http://www.enterprisesearchsummit.com/Spring2011/CallForSpeakers.aspx.

Michelle Manafy, who runs the program again next May, really likes to have speakers who have found creative and successful ways to select, deploy, or manage ongoing enterprise search operations. We've co-presented with several of our customers in the past, and trust me, it's great fun and not bad for your career! And - no promises - the weather at ESS East has been great for just about every year - and we've been there for nearly 6 years now!

A friend told me something years ago that I've always fond helpful; I hope you'll take it to heart: 'Everything you know, someone else needs to know'. Don't worry if your search project isn't perfect; or worry that someone will find fault with what you've done. Trust me: there are many organizations newer to enterprise search than you are, and anything you found helpful will sure be valuable for them as well. And you get to attend al of the sessions, so you might learn more as well! A 'win-win' situation if I've ever seen one!

See you in New York!




September 10, 2008

New Idea Engineering Helps Orange County offer Residents Innovative Enterprise Search Technology to Community Web site

New search engine powered by FAST delivers quick and reliable search results allowing OC residents to easily find services

SANTA ANA, Calif. – September 10, 2008 – New Idea Engineering, Inc. (NIE) www.ideaeng.com and its partner InfoSolutions (www.infosolutions.com) today announced that they have helped the local Orange County, California government implement FAST Search & Transfer’s (FAST) Enterprise Search Platform© (ESP) technology for the county’s new and improved web site.

The County of Orange Information Technology Group, a public agency responsible for vital services to residents of Orange County, completed the first phase of the new site, implementing new Vignette portal and Fast Search technology, as well as converting several pilot agencies to the new site, in just four months.  FAST ESP will allow community members the ability to search the site more easily to locate information and interact with the county to reserve books, find park and recreation services, receive social services, and find quick and reliable answers to questions that arise in everyday life.

“With the support of the NIE / InfoSolutions team backed by FAST technology, our new search retrieval capabilities will have a significant impact on the delivery of information and services to our constituents,” said Satish Ajmani, Orange County's Chief Information Officer. “Our residents demand – and our staff provides – first class service. Since our comprehensive Web site encompasses online resources from numerous departments and agencies, we needed an infrastructure that seamlessly connects residents with essential information and services.”

The Web site’s new design and search platform connect Orange County’s 3.1 million residents to online services and individualized content for each of its departments. From paying property taxes online to locating information on animal care services or acquiring a business license, residents can now benefit from one of the most robust and user-friendly community Web sites available on the Internet.

Orange County selected NIE / InfoSolutions to implement FAST’s ESP technology due to the team’s extensive knowledge of the enterprise search industry as well as the complexity and scope of the project. The new search design required mapping each department’s and agency’s internal language and acronyms into user terms and building drill-down navigation to ensure users can quickly find accurate and reliable results. 

New Idea Engineering's President, Miles Kehoe, credits the project's success to the Orange County staff and the county’s visionary information technology team. According to Kehoe, “Migrating the old static Web pages to Vignette and FAST saved development time and cost, but ruled out a simple, ‘generic’ search solution. Ensuring that the search engine focused on the central Web page content rather than solely on the built-in navigation keywords was critical for providing relevant information to end users.”

InfoSolutions’ President, Bob Berberich, added, “On a project as complex as this, it helps to have a diversified team with deep skills to draw upon. It allows for much more than connecting the technical dots; it enables a creative synergy that allows us to truly address the client’s needs in both the short and the long term.”

To see the new site in action, please visit the Orange County Web site at: http://www.oc.ca.gov. 

May 30, 2008

Some interesting Enterprise search events the week of June 2nd

There are two really interesting events happening next week that might be of interest.

First, Leslie Owens of Forrester is presenting a the Forrester Wave Enterprise Search platform webinar  on Monday morning, June 2 at 8AM. There is a nominal fee, but I think you will find it interesting.

Then, Leslie and several other interesting speakers will be at a free one day seminar hosted by FAST on Wednesday the 4th in Redwood Shores California at the Sofitel Hotel. In addition to Leslie Owens' presentation on 'Technology Populism', speakers will include Jeff Spataro of Microsoft; Hadley Reynolds of FAST; and senior IT managers from Cisco and National Instruments.  Hadley, by the way, speaks and writes on Search Centers of Excellence and other innovations in the application of enterprise search. Be sure to register for the free FAST Search event.

October 28, 2007

Explicit Tagging on the net; Implicit tagging in companies

Collaboration is a hot topic among folks who prognosticate about the future of enterprise search. It's made such a positive difference for internet search at sites like Flickr and among the Facebook-type networking sites of the world, it only makes sense that it should be able to help enterprise search as well.  In his recent book "Everything is Miscellaneous", David  Weinberger talks about the the value of meta-data in organizing content now that everything is in electrons rather than in the physical world of atoms. 

He talks about Flickr as an example of meta-tagging - explicit tagging - improving retrieval. Flickr has 8 million registered users, but on a recent visit to the site, it reported that 5000 pictures had been uploaded in the minute just prior to my visit. That must take an incredible amount of tagging just to break even!

By the way, one benefit of massive meta-tagging, as Weinberger points out, is that companies like Flickr, using some smarts behind the scene, can effectively "learn" to associate "Golden Gate Bridge" and "San Francisco”. This is no doubt similar to the technology that leading enterprise search vendors   are beginning to incorporate around  “fact extraction".

A Problem of Scale

Even though we are fans of explicit tagging as implemented in Flickr, the problem we see with tagging in the enterprise is the significantly smaller base of potential taggers inside the firewall.

Let's consider Cisco, a high tech company with a large store of online content and a highly motivated, highly technical employee base. They have about 60,000 employees; let’s assume that 5% of those employees would actively tag documents given the ability. That means there may be up to 3,000 active collaborators over time. But with an intranet of millions of pages, it's going to be a while before any significant number of pages has useful tags.

The good news is that we do see the solution in the intranet as a more implicit form of 'tagging': document views for a given query. In the same way that someone tagging a picture on Flickr is adding an explicit "vote" associating a picture with a term, a corporate user is entering an implicit  "vote" for a document when he or she opens a document after a search. That is, the user "tags" the document in question with the search term(s) used to find it. When we can find a way to automagically tweak the relevance of a document for a given term without having to do any special handling, then collaborative technology will have found a niche in enterprise search.

Of course, there are always fringe cases: what if a user opens a document and finds the document is totally wrong? Won't that rank a document higher? The answer is yes - but the fact that the boost is a tiny one means the document will only marginally have a better score. And trust us, if you provide a document feedback capability for your users, you'll hear about the bad documents and you can offset the "mistaken" tags with the "thumbs down" votes. We think over time, this implicit tagging will work far better in the corporate environment, even if human-provided explicit tags will continue to be better indicators.

Now to see if any vendors are using that technology now. Do you know of any?