As I prepared to end my trilogy of Google-themed posts, I ran into two recently published items. They provide an excellent context for what I intended to talk about: the challenges and opportunities of enterprise search.
The first is Google’s announcement of an upgrade to their search appliance that allows one box to index 10 million documents and offers improved search quality and personalization.
First, the Google announcement. These are certainly improvements for the GSA, and Google does seem to be aiming to compete with the Big Three: Autonomy, Endeca, FAST (now a subsidiary of Microsoft). But these improvements should be seen in the context of state of the art. In particular, Google’s scalability claims, while impressive, still fall short of the market leaders in enterprise search. Moreover, the bottleneck in enterprise search hasn’t been the scale of document indexing, but rather the effectiveness with which people can access and interact with the indexed content. Interestingly, Google’s strongest selling point for the GSA, their claim it works “out of the box”, is also its biggest weakness: even with the new set of features, the GSA does not offer the flexibility or rich functionality that enterprises have come to expect.
Second, the Chris Sherman piece. Here is an excerpt:
Enterprise search and web search are fundamentally different animals, and I’d argue that enterprise search won’t–and shouldn’t–be Google-y any time soon….Like web search, Google’s enterprise search is easy to use–if you’re willing to go along with how Google’s algorithms view and present your business information….Ironically, enterprises, with all of their highly structures and carefully organized silos of information, require a very different and paradoxically more complex approach.
I highly recommend you read the whole article (it’s only 2 pages), not only because it informative and well written, but also because the author isn’t working for one of the Big Three.
The upshot? There is no question that Google is raising the bar for simple search in the enterprise. I wouldn’t recommend that anyone try to compete with the GSA on its turf.
But information needs in the enterprise go far beyond known-item search, What enterprises want when they ask for “enterprise search” is not just a search box, but an interactive tool that helps them (or their customers) work through the process of articulating and fulfilling their information needs, for tasks as diverse as customer segmentation, knowledge management, and e-discovery.
If you’re interested in search and want to be on the cutting edge of innovation, I suggest you think about the enterprise.