Findability day in Stockholm – search trends and customer insights

Last Thursday about 50 of Findwise customers, friends and people from the industry gathered in Stockholm for a Findability day (#findday12). The purpose was simply to share experiences from choosing, implementing and developing search and findability solutions for all types of business and use cases.

Martin White, who has been in the intranet business since 1996, held the keynote speech about “Why business success depends on search”.
Among other things he spoke about why the work starts once search is implemented, how a search team should be staffed and what the top priority areas are for larger companies.
Martin has also published an article about Enterprise Search Team Management  that gives valuable insight in how to staff a search initiative. The latest research note from Martin White on Enterprise search trends and developments.

Henrik Sunnefeldt, SKF, and Joakim Hallin, SEB, were next on stage and shared their experiences from working with larger search implementations.
Henrik, who is program manager for search at SKF, showed several examples of how search can be applied within an enterprise (intranet, internet, apps, Search-as-a-Service etc) to deliver value to both employees and customers.
As for SEB, Joakim described how SEB has worked actively with search for the past two years. The most popular and successful implementation is a Global People Search. The presentation showed how SEB have changed their way of working; from country specific phone books to a single interface that also contains skills, biographies, tags and more.

During the day we also had the opportunity to listen to three expert presentations about Big data (by Daniel Ling and Magnus Ebbeson), Hydra – a content processing framework – video and presentation (by Joel Westberg) and Better Business, Protection & Revenue (by David Kemp from Autonomy).
As for Big data, there is also a good introduction here on the Findability blog.

Niklas Olsson and Patric Jansson from KTH came on stage at 15:30 and described how they have been running their swift-footed search project during the last year. There are some great learnings from working early with requirements and putting effort into the data quality.

Least, but not last, the day ended with Kristian Norling from Findwise who gave a presentation on the results from the Enterprise Search and Findability Survey. 170 respondents from all over the world filled out the survey during the spring 2012 that showed quite some interesting patterns.
Did you for example know that in many organisations search is owned either by IT (58%) or Communication (29%), that 45% have no specified budget for search and 48% of the participants have less than 1 dedicated person working with search?  Furtermore, 44,4% have a search strategy in place or are planning to have one in 2012/13.
The survey results are also discussed in one of the latest UX-postcasts from James Royal-Lawson and Per Axbom.

Thank you to all presenters and participants who contributed to making Findability day 2012 inspiring!

We are currently looking into arranging Findability days in Copenhagen in September, Oslo in October and Stockholm early next spring. If you have ideas (speakers you would like to hear, case studies that you would like insight in etc), please let us know.

Search in the Digital Workplace

Last week we (Caroline Abrahamsson and Kristian Norling) had the opportunity to act as moderators for a conference on the Digital Workplace in Stockholm. Amongst the many good presentations, the keynote by Jane McConell was a gem. The Digital Workplace Trends report by Jane gives many insights into the intranet world, or as Jane and many others prefer to call it, the Digital Workplace (Participants in the survey receives a free copy of the report, highly recommended!). One of  the most interesting parts for us was the four different future scenarios that Jane described during her session and that the survey participants had voted on (on a scale with low, medium or high business value):

  • “My apps” – The intranet is a set of highly customized apps. People select what they need to do their jobs and build their own “intranet” like on an iPad.
  • “Smartsystems”-The userexperience is efficient and relevant because information is delivered in meaningful ways based on past behavior and context.
  • “People-centric” – Social networking, social tagging, location awareness, presence indicators and other technologies are integrated into processes and how people work daily.
  • “Super search” – Various search technologies come together to offer people greater relevance and control over vast amounts of information from inside and outside the enterprise.

p. 19 Digital Workplace Trends 2012

When Jane asked the audience at the conference if they thought Super Search had “high potential value”, a whopping 100% answered yes! In the Digital Workplace Trends report 70% of the participants considered Super Search to have a “high potential value”, and 20% of the leadership group has started implementing it.

The Digital Workplace: Redefining Productivity in the Information Age by Infocentric Research is another excellent (and free) source on the current state of the Digital Workplace. Also in this report good search is mentioned as very important for getting work done in the digital workplace:

“Imagine that each and every employee in your organization would spend 1 to 2 full working hours per day surfing the web and social media sites (such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter) purely for private pleasure. Would that be acceptable for you? And even more important: would it leave your bottom line results unaffected?

