Enterprise Search Europe 2014 – Short Review

ESE Summit

At the end of April  a third edition of Enterprise Search Europe conference took place.  The venue was Park Plaza Victoria Hotel in London. Two-day event was dedicated to widely understood search solutions. There were two tracks covering subjects relating to search management, big data, open source technologies, SharePoint and as always –  the future of search. According to the organizer’ information, there were 30 experts presenting their knowledge and experience in implementation search systems and making content findable. It was  opportunity to get familiar with lots of case studies focused on relevancy, text mining, systems architecture and even matching business requirements. There were also speeches on softer skills, like making  decisions or finding good  employees.

In a word, ESE 2014 summit was great chance to meet highly skilled professionals with competence in business-driven search solutions. Representatives from both specialized consulting companies and universities were present there. Even second day started from compelling plenary session about the direction of enterprise search. Presentation contained two points of view: Jeff Fried, CTO in BA-Insight and Elaine Toms, Professor of Information Science, University of Sheffield. From industrial aspect analyzing user behavior,  applying world knowledge or improving information structure is a  real success. On the other hand, although IR systems are currently in mainstream, there are many problems: integration is still a challenge, systems working rules are unclear, organizations neglect investments in search specialists. As Elaine Toms explained, the role of scientists is to restrain an uncertainty by prototyping and forming future researchers. According to her, major search problems are primitive user interfaces and too few systems services. What is more, data and information often become of secondary importance, even though it’s a core of every search engine.

Trends

Despite of many interesting presentations, particularly one caught my attention. It was “Collaborative Search” by Martin White, Conference Chair and Managing Director in Intranet Focus. The subject was current condition of enterprise search and  requirements which such systems will have to face in the future. Martin White is convinced that limited users satisfaction is mainly fault of poor content quality and insufficient information management. Presentation covered  absorbing results of various researches. One of them, described in “Characterizing and Supporting Cross-Device Search Tasks” document, was analysis of commercial search engine logs in order to find behavior patterns associated with cross device searching. Switching between devices can be a hindrance because of device multiplicity. That is why each user needs to remember both what he was searching and what has already been found. Findings show that there are lots of opportunities to handle information seeking more effectively in multi-device world. Saving and re-instating user session, using time between switching devices to get more results or making use of behavioral, geospatial data to predict task resumption are just a few examples of ideas.

Despite everything, the most interesting part of Martin White’s presentation was dedicated to Collaborative Information Seeking (CIS).

Collaborative Information Seeking

It is natural that difficult and complex tasks forced people to work together. Collaboration in information retrieval helps to use systems more effectively. This idea concentrate on situations when people should cooperate to seek information or sense-make. In fact, CIS covers on the one hand elements connected with organizational behavior or making decision, on the other – evolution of user interface and designing systems of immediate data processing. Furthermore, Martin White considers CIS context to be focused around the complex queries, “second phase” queries, results evaluation or ranking algorithms. This concept is able to bring the highest values in the domains like chemistry, medicine and law.

During the CIS exploration some definitions appeared:  collaborative information retrieval, social searching, co-browsing, collaborative navigation, collaborative information behavior, collaborative information synthesis.  My intention is to introduce some of them.

"Collaborative Information Seeking", Chirag Shah

1. “Collaborative Information Seeking”, Chirag Shah

Collaborative Information Retrieval (CIR) extends traditional IR for the purposes of many users. It supports scenarios when problem is complicated and when seeking common information is a need. To support groups’ actions, it is crucial to know how they work, what are their strengths and weaknesses. In general, it might be said that such system could be an overlay on search engine re-ranking results, based on users community knowledge. In agreement with Chirag Shah, the author of “Collaborative Information Seeking” book, there are some examples of systems where workgroup’s queries and related results are captured and used to filtering more relevant information for particular user. One of the most absorbing case is SearchTogether – interface designed for collaborative web search, described by Meredith R. Morris and Eric Horvitz. It allows to work both synchronously and asynchronously. History of queries, page metadata and annotations serve as information carrier for user. There had been implemented an automatic and manual division of labor. One of its feature was recommending pages to another information seeker. All sessions and past findings were persisted and stored for future collaborative searching.

