Curated for content, computing, and digital experience professionals

Month: October 2009 (Page 1 of 3)

Where and How Can You Look for Good Enterprise Search Interface Design?

Designing an enterprise search interface that employees will use on their intranet is challenging in any circumstance. But starting from nothing more than verbal comments or even a written specification is really hard. However, conversations about what is needed and wanted are informative because they can be aggregated to form the basis for the overarching design.

Frequently, enterprise stakeholders will reference a commercial web site they like or even search tools within social sites. These are a great starting point for a designer to explore. It makes a lot of sense to visit scores of sites that are publicly accessible or sites where you have an account and navigate around to see how they handle various design elements.

To start, look at:

  • How easy is it to find a search box?
  • Is there an option to do advanced searches (Boolean or parametric searching)?
  • Is there a navigation option to traverse a taxonomy of terms?
  • Is there a “help” option with relevant examples for doing different kinds of searches?
  • What happens when you search for a word that has several spellings or synonyms, a phrase (with or without quotes), a phrase with the word and in it, a numeral, or a date?
  • How are results displayed: what information is included, what is the order of the results and can you change them? Can you manipulate results or search within the set?
  • Is the interface uncluttered and easily understood?

The point of this list of questions is that you can use it to build a set of criteria for designing what your enterprise will use and adopt, enthusiastically. But this is only a beginning. By actually visiting many sites outside your enterprise, you will find features that you never thought to include or aggravations that you will surely want to avoid. From these experiences on external sites, you can build up a good list of what is important to include or banish from your design.

When you find sites that you think are exemplary, ask key stakeholders to visit them and give you their feedback, preferences and dislikes. Particularly, you want to note what confuses them or enthusiastic comments about what excites them.

This post originated because several press notices in the past month brought to my attention Web applications that have sophisticated and very specialized search applications. I think they can provide terrific ideas for the enterprise search design team and also be used to demonstrate to your internal users just what is possible.

Check out these applications and articles: on KNovel, particularly this KNovel pageThomasNet; EBSCOHost mentioned in this article about the “deep Web.”. All these applications reveal superior search capabilities, have long track records, and are already used by enterprises every day. Because they are already successful in the enterprise, some by subscription, they are worth a second look as examples of how to approach your enterprise’s search interface design.

How CMOs Are Planning for Social Media

Updated November 24

While preparing for today’s webcast on digital marketing and lessons learned from the publishing indusry, we discovered the August 2009 CMO survey conducted by professor Christine Moorman at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, with support from the American Marketing Association. Moorman’s results include insights into expectations about the role of social media in digital marketing.

The 511 top marketing executives of US companies interviewed in late July expect to increase spending on social media efforts by more than 300% over the next five years, moving budget allocations from 3.5% to 13.7%.

Top investments are pegged for social networking (65%), video and photosharing (52%), and blogging (50%).

The five most frequently projected uses for social media applications are brand building, customer acquisition, new product introductions, customer retention, and market research.

Read the CMO survey press release for details on the research and links to full results. Register for today’s webinar on digital marketing and lessons learned from publishers. 

Update: The webinar recording is available here.

Open Text Announces Vignette Portal 8.0

Open Text Corporation (NASDAQ: OTEX, TSX: OTC) announced a new release of its enterprise portal solution, Vignette Portal version 8.0. Vignette Portal 8.0 simplifies the administration and creation of dynamic, content-rich Web sites with the ability to rapidly syndicate portal applications across Web properties powered by multiple systems. Portal 8.0  enables additional social media capabilities that align with Open Text’s development of Enterprise 2.0 solutions. Open Text recently announced that it plans to enhance its ECM Suite with Web solutions powered by technology from its existing Web Solutions and Vignette. Vignette Portal 8.0, together with the user experience foundation of Vignette Community Applications, provides organizations with more than 100 social portlets that add capabilities such as wikis, blogs, idea sharing and event calendars to any portal site. Additionally, Vignette Portal 8.0 provides user presentation services to the upcoming Vignette Content Management version 8.0 release, slated for Q4 2009. Vignette Portal 8.0 is available immediately.,

The Customer-Vendor Conversation: A key to success in WCM


Having gotten my feet [soaking] wet with briefings from Web Content Management vendors, I’ve come to a realization: the Customer-Vendor feedback loop is one of the strongest keys to long-term success for all parties. A blinding flash of the obvious? I don’t think so.  Let me explain…

I have seen, and written, a lot of RFPs seeking “the perfect” WCM product. The natural tendency in these “quests for the holy grail” is for the tool-seeker to list as many WCM features as one might possibly use […maybe…at some point in the future… if only…] and for the vendors to respond, in turn, by listing all of their capabilities and feature sets. As one might imagine, this scenario typically results in responses which provide the decision-maker minimal product differentiation information.  Why? Because like it or not, most WCM products offer similar feature sets, and if they don’t offer a particular feature today, one can be sure it’s “on the roadmap”.  [I’ll spend more time in a future post describing how one can craft an RFP to elicit valuable responses which actually help one decide which product(s) align most closely with needs of the author.] But today’s capabilities are tomorrow’s old news, so how can one be sure they’re selecting a vendor whose product will meet tomorrow’s needs? Take a look at the vendor’s track record and approach to collaborating with customers to expand and hone its offering.

