May-be it is this everlasting winter of weather events, but I’m ready for some big changes across the gray landscape. Experiencing endless winter has for me become a metaphor for what I observe within some enterprises as serial adoptions of search.
As I work on my forthcoming report, Enterprise Search Markets and Applications: Capitalizing on Emerging Demand, I am interviewing people who are deeply engaged in search technologies. They are presenting a view of search deployment and implementation that reinforces my own observations, complete with benefits and disappointments. However, search in enterprises is like recurring weather events, some big, some small but relentless in the repetitiveness of certain experiences. It seems that early adopters in the early stages of adoption often experience the euphoria of a fresh way to find stuff. Then inertia sets in as some large subset of adopters settles in to becoming routine but faithful users. The rest are like me with winter, looking for a really big change and more; the nitpicking begins as users cast their eyes to better options hyped by the media or by compatriots in other organizations with newer “bells and whistles.” Ah, what fickle beasts we are, as my husband will be very quick to remind me the first hot, humid day of summer when I complain in a desultory sulk.
So, I was delighted to read this article in the New York Times, Tech’s Late Adopters Prefer the Tried and True, by Miguel Helft, on March 12. I particularly loved this comment from the article: “Laggards have a bad rap, but they are crucial in pacing the nature of change, said Paul Saffo, a technology forecaster in Silicon Valley. Innovation requires the push of early adopters and the pull of laypeople asking whether something really works. If this was a world in which only early adopters got to choose, we’d all be using CB radios and quadraphonic stereo.” It helps to put one’s quest for the next big thing into perspective.
It included another quote from David Gans who, from the community of the Well in which people communicate using text-only systems, “Just because you have a nuclear-powered thing that can dry your clothes in five minutes doesn’t mean there isn’t value to hanging your clothes in the backyard and talking to your neighbors while doing it.” As one who has never owned a clothes drier, this validated one of my own conscious decisions.
Seriously though, given all the comments collected from my interviews and my own experiences, it is really time to remind adopters, early and late, to give thought to appropriateness, what benefits us or adversely distracts us in the technologies we implement in our working worlds. (I’ll leave your personal technology use for you to sort out.) Taking time to think about your intentions and “what comes next” after getting that “must have” new search system is something only you can control. Nobody on the selling side of a bakery will ever remind you that you don’t really neeeed another cookie.
And in one more point, if you are in the market for search+, Steve Arnold does a fine job of positioning the appropriateness of each of the 24 systems he reviews in. It might just help you resist the superfluous and take a look some other options instead.