When looking at job postings on the Enterprise Search Engine Professionals Group on LinkedIn shows positions calling for developers with specific programming skills or knowledge of specific products. It may be a faulty assumption, but it appears that enterprises on the path to a new or upgraded search application implementation are paying less attention to the other professional skills needed on a successful team.
Knowing how to implement, tune, administer and enhance search outcomes has more to do with understanding business needs and content management than writing code. You need the expertise of content management professionals who understand the importance of (and how to leverage) metadata. You definitely need people who know how to build and maintain the controlled vocabularies that make metadata valid and valuable within the context of your organization. These professionals are not traditionally found in IT groups; they are more likely to come from a business function, or information science background, preferably with a deep knowledge of the enterprise and how it works.
Integrating content management systems (CMS), digital asset management (DAM), taxonomy, thesaurus or ontology management with enterprise search applications means understanding much more than coding. However, having a tight relationship with IT is imperative for good integration of components. In small and medium organizations it is rare to find experts across all areas and that is where a new breed of system integrators are bringing the most value as noted in the post in December, 2011.
As promised, here are some tips for finding and qualifying the right integrator for your organization. The first step is to identify service providers to consider. Use three principle discovery techniques:
- Simple searches for “system integration providers”, “search integration”, “software” or “software integration” are all explicit phrases to use in web search engines
- Vendor listings and directories such as those published by Information Today, and AIIM or “buyers’ guides” associated with specific product groups.
- Conference exhibitors and conference attendees (consultants and vendors) who may attend or present but not exhibit at conference where the focus is a content management topic.
Next, qualify those you have discovered:
- Scour their web sites by digging into links to Case Studies, Customers, Partners, and Press Releases. Each of these may lead to information about who the vendor has done business with and for, and the nature of their engagements.
- Test-drive any public sites they have implemented and take a look at how their own web site has been implemented – How easy is it to find information on their own site?
- Talk to people at professional meetings or in academic institutions who might have knowledge of system integrators and learn about their relationships, success and failures they have experienced. Talk to those vendors you trust and value that are suppliers of non-software products and find out companies they may have observed or encountered at their other clients. They can be a great source of “intelligence.”
- Talk to people at their named client sites (non-referred if possible)
Five keys to purposeful and successful selection are carefully evaluating:
- Fit for your industry and organization: cost, vertical experience, gap completion (providing competencies you lack).
- Fit with your permanent staff: common communication behaviors, collaborative aptitude, willingness to teach, and share.
- People who have done something as close to what you need for another organization, and will let you talk to their client before the project begins.
- A service provider that understands the project, staging, and need for a clear exit goal (being able to clearly define what success will look like at the end of the project before they leave the scene).
- What we commented on in the first paragraph on jobs for search engine professionals; scout potential service providers’ professional skill set to be sure they have people on their staffs who know more than just writing code.
Armed with these few guidelines as a checklist, you are ready to begin your search for a system integrator and solutions provider that suits your organization.
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