Despite of many efforts made in developing such systems, probably none of them has been widely adopted. Perhaps it was caused partly by its non-trivial nature, partly by lack of concept how to integrate them with other parts of collaboration in organizations.

Another ideas associated with CIS are Social Search and Collaborative Filtering. First one is about how social interactions could help in searching together. What is interesting,  despite of rather weak ties between people in social networks, their enhancement may be already observed in collaborative networks. Second definition referred to provide more relevant search results based on user past behavior, but also community of users displaying similar interests. It is noteworthy that it is an example of asynchronous interaction, because its value is based on past actions – in contrast with CIS where emphasis is laid to active users communication. Collaborative Filtering has been applied in many domains: industry, financial, insurance or web. At present the last one is most common and it’s used in e-commerce business. CF methods make a base for recommender systems predicting users preferences. It is so broad topic, that certainly deserves a separate article.

CIS Barriers

Regardless of all these researches, CIS is facing many challenges nowadays. One of them is information security in the company. How to struggle out of situation when team members do not have the same security profile or when some person cannot even share with others what has been found? Discussed systems cannot be only created for information seeking, but also they need to  provide managing security, support situations when results were not found because of permissions or situations when it is necessary to view a new document created in cooperation process. If it is not enough, there are various organization’s barriers hindering CIS idea. They are divided into categories – organizational, technical, individual, and team. They consist of things such as organization culture and structure, multiple and un-integrated systems, individual person perception or varied conflicts appeared during team work. Barriers and their implications have been described in detail in document “Barriers to Collaborative Information Seeking in Organizations” by Arvind Karunakaran and Madhu Reddy.

Collaborative information seeking is exciting field of research and one of the search trend. Another absorbing topic is gamification adopting in IR systems. This is going to be a subject of my next article.

Predictive Analytics World 2012

At the end of November 2012 top predictive analytics experts, practitioners, authors and business thought leaders met in London at Predictive Analytics World conference. Cameral nature of the conference combined with great variety of experiences brought by over 60 attendees and speakers made a unique opportunity to dive into the topic from Findwise perspective.

Dive into Big Data

In the Opening Keynote, presented by Program Chairman PhD Geert Verstraeten, we could hear about ways to increase the impact of Predictive Analytics. Unsurprisingly a lot of fuzz is about embracing Big Data.  As analysts have more and more data to process, their need for new tools is obvious. But business will cherish Big Data platforms only if it sees value behind it. Thus in my opinion before everything else that has impact on successful Big Data Analytics we should consider improving business-oriented communication. Even the most valuable data has no value if you can’t convince decision makers that it’s worth digging it.

But beeing able to clearly present benefits is not everything. Analysts must strive to create specific indicators and variables that are empirically measurable. Choose the right battles. As Gregory Piatetsky (data mining and predictive analytics expert) said: more data beats better algorithms, but better questions beat more data.

Finally, aim for impact. If you have a call center and want to persuade customers not to resign from your services, then it’s not wise just to call everyone. But it might also not be wise to call everyone you predict to have high risk of leaving. Even if as a result you loose less clients, there might be a large group of customers that will leave only because of the call. Such customers may also be predicted. And as you split high risk of leaving clients into “persuadable” ones and “touchy” ones, you are able to fully leverage your analytics potencial.

Find it exciting

Greatest thing about Predictive Analytics World 2012 was how diverse the presentations were. Many successful business cases from a large variety of domains and a lot of inspiring speeches makes it hard not to get at least a bit excited about Predictive Analytics.

From banking and financial scenarios, through sport training and performance prediction in rugby team (if you like at least one of: baseball, Predictive Analytics or Brad Pitt, I recommend you watch Moneyball movie). Not to mention Case Study about reducing youth unemployment in England. But there are two particular presentations I would like to say a word about.

First of them was a Case Study on Predicting Investor Behavior in First Social Media Sentiment-Based Hedge Fund presented by Alexander Farfuła – Chief Data Scientist at MarketPsy Capital LLC. I find it very interesting because it shows how powerful Big Data can be. By using massive amount of social media data (e.g. Twitter), they managed to predict a lot of global market behavior in certain industries. That is the essence of Big Data – harness large amount of small information chunks that are useless alone, to get useful Big Picture.