As I delve into some of the top-rated [by users] WCM vendors, I see a consistent “customer-is-key” theme being played out in the form of both formal and informal feedback channels.  These “conversations” with customers can be either synchronous or asynchronous, direct or indirect, two-way or multi-way…or all of the above.  The point is that successful vendors [pro]actively engage their customers, and then respond in a meaningful manner to enhance their offering in a way that ensures that the product’s “roadmap” is *always* aligned with the needs of both current and future customers.

In a recent briefing with a vendor [who I feel has a great approach to managing this feedback loop], the last slide in their presentation listed four of their key differentiators…but all of them were technology-related and failed to mention my aforementioned favorite. Why not?  Is it because they aren’t proud of this factor? Absolutely not…they are very proud of it and have worked hard to create such a valuable dialog with their customers. My sense is they left it out because this subject is not yet a key criteria in the minds of decision-makers.

We are failing to ask the right questions.  Why wouldn’t customer service and engagement be the key in such a huge purchase decision? It should.  Innovation is essential, but I believe it is critical that we, the customers, ensure we have a place at the table to refine the direction of such innovation. After all, innovation without purpose or utility is useless.

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The Impending Enterprise 2.0 Software Market Consolidation

Talk about a trip down memory lane…  Another excellent blog post yesterday by my friend and fellow Babson College alum, Sameer Patel, snapped me back a few years and gave me that spine tingling sense of deja vu.

Sameer wrote about how the market for Enterprise 2.0 software may evolve much the same way the enterprise portal software market did nearly a decade ago. I remember the consolidation of the portal market very well, having actively shaped and tracked it daily as an analyst and consultant. I would be thrilled if the E2.0 software market followed a similar, but somewhat different direction that the portal market took. Allow me to explain.

When the portal market consolidated in 2002-2003, some cash-starved vendors simply went out of business. However, many others were acquired for their technology, which was then integrated into other enterprise software offerings. Portal code became the UI layer of many enterprise software applications and was also used as a data and information aggregation and personalization method in those applications.

I believe that much of the functionality we see in Enterprise 2.0 software today will eventually be integrated into other enterprise applications. In fact, I would not be surprised to see that beginning to happen in 2010, as the effects of the recession continue to gnaw at the business climate, making it more difficult for many vendors of stand-alone E2.0 software tools and applications to survive, much less grow.

I hope that the difference between the historical integration of portal technology and the coming integration of E2.0 functionality is one of method. Portal functionality was embedded directly into the code of existing enterprise applications. Enterprise 2.0 functionality should be integrated into other applications as services. Service-based functionality offers the advantage of writing once and using many times.  For example, creating service-based enterprise micro-messaging functionality (e.g. Yammer, Socialcast, Socialtext Signals, etc.) would allow it to be integrated into multiple, existing enterprise applications, rather than being confined to an Enterprise 2.0 software application or suite.

The primary goals of writing and deploying social software functionality as services are: 1) to allow enterprise software users to interact with one another without leaving the context in which they are already working, and 2) to preserve the organization’s investment in existing enterprise applications. The first is important from a user productivity and satisfaction standpoint, the second because of its financial benefit.

When the Enterprise 2.0 software market does consolidate, the remaining vendors will be there because they were able to create and sell:

  • a platform that could be extended by developers creating custom solutions for large organizations,
  • a suite that provided a robust, fixed set of functionality that met the common needs of many customers, or
  • a single piece or multiple types of service-based functionality that could be integrated into either other enterprise application vendors’ offerings or deploying organizations’ existing applications and new mashups

What do you think? Will history repeat itself or will the list of Enterprise 2.0 software vendors that survived the impending, inevitable market consolidation consist primarily of those that embraced the service-based functionality model?