The answer to both questions of course is clear “No”. But the bad news is that your employees spend just that amount of time for something even worse. And they do so with full allowance by management and in accordance to accepted work practices in your organization. What they do, what you do as well, is looking for information they need to do their job and ineffectively working with that information.”

p. 4 The Digital Workplace: Redefining Productivity in the Information Age

When reading these excellent reports it is quite obvious to us that the need for a “Super Search”, i.e. an Enterprise Search solution that can reach all types of information, is very much in demand. Many organizations have worked extensively with search for many years understand that this is actually a never-ending task. But search is still a very cost-effective and hands-on solution for many information and knowledge intensive tasks.

“Information based work is driven and determined by having the right information to perform the task at hand. For this, the information has to be there when needed. Looking for the right information to do something therefore constitutes one of the most relevant of all tasks. In fact, “searching” in all its forms is the most ubiquitous activity that information workers perform in their jobs”.

p. 15 The Digital Workplace: Redefining Productivity in the Information Age

To conclude, the new digital workplace in transforming the way we work, interact and communicate. The discussions during the conference showed that almost all organizations were in a transformation phase where the traditional intranet (with static pages updated by editors) is being complemented (and in some cases replaced altoghether) with collaboration areas and flexible worktools.  We look forward to this years development and hope to share some good cases with you, especially with regard to search, collaboration and mobility..

More reading on the Digital Workplace

Intranet Pioneer Mark Morell

Connaxions / Martin Risgaard 

The Intranet Benchmarking Forum

Enterprise Search Market Overview 2011

A few weeks ago Forrester research released a report with an Enterprise search market overview of the 12 leading  vendors on the global market (Attivio, Autonomy, Coveo, Endeca, Exalead, Fabasoft, Google, IBM, ISYS Search, Microsoft, Sinequa and Vivisimo).

When I wrote about the Gartner report, readers commented on the fact that open source solutions were not part of the scope, even though their market share is increasing rapidly. The Forrester report has the same approach, except it includes vendors offering their products stand-alone as well as those with products integrated in portal/ECM solutions.

So why the exclusion of open source? Well, it appears difficult to decide on how to evaluate open source, especially when it comes to more advanced appliances.

Looking at the Forrester report, it includes some familiar conclusions but also a few new insights. Leslie Owen from Forrester concludes that “Google, Autonomy, and Microsoft are the most well-known names; they own a large portion of the existing market”. Hence, these vendors are still standing strong, even though they are challenged in various areas.

More surprisingly, some niche players get higher scores than the giants in core areas such as “Indexing and connectivity”, “Interface flexibility” and “Social and collaborative features”.

Vivisimo is seen as somewhat of a leader (with a slightly lower score on Mobile support and Semantics/text analysis). In the Gartner report, Vivisimo was excluded from the information access evaluation due to the fact that they were ”focusing on specialized application categories, such as customer service”.

Search vendor overview

An interesting reflection from Forrester is that “in the next few years, we expect prices to rise as specialized vendors wax poetic on the transformative power of search in order to distinguish their products from Google and Microsoft FAST Search for SharePoint”. On the Nordic market, we have not seen a shift to such a strategy, but rather the opposite, since open source (with zero license fees) is becoming accepted in an Enterprise environment to a larger extent.

The vendors that provide integrated solutions (to CMS/WCM etc) still remains strong, whereas the stand-alone solutions becomes exposed to completion in new ways. It will be interesting to follow the US and Nordic market to see how this evolves within the next year. It might be that the market differs when it comes to open source adaption.

If you wish to read the full report it can be downloaded from Vivisimo through a simple registration.

To get a complete overview of vendors, I recommend reading both the Gartner and Forrester report.

Search Conferences 2011

During 2011 a large number of search conferences will take place all over the world. Some of them are dedicated to search, whereas others discuss the topic related to specific products, information management, usability etc.

Here are a few that might be of interest for those of you looking to be inspired and broaden your knowledge. Within a few weeks we will compile all the research related conferences – there are quite a few of them out there!
If there is anything you miss, please post a comment.

