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Speaker Spotlight: John Felahi – Making content findable

In another installment of Speaker Spotlight, we posed a couple of our frequently asked questions to speaker John Felahi, Chief Strategy Officer at Content Analyst Company, LLC. We’ve included his answers here. Be sure to see additional Speaker Spotlights from our upcoming conference.

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Speaker Spotlight: John Felahi

Chief Strategy Officer

Content Analyst Company, LLC

 

What is the best overall strategy for delivering content to web, multiple mobile, and upcoming digital channels? What is the biggest challenge? Development and maintenance cost? Content control? Brand management? Technology expertise?

One of the biggest challenges to delivering content to the web is making it as findable as possible to potential interested viewers.  While traditional, manual tagging and keyword search methods may have gotten us this far, and may be good enough for some use cases, they’re still not without limitations. The good news is, there are far more advanced, sophisticated – and automated – technologies available to remedy the numerous limitations of manual tagging content and keyword-based search. The limitations of manual tagging and keyword-based include:

  • Term creep – New terms constantly emerge, requiring taxonomies to be constantly updated.
  • Polysemy – Take Apple, for example. Is your user searching for the company, the Beatles’ record label, or the fruit?
  • Acronyms – Texting has introduced an entirely new language of acronyms (LOL, TTYL, WDYT).  Manually tagging content requires the editor to consider possible acronyms the users will be searching for.
  • Abbreviations – Tagging content with long, scientific terms, geographies, etc. require editors to factor these in along with the long terms they represent.
  • Misspellings – Thanks to spellcheck and autocorrect, technology has become much more forgiving for those who never made it past the first round eliminations in their sixth grade spelling bee. Content search, unfortunately, needs to be equally accommodating, if you want your users to find your content – which means tagging it with common misspellings.
  • Language – The web has certainly made the world a much smaller place, but that doesn’t mean everyone speaks English.  Making content findable in any language means it has to also be tagged in multiple languages.

On to the good news – there’s technology that’s been used for years in eDiscovery and the US Intelligence Community to overcome these very challenges, but for different reasons. Because the bad guys aren’t tagging their content to make it more findable, the intel community needs a better way to find what they’re looking for. And in eDiscovery, finding relevant content can make a multi-million dollar difference to the outcome of a particular litigation or other regulatory matter. That’s why tens of thousands of legal reviewers and countless analysts in the intel community use a technology known as concept-aware advanced analytics.

How concept-aware advanced analytics differs from manual tagging and keyword search

As its name implies, concept-aware understands the underlying concepts within the content. As such, it can tag content automatically.  On the viewer’s side, content can be found by simply saying, “find more like this.” Categories are defined by taking examples that represent the concepts of a category. The system “learns” what that category is all about, and can then identify conceptually similar content and apply the same category. The process is the same on the search side. The user points to a piece of content and says, “find more like this.” Or as the content publisher, you present the viewer with conceptually similar content, i.e., “you may also be interested in these articles.”

While concept-aware advanced analytics doesn’t necessarily replace manual tagging and keyword search – which work very well in certain situations – the technology clearly overcomes many of the limitations of traditional tagging and search methods.

Catch Up with John at Gilbane

Track E: Content, Collaboration, and the Employee Experience

E7: Strategic Imperatives for Enterprise Search to Succeed
Wednesday, December, 4: 2:00 p.m. – 3:20 p.m.

[button link=”http://gilbaneconference.com/program” variation=”red”]Complete Program[/button] [button link=”http://gilbaneconference.com/schedule” variation=”red”]Conference Schedule[/button] [button link=”http://gilbaneconference.com/registration” variation=”red”]Register Today[/button]

Healthcare e-Commerce Search Lessons for the Enterprise

Search Tools Wanting on Many Exchanges: This headline was too good to pass up even though stories about the failures of the Affordable Care Act web site are wearing a little thin right now. For those of us long involved in developing, delivering and supporting large software solutions, we can only imagine all the project places that have brought about this massive melt-down. Seeing this result: “many who get through the log-in process on the new health insurance exchanges then have trouble determining whether the offered policies will provide the coverage they need”, we who spend hours on external and internal web sites know the frustrations very well. It is not the “search tools” that are lacking but the approach to design and development.

This current event serves as a cautionary tale to any enterprise attempting its own self-service web-site, for employees’ in-house use, customer service extranets or direct sales on public facing sites.

Here are the basic necessary requirements, for anyone launching large-scale site search, internally or externally.

Leadership in an endeavor of this scale requires deep understanding of the scope of the goals. All the goals must be met in the short term (enrollment of both the neediest without insurance AND enrollment of the young procrastinators), and scalable for the long term. What this requires is a single authority with:

  • Experience on major projects, global in reach, size and complexity
  • Knowledge of how all the entities in the healthcare industry work and inter-relate
  • Maturity, enough to understand and manage software engineers (designers), coders, business operations managers, writers, user interface specialists and business analysts with their myriad of personality types that will be doing the work to bring millions of computing elements into synch
  • The authority and control to hire, fire, and prioritize project elements.