Join the Keynote Conversation at Gilbane Boston via our blog or Twitter

We hope to see many of you at our opening keynote panel at Gilbane Boston (December 2, 8:30 – 10:00am at the Westin Copley), but whether you are there physically or not, you can participate by asking questions in advance. K1. Opening Keynote Panel – A Conversation About Content, Collaboration & Customers includes:

Moderator: Frank Gilbane, CEO Gilbane Group
Susan Parker, Director,, Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Michael Edson, Director, Web and New Media Strategy, Office of the CIO, Smithsonian Institution
Luuk de Jager, Senior Director, B2C Organizational Empowerment, Central Marketing Office Online, Philips Consumer Lifestyle

See the complete description of the panel at:

Four ways to ask questions:

  1. email questions to – be sure to identify which session the question is for
  2. include questions as a comment on this blog post
  3. Tweet your questions using the conference and session hash tags (see below)
  4. DM your question to

A note on hash tags:

#gilbaneboston is the event hash tag. For individual sessions we’ll use the session codes listed with the session descriptions, for example #k1 for K1. Opening Keynote Panel – A Conversation About Content, Collaboration & Customers. For sessions with multiple codes, simply use the first, so for W9/E13/I7. Open Source CMS Powwow use #w9. For Pre-conference workshops use the workshop codes. For example for worksop A: How to Select a Web Content Management System use #a.

Ask away! Offers Proof of Its New Enterprise Strategy announced today that it has integrated its cloud-based document storage and sharing solution with Current customers that want to integrate with Salesforce CRM can contact directly to activate the service. customers may now download from the AppExchange. services will now be available in the Lead, Account, Contact, and Opportunity tabs of Salesforce CRM. In addition, the native interface and full range of services will be accessible via a dedicted tab on the Salesforce CRM interface. Users can upload new files to, edit existing files, digitally sign electronic documents, and e-mail or e-fax files. Large enterprise users will be given unlimited storage. The video embedded below briefly demonstrates the new Salesforce CRM integration.

While started as a consumer focused business, today’s announcement marks the first tangible manifestation of its emerging enterprise strategy. intends to be a cloud-based  document repository that can be accessed through a broad range of enterprise applications.

The content-as-a-service model envisioned by will gain traction in the coming months. I believe that a centralized content repository, located on-premise or in the cloud, is a key piece of any enterprise’s infrastructure. Moreover, content services — functionality that enables users to create, store, edit, and share content — should be accessible from any enterprise application, including composite applications such as portals or mashups created for specific roles (e.g. sales and/or marketing employees, channel partners, customers). Users should not be required to interact with content only through dedicated tools such as office productivity suites and Content Management Systems (CMS).

Other content authoring and CMS software vendors are beginning to consider, understand, and (in some cases) embrace this deployment model. is one of the first proprietary software vendors to instantiate it. Adoption statistics of their new Salesforce CRM integration should eventually provide a good reading as to whether or not enterprise customers are also ready to embrace the content-as-a-service model.

Meta Tags and Trusted Resources in the Enterprise

A recent article about how Google Internet search does not use meta tags to find relevant content got me thinking about a couple of things.

First it explains why none of the articles I write for this blog about enterprise search appear in Google alerts for “enterprise search.” Besides being a personal annoyance, easily resolved if I invested in some Internet search optimization, it may explain why meta tagging is a hard sell behind the firewall.

I do know something about getting relevant content to show up in enterprise search systems and it does depend on a layer of what I call “value-added metadata” by someone who knows the subject matter in target content and the audience. Working with the language of the enterprise audience that relies on finding critical content to do their jobs, a meta tagger will bring out topical language known to be the lingua franca of the dominant searchers as well as the language that will be used by novice employee searchers. The key here is to recognize that in any specific piece of content its “aboutness” may never be explicitly spelled out in terminology by the author.

In one example, let’s consider some fundamental HR information about “holiday pay” or “compensation for holidays” or “compensation for time-off.” The strings in quotes were used throughout documents on the intranet of one organization where I consulted. When some complained about not being able to find this information using the company search system, my review of search logs showed a very large number of searches for “vacation pay” and almost no searches for “compensation” or “holidays” or “time off.” Thus, there was no way that using the search engine employees would stumble upon the useful information they are seeking – unless, meta tags make “vacation pay” a retrievable index pointer to these documents. The tagger would have analyzed the search logs, seen the high number of searches for that phrase and realized that it was needed as a meta tag.

Now, back to Google’s position on ignoring meta tags because writers and marketing managers were “gaming the system.” They were adding tags they thought would be popular to get people to look at content not related but for which they were seeking a huge audience.

I have heard the concern that people within enterprises might also hijack the usefulness of content they were posting in blogs or wikis to get more “eyeballs” in the organization. This is a foolish concern, in my opinion. First I have never seen evidence that this happens and don’t believe that any productive enterprise has people engaging in this obvious foolishness.

More importantly, professional growth and success depends on the perceptions of others, their belief in you and your work, and the value of your ideas. If an employee is so foolish as to misdirect fellow employees to useless or irrelevant content, he is not likely to gain or keep the respect of his peers and superiors. In the long run persistent, misleading or mischievous meta tagging will have just the opposite effect, creating a pathway to the door.

Conversely, the super meta tagger with astute insights into what people are looking for and how they are most likely to look for it, will be the valued expert we all need to care for and spoon feed us our daily content. Trusted resources rise to the top when they are appropriately tagged and become bedrock content when revealed through enterprise search on well-managed intranets.

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