March
IntraTeam Event Copenhagen 2011
Main focus: Social intranets, SharePoint and Enterprise Search
March 1, 2 and 3, 2011, Copenhagen, Denmark

Webcoast
Main focus: A web event that is an unconference, meaning that the attendees themselves create the program by presenting on topics of their own expertise and interest.
March 18-20 , Gothenburg, Sweden

Info360
Main focus: Business productivity, Enterprise Content Management, SharePoint 2010
March 21-24, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington, USA

April
International Search Summit Munich
Main focus: International search and social media.
4th April 2011, Hilton Munich Park Hotel, Germany

ECIR 2011: European Conference on Information Retrieval
Main focus: Presentation of new research results in the field of Information Retrieval
April18-21, Dublin, Ireland

May
Enterprise Search Summit Spring 2011
Main focus: Develop, implement and enhance cutting-edge internal search capabilities
May 10-11, New York, USA

International Search Summit: London
Main focus: International search and social media
May 18th, Millennium Gloucester Hotel, London, England

Lucene Revolution
Main focus: The world’s largest conference dedicated to open source search.
May 25-26, San Francisco Airport Hyatt Regency, USA

SharePoint Fest – Denver 2011
Main focus: In search track: Enterprise Search, Search & Records Management, & FAST for SharePoint
May 19-20, Colorado Convention Center, USA

June
International Search Summit Seattle
Main focus: International search and social media
June 9th, Bell Harbor Conference Center, Seattle, USA

2011 Semantic Technology Conference
Main focus: Semantic technologies – including Search, Content Management, Business Intelligence
June 5-9, Hilton Union Square, San Francisco, USA

October
SharePoint Conference 2011
Main focus: SharePoint and related technologies
October 3-6, Anaheim, California, USA

November
Enterprise Search Summit Fall Nov 1-3
Main focus: How to implement, manage, and enhance search in your organization
Integrated with the KMWorld Conference, SharePoint Symposium and Taxonomy Bootcamp,

KM-world
(Co-locating with Enterprise Search Summit Fall, Taxonomy Boot Camp and Sharepoint Symposium)
Main focus: Knowledge creation, publishing, sharing, finding, mining, reuse etc
November 1 – 3, Washington Marriott Wardman Park, Washington DC, USA

Gilbane group Boston
Main focus: Within search: semantic, mobile, SharePoint, social search
November 29 – December 1, Boston, USA

Gartner and the Magic Quadrants – Crowning the Leaders of Enterprise Search

For years Gartner, the research and advisory company, has been publishing their magic quadrants – and their verdict of everything from ECM-systems to Data Warehouse and E-commerce plays a big role in many company’s decision to choose the right tools.
Simply put, the vendors are presented in a matrix measuring the different players by ability to execute (product, overall viability, customer experience etc.) and the completeness of their vision (offering strategy, innovation etc.). The vendors are then positioned as niche players (a rather crowded spot), visionaries, challengers and leaders.

At the end of last year Gartner decided to retire their old “Information Access Quadrant” (Enterprise Search Quadrant) and introduce “Enterprise Search MarketScope” due to a more mature market. A number of vendors (such as Vivisimo and Recommind) were removed, in order to exclude those whose businesses were not entirely search driven.

The evaluation criteria’s for MarketScope cover: offering (product) strategy, Innovation, Overall viability (business unit, financial, strategy, and organization), Customer experience, Market understanding and business model.

To summarize: the criteria’s are to a large extent the same, but the two areas “overall viability” and “customer experience” are weighted higher than the rest. This is most likely a result of the last years discussion around user friendly interfaces, easier administration and the fact that some customers have suffered quite bad when vendors do not survive (one example in Northen Europe is the Danish vendor that went bankrupted for some time)

The yearly fight between the three leaders; Microsoft, Endeca and Autonomy has been somewhat disrupted and Microsoft, Endeca and Google are now seen as the leaders.
Microsoft has got a very broad product line, which stretches from low-price and less functionality to Enterprise Search built on the former FAST technology. Endeca follow the same trend, as Gartner puts it their “products (are) intended to serve organizations seeking to develop general search installations..(..) broadly applicable for a variety of different search challenges”.

In the old quadrant, Google remained a “challenger” for quite some time – but never made it to the “leaders” corner. Ease of administration and “user friendly” are two words that keeps being repeated. That, in combination with a profit of $ 7290000000 during the last quarter of 2010 makes Google a player that easily can continue to develop their Enterprise business.