Simplicity of site design to begin a proof of concept, or several proofs of concept, rolled out to real prospects using a minimalist approach with small teams. This a surer path to understanding what works and what doesn’t. Think of the approach to the Manhattan Project where multiple parallel efforts were employed to get to the quickest and most practical deployment of an atomic weapon. Groves had the leadership authority to shift initiative priorities as each group progressed and made a case for its approach. This more technically complex endeavor was achieved over a 4 year period, only one year more than this government healthcare site development. Because the ability to find information is the first step for almost every shopper, it makes sense to get search and navigation working smoothly first, even as content targets and partner sites are being readied for access. Again, deep understanding of the audience, what it wants to know first and how that audience will go about finding it is imperative. Usability experts with knowledge of the healthcare industry would be critical in such an effort. The priority is to enable a search before requiring identity. Forcing enrollment of multitudes of people who just want to search, many of whom will never become buyers (e.g. counselors, children helping elderly parents find information, insurers wanting to verify their own linkages and site flow from the main site) is madness. No successful e-commerce site demands this from a new visitor and the government healthcare site has no business harvesting a huge amount of personal data that it has no use for (i.e. marketing).

Hundreds of major enterprises have failed at massive search implementations because the focus was on the technology instead of the business need, the user need and content preparation. Good to excellent search will always depend on an excellent level of organization and categorization for the audience and use intended. That is how excellent e-commerce sites flourish. Uniformity, normalization, and consistency models take time to build and maintain. They need smart people with time to think through logical paths to information to do this work. It is not a task for programmers or business managers. Content specialists and taxonomists who have dealt with content in healthcare areas for years are needed.

How a public project could fail so badly will eventually be examined and the results made known. I will wager that these three basic elements were missing from day one: a single strong leader, a simple, multi-track development approach with prototyping and attention to preparing searchable content for the target audience. Here is a lesson learned for your enterprise.

Launching Your Search for Enterprise Search Fundamentals

It’s the beginning of a new year and you are tasked with responsibility for your enterprise to get top value from the organization’s information and knowledge assets. You are the IT applications specialist assigned to support individual business units with their technology requests. You might encounter situations similar to these:

  • Marketing has a major initiative to re-write all product marketing pieces.
  • Finance is grappling with two newly acquired companies whose financial reports, financial analyses, and forecasts are scattered across a number of repositories.
  • Your Legal department has a need to categorize and analyze several thousand “idea records” that came from the acquired companies in order to be prepared for future work, patenting new products.
  • Research and development is attempting to categorize, and integrate into a single system, R&D reports from an existing repository with those from the acquisitions.
  • Manufacturing requires access to all schematics for eight new products in order to refine and retool manufacturing processes and equipment in their production area.
  • Customer support demands just-in-time retrieval and accuracy to meet their contractual obligations to tier-one customers, often from field operations, or while in transit to customer sites. The latter case often requires retrieval of a single, unique piece of documentation.

All of these groups have needs, which if not met present high risk or even exposure to lawsuits from clients or investors. You have only one specialist on staff who has had two years of experience with a single search engine, but who is currently deployed to field service operations.

Looking at just these few examples we can see that a number of search related technologies plus human activities may be required to meet the needs of these diverse constituents. From finding and assembling all financial materials across a five-year time period for all business units, to recovering scattered and unclassified emails and memos that contain potential product ideas, the initiative may be huge. A sizable quantity of content and business structural complexity may require a large scale effort just to identify all possible repositories to search for. This repository identifying exercise is a problem to be solved before even thinking about the search technologies to adopt for the “finding” activity.

Beginning the development of a categorizing method and terminology to support possible “auto-categorization” might require text mining and text analysis applications to assess the topical nomenclature and entity attributes that would make a good starting point. These tools can be employed before the adoption of enterprise search applications.

Understanding all the “use-cases” for which engineers may seek schematics in their re-design and re-engineering of a manufacturing plant is essential to selecting the best search technology for them and testing it for deployment.

The bottom line is there is a lot more to know about content and supporting its accessibility with search technology than acquiring the search application. Furthermore, the situations that demand search solutions within the enterprise are far different, and their successful application requires far greater understanding of user search expectations than Web searching for a product or general research on a new topic.

To meet the full challenge of providing the technologies and infrastructure that will deliver reliable and high value information and knowledge when and where required, you must become conversant with a boatload of search related topics. So, where do you begin?

A new primer, manageable in length and logical in order has just been published. It contains the basics you will need to understand the enterprise context for search. A substantive list of reading resources, a glossary and vendor URL list round out the book. As the author suggests, and I concur, you should probably begin with Chapter 12, two pages that will ground you quickly in the key elements of your prospective undertaking.

What is the book? Enterprise Search (of course) by Martin White, O’Reilly Media, Inc., Sebastopol, CA. © 2013 Martin White. 192p. ISBN: 978-1-449-33044-6. Also available as an online edition at: http://my.safaribooksonline.com/book/databases/data-warehouses/9781449330439

Gilbane Conference program and speakers posted

The Gilbane Conference program and speaker list are now available in addition to the conference schedule and pre-conference workshop schedule and program – there are just a few details to be added. Other changes between now and the conference will be minimal and will be reflected on the site if/as they occur, so check back once in a while.

The schedule for the product labs/case studies presented by sponsors will also be posted shortly.

Speaker proposal update

Thanks all for the speaker proposals!

Next step is a preliminary organization by the program committee to see if we have all the topics covered.

If you have submitted a proposal remember that it may be a few weeks before a decision is made, but we will keep you posted here on our overall progress.

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