Search for the whole enterprise vs. point solutions was the subject of some discussion, especially since our keynote speaker, Stephen Arnold gave strong guidance that you can’t think about one search solution (“product”) for the entire enterprise and all content. This is something with which I pretty much agree, in most cases.

Just emerging from the Gilbane San Francisco conference, six sessions on search and a workshop I conducted, I want to share a couple of general impressions. Details and expanded reflections will follow in the days and weeks to come.

Search for the whole enterprise vs. point solutions was the subject of some discussion, especially since our keynote speaker, Stephen Arnold gave strong guidance that you can’t think about one search solution (“product”) for the entire enterprise and all content. This is something with which I pretty much agree, in most cases. However, a question arose in one of the sessions in which a couple of presentations talked about a single search engine for what appeared to be the entire enterprise. A member of the audience asked for clarification in view of Arnold’s earlier comments.

I chose to intercede so as not to put our speakers on the defensive about what, for their organizations were very reasonable choices. Both of the cases were for research or professional services organizations with a high incidence of uniformity in the scope and type of content. They are relatively flat in structure with the bulk of the population being researchers: consultants, engineers, scientists. The applications were for intranets that were being leveraged to connect content and experts, so that from either direction (finding an expert and then looking at their content, or finding content to reveal expertise) other professionals could leverage organizational knowledge. It is a safe bet that other search does exist elsewhere in these companies, even if it is in stealth mode or embedded in other applications. Still, in general, large organizations with highly differentiated personnel with functional and disparate content requirements will find value in point search solutions that may only have purpose in a single internal domain.

To that point, if you are a finance professional or business manager you might want to sign up for a webinar this Thursday, June 26th, when I will be laying out a business case for a particular kind of search solution that is targeted at your demographic. This Apps Associates sponsored webinar also describes a solution leveraging Oracle enterprise search, but the ideas in it will give you a sense of what search can provide in your domain.

Judging from the topics presented on search, the reasons and ways in which it is being applied are more diverse than even I imagined. Opinions about what is good/bad, appropriate or not, and how to approach search technology ran the gamut of simple to complex. Two strong points of view were expressed about taxonomy vs. just tagging or letting the search engine categorize. Neither side would give an inch to the other as having an approach that is often “good enough.” It is pretty clear that hybrid solutions offering both a structured approach to search where a taxonomy is applied through metadata, and auto-categorization by the search engine without a supporting taxonomy in the background will be applied in many enterprises.

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