Gartner’s MarketScope for Enterprise Search

Autonomy should still not be disregarded, the main reason for it falling a bit behind the three others seem to be conquerable problems with support and pricing transparency. It will be interesting to see how Autonomy chooses to handle these issues during 2011.

To put it short: the new MarketScope is good reading with quite few surprises. If you wish to get a better understanding of the development going on at the different vendors, start with Gartner and continue to search among our blog posts.

Findability Blog: Wrapping up the 2010 posts

Christmas is finally here and at Findwise we are taking a few days off to spend time with family and friends.

During 2010 we’ve delivered more than 25 successful projects, arranged breakfast seminars to talk about customer solutions (based on Microsoft, IBM, Autonomy and Open source), meet-ups in a number of cities as well as networking meetings for profound Findability discussions and moving in parties for our new offices.

At our Findability blog we have been discussing technology and vendor solutions (Microsoft and FAST, Autonomy, IBM, Google and open source), researchconferences, customized solutions and how to find a balance between technology and people.

Some of our posts have resulted in discussions, both on our own blog and in other forums. Please get involved in some of the previous ongoing discussions on “Solr Processing Pipeline”,  “Search and Business Intelligence” or “If a piece of content is never read, does it exist?”  if you have thoughts to share.

Findability blog is taking a break and we will be back with new posts is January.

If you have some spare time during the vacation some of customers run their own blogs, and good reading tips within Findability are the blogs driven by Kristian Norling (VGR) and Alexandra Larsson (Swedish armed forces).

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all!

OmniFind Enterprise Edition 9.1 – New Capabilities Discussed Over Breakfast

During the last year a number of interesting things has happened to IBM’s search platform and the new version, OmniFind 9.1, was released this summer. Apart from a large number of improvements in the interface, the change to basing the new solution on open source (Lucene) has proven to be a genius by-pass of some of OmniFinds previous shortcomings.

The licensing model is still quite complicated, something Stephen E Arnold highlighted earlier this year. Since a number of our customers have chosen to take a closer look at OmniFind as a search solution we decided to host a breakfast seminar together with IBM last Thursday, in order to discuss the new features and show how some of our customer are working with it.

Without a doubt, the most interesting part is always to discuss how the solution can be utilized for intranets, extranets, external sites and e-business purposes.

Apart from this, we also took a look at some of the new features:
Type ahead (query suggestion), based on either search statistics or indexed content

Type ahead

Faceted search i.e. the ability to filter on dates, locations, format etc as well as numeric and date range. The later is of course widely used within e-business.

Facets for e-business

Thumbnail views of documents (yes, exactly what it sounds like: a thumbnail view for first page of documents in results page)

Thumbnail of a document

Search analytics in OmniFind 9.1 holds a number of interesting statistic capabilities. Some things worth mentioning is number of queries, query popularity, number of users, average response time (ms) and worst response time (ms).

Save searches (to be able to go back and see if new information has been included), search within result sets (to further narrow your result set within a given result set) and did-you-mean functionality (spell checking) are also included.

..and improvements on the administrator side, just to mention a few:

  • Ability to change the relevancy i.e. to adjust and give certain types of information higher ranking
  • Support for incremental indexing i.e. to only re-index the information that is new or changed since the last time you made it searchable

To conclude: IBM is making a whole lot of improvements in the new version, which are worth taking a closer look at. During the spring we are running upgrading projects for some of our customers, and we will keep you up-to-date with the different application areas OmniFind Enterprise Edition 9.1 is being used for. Please let us know if you have any particular questions or have areas that you are interested in.

Information Flow in VGR

The previous week Kristian Norling from VGR (Västra Götaland Regional Council) posted a really interesting and important blog post about information flow. Those of you who doesn’t know what VGR has been up to previously, here is a short background.

For a number of years VGR has been working to give reality to a model for how information is created, managed, stored and distributed. And perhaps the most important part – integrated.

Information flow in VGR

Why is Information Flow Important?

In order to give your users access to the right information it is essential to get control of the whole information flow i.e. from the time it is created until it reaches the end user. If we lack knowledge about this, it is almost impossible to ensure quality and accuracy.

