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Tag: Search Marketplace

Layering Technologies to Support the Enterprise with Semantic Search

Semantic search is a composite beast like many enterprise software applications. Most packages are made up of multiple technology components and often from multiple vendors. This raises some interesting thoughts as we prepare for Gilbane Boston 2009 to be held this week.

As part of a panel on semantic search, moderated by Hadley Reynolds of IDC, with Jeff Fried of Microsoft and Chris Lamb of the OpenCalais Initiative at Thomson Reuters, I wanted to give a high level view of semantic technologies currently in the marketplace. I contacted about a dozen vendors and selected six to highlight for the variety of semantic search offerings and business models.

One case study involves three vendors, each with a piece of the ultimate, customer-facing, product. My research took me to one company that I had reviewed a couple of years ago, and they sent me to their “customer” and to the customer’s customer. It took me a couple of conversations and emails to sort out the connections; in the end the relationships made perfect sense.

On one hand we have conglomerate software companies offering “solutions” to every imaginable enterprise business need. On the other, we see very unique, specialized point solutions to universal business problems with multiple dimensions and twists. Teaming by vendors, each with a solution to one dimension of a need, create compound product offerings that are adding up to a very large semantic search marketplace.

Consider an example of data gathering by a professional services firm. Let’s assume that my company has tens of thousands of documents collected in the course of research for many clients over many years. Researchers may move on to greater responsibility or other firms, leaving content unorganized except around confidential work for individual clients. We now want to exploit this corpus of content to create new products or services for various vertical markets. To understand what we have, we need to mine the content for themes and concepts.

The product of the mining exercise may have multiple uses: help us create a taxonomy of controlled terms, preparing a navigation scheme for a content portal, providing a feed to some business or text analytics tools that will help us create visual objects reflecting various configurations of content. A text mining vendor may be great at the mining aspect while other firms have better tools for analyzing, organizing and re-shaping the output.

Doing business with two or three vendors, experts in their own niches, may help us reach a conclusion about what to do with our information-rich pile of documents much faster. A multi-faceted approach can be a good way to bring a product or service to market more quickly than if we struggle with generic products from just one company.

When partners each have something of value to contribute, together they offer the benefits of the best of all options. This results in a new problem for businesses looking for the best in each area, namely, vendor relationship management. But it also saves organizations from dealing with huge firms offering many acquired products that have to be managed through a single point of contact, a generalist in everything and a specialist in nothing. Either way, you have to manage the players and how the components are going to work for you.

I really like what I see, semantic technology companies partnering with each other to give good-to-great solutions for all kinds of innovative applications. By the way, at the conference I am doing a quick snapshot on each: Cogito, Connotate (with Cormine and WorldTech), Lexalytics, Linguamatics, Sinequa and TEMIS.

Parsing the Enterprise Search Landscape

Steve Arnold’s Beyond Search report is finally launched and ready for purchase. Reviewing it gave me a different perspective on how to look at the array of 83 search companies I am juggling in my upcoming report: Enterprise Search Markets and Applications. For example, technological differentiators can channel your decisions about must haves/have nots in your system selection. Steve codifies considerations and details 15 technology tips that will help you frame those considerations.

We are getting ready for the third Gilbane Conference in which “search” has been a significant part of the presentation landscape in San Francisco, June 17 – 20th.Six sessions will be filled with case studies and enlightening “how-to-do-it-better” guidance from search experts with significant “hands-on” experience in the field. I will be conducting a workshop, immediately after the conference, How to Successfully Adopt and Deploy Search. Presentations by speakers and the workshop will focus on users’ experiences and guidance for evaluating, buying and implementing search. Viewing search from a usage perspective begs a different set of classification criteria for divvying up the products.

In February, Business Trends published an interview I gave them in December, Revving up Search Engines in the Enterprise. There probably isn’t much new in it for those who routinely follow this topic but if you are trying to find ways to explain what it is, why and how to get started, you might find some ideas for opening the discussion with others in your business setting. The intended audience is those who don’t normally wallow in search jargon. This interview pretty much covers the what, why, who, and when to jump into procuring search tools for the enterprise.

For my report, I have been very pleased with discussions I’ve had with a couple dozen people immersed in evaluating and implementing search for their organizations. Hearing them describe their experiences guides other ways to organize a potpourri of search products and how buyers should approach their selection. With over eighty products we have a challenge in how to parse the domain. I am segmenting the market space into multiple dimensions from the content type being targeted by “search” to the packaging models the vendors offer. When laying out a simple “ontology” of concepts surrounding the search product domain, I hope to clarify why there are so many ways of grouping the tools and products being offered. If vendors read the report to decide which buckets they belong in for marketing and buyers are able to sort out the type of product they need, the report will have achieved one positive outcome. In the meantime, read Frank Gilbane’s take on the whole topic of enterprise tacked onto any group of products.

As serendipity would have it, a colleague from Boston KM Forum, Marc Solomon, just wrote a blog on a new way of thinking of the business of classifying anything, “Word Algebra.” And guess who gave him the inspiration, Mr. Search himself, Steve Arnold. As a former indexer and taxonomist I appreciate this positioning of applied classification. Thinking about why we search gives us a good idea for how to parse content for consumption. Our parameters for search selection must be driven by that WHY?

Enterprise Search Adopters

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 Beyond Search. It might just help you resist the superfluous and take a look some other options instead.

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