My silence last week had more to do with information overload than lack of interesting things to write about. Be forewarned, the floodgates of my brain are beginning to creak open. I just returned from Fast Search’sconference in San Diego where their current and future visions for search technologies were front and center. While there seem to be no lack of innovations for how to make search engines smarter, faster, and more adaptable, the innovations being hyped at FastForward 07, and by others with only slightly less hyperbole, are notable. Search is becoming sexy and not just for the amount of money that Google and second-ranked Fast are raking in. In this arena search is the new business frontier, the marketplace-enabler, the marketplace-maker.
Consider this, search technologies have been business necessities for 35 years. For the first 30, search was strictly a support feature to many other kinds of finding mechanisms. In the earliest days search was performed by specialists as a service to other operations in the organization. Attempts to market search technology options to line managers, analysts, attorneys and R&D staff were marginal in their success. This is because search was not used enough for these groups to acquire the skill required for it to be really valuable. Once Web search engines exposed everyone to the possibilities of search in a far simpler modality, the innovation light bulbs popped off.
Suddenly search for use within the enterprise has become search for the enterprise’s marketplace, a major business driver that will put an organization’s products, services, and assets squarely in front of the right buying audience. What this means for those poor souls who still need to find the stuff mounting valuelessly in inaccessible silos remains to be seen. I am excited by what I saw but concerned by what I am witnessing. It is great that I may be able to find that weird audio adapter on the Web to let me connect to the sound system in the skating rink. But it is really awful when an engineering firm can’t put it’s hands on the schematic that shows how a circuit board was modified and delivered three years ago to a top customer.