The fact that we have control also gives us endless possibilities when it comes to distributing the right information at the right time (an old cliché that is finally becoming reality). To sum up: that is what search is all about!

When information is being created VGR uses a Metadata service which helps the editors to tag their content by giving keyword suggestions.

In reality this means that the information can be distributed in the way it is intended. News are for example tagged with subject, target group and organizational info (apart from dates, author, expiring date etc which is automated) – meaning that the people belonging to specific groups with certain roles will get the news that are important to them.

Once the information is tagged correctly and published it is indexed by search. This is done in a number of different ways: by HTML-crawling, through RSS, by feeding the search engine or through direct indexing.

The information is after this available through search and ready to be distributed to the right target groups. Portlets are used to give single sign-on access to a number of information systems and template pages in the WCM (Web Content Management system) uses search alerts to give updated information.

Simply put: a search alert for e.g. meeting minutes that contains your department’s name will give you an overview of all information that concerns this when it is published, regardless of in which system it resides.

Furthermore, the blog post describes VGRs work with creating short and persistent URL:s (through an URL-service) and how to ”monitor” and “listen to” the information flow (for real-time indexing and distribution) – areas where we all have things to learn. Over time Kristian will describe the different parts of the model in detail, be sure to keep an eye on the blog.

What are your thoughts on how to get control of the information flow? Have you been developing similar solutions for part of this?

Google Instant – Can a Search Engine Predict What We Want?

On September 8th Google released a new feature for their search engine: Google instant.
If you haven’t seen it yet, there is an introduction on Youtube that is worth spending 1:41 minutes on.

Simply put, Google instant is a new way of displaying results and helping users find information faster. As you type, results will be presented in the background. In most cases it is enough to write two or three characters and the results you expect are already right in front of you.

Google instant

The Swedish site Prisjakt has been using this for years, helping the users to get a better precision in their searches.

At Google you have previously been guided by “query suggestion” i.e. you got suggestions of what others have searched for before – a function also used by other search engines such as Bing (called Type Ahead). Google instant is taking it one step further.

When looking at what the blog community has to say about the new feature it seems to split the users in two groups; you either hate it or love it.

So, what are the consequences? From an end-user perspective we will most likely stop typing if something interesting appears that draws our attention. The result?
The search results shown at the very top will generate more traffic , it will be more personalized over time and we will most probably be better at phrasing our queries better.

From an advertising perspective, this will most likely affect the way people work with search engine optimization. Some experts, like Steve Rubel, claims Google instant will make SEO irrelevant, wheas others, like Matt Cutts think it will change people behavior in a positive way over time  and explains why.

What Google is doing is something that they constantly do: change the way we consume information. So what is the next step?

CNN summarizes what the Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google says:

“The next step of search is doing this automatically. When I walk down the street, I want my smartphone to be doing searches constantly: ‘Did you know … ?’ ‘Did you know … ?’ ‘Did you know … ?’ ‘Did you know … ?’ ”

Schmidt said at the IFA consumer electronics event in Berlin, Germany, this week.

“This notion of autonomous search — to tell me things I didn’t know but am probably interested in — is the next great stage, in my view, of search.”

Do you agree? Can we predict what the users want from search? Is this the sort of functionality that we want to use on the web and behind the firewall?

Search as an Integrator of Social Intranets

Wikis, blogs, microblogs, comments, ratings…we all know the buzzwords around the “Social Intranet” by now. Can we consider search as an integrator of Social Intranets?

If the first trend was about getting people to use the new technology, the second seems to be about making sense of all the information that has been created by now.

I sat down with a number of our customers the other week to talk about intranets and internal portals and everyone seemed to face one particular challenge: making sense of the collaborative and social content. How do we make this sort of information searchable without losing the context? And how do we know who the sender is?

One approach which was discussed is to use the people card and search as an integrator between the social components. By using search we can easily integrate everything from microblogging-flows, to comments and contributes in different communities used in the enterprise. The search engine fetches the information and presents it real-time.

Social intranets and search

Social intranets and search

When searching for project One HR on the intranet you can, besides all search hits, get an overview of the owner of the project and all the related discussions that has been going on. Apart from this, networks i.e. people who has been involved can be shown – creating 360° view of the information.

What is your view of the future social intranets? Have you solved the issues with search in collaborative and social content?