Second one was presented by Martine George – Head of Marketing Analytics & Research at BNP Paribas Fortis in Belgium. She had a really great presentation about developing and growing teams of predictive analysts. As the topic is brisk at Findwise and probably in every company interested in analytics and Big Data, I was pleased to learn so much and talk about it later on in person.

Big (Data) Picture

Day after the conference John Elder from Elder Research led an excellent workshop. What was really nice is that we’ve concentrated on the concepts not the equations. It was like a semester in one day – a big picture that can be digested into technical knowledge over time. But most valuable general conclusion was twofold:

  • Leverage – an incremental improvement will matter! When your turnover can be counted in millions of dollars even half percent of saving mean large additional revenue.
  • Low hanging fruit – there is lot to gain what nobody else has tried yet. That includes reaching for new kinds of data (text data, social media data) and daring to make use of it in a new, cool way with tools that weren’t there couple of years ago.

Plateau of Productivity

As a conclusion, I would say that Predictive Analytics has become a mature, one of the most useful disciplines on the market. As in the famous Gartner Hype, Predictive Analytics reached has reached the Plateau of Productivity. Though often ungrateful, requiring lots of resources, money and time, it can offer your company a successful future.

Analyzing the Voice of Customers with Text Analytics

Understanding what your customer thinks about your company, your products and your service can be done in many different ways. Today companies regularly analyze sales statistics, customer surveys and conduct market analysis. But to get the whole picture of the voice of customer, we need to consider the information that is not captured in a structured way in databases or questionnaires.

I attended the Text Analytics Summit earlier this year in London and was introduced to several real-life implementations of how text analytics tools and techniques are used to analyze text in different ways. There were applications for text analytics within pharmaceutical industry, defense and intelligence as well as other industries, but most common at the conference were the case studies within customer analytics.

For a few years now, the social media space has boomed as platforms of all kinds of human interaction and communication, and analyzing this unstructured information found on Twitter and Facebook can give corporations deeper insight into how their customers experience their products and services. But there’s also plenty of text-based information within an organization, that holds valuable insights about their customers, for instance notes being taken in customer service centers, as well as emails sent from customers. By combining both social media information with the internally available information, a company can get a more detailed understanding of their customers.

In its most basic form, the text analytics tools can analyze how different products are perceived in different customer groups. With sentiment analysis a marketing or product development department can understand if the products are retrieved in a positive, negative or just neutral manner. But the analysis could also be combined with other data, such as marketing campaign data, where traditional structured analysis would be combined with the textual analysis.

At the text analytics conference, several exciting solutions where presented, for example an European telecom company that used voice of customer analysis to listen in on the customer ‘buzz’ about their broadband internet services, and would get early warnings when customers where annoyed with the performance of the service, before customers started phoning the customer service. This analysis had become a part of the Quality of Service work at the company.

With the emergence of social media, and where more and more communication is done digitally, the tools and techniques for text analytics has improved and we now start to see very real business cases outside the universities. This is very promising for the adaptation of text analytics within the commercial industries.

Presentation: Results from the Enterprise Search and Findability Survey

This is a mashup of the presentations made at Enterprise Search Summit in New York, US on the 15th of May 2012 and at Enterprise Search Europe in London on the 30th of May 2012.

Global results are presented with numbers only, results from Europe and North America are clearly stated as such.

If you are interested in participating in the survey next year, please sign-up. All sign-ups will receive this years report.

Sign up for the Enterprise Search and Findability Survey 2013!
* = required field
View more presentations from Findwise

Enterprise Search and Findability Survey

A few days ago we launched the “Enterprise Search and Findability Survey“. The survey closes at the end of March.

If you complete the survey you will get the report when it  is finished.

Take me to the Survey!

The survey is for people who are responsible for search in their organisations. If you are a search manager, intranet manager, product owner of search, search editor, in-house developer for search, this survey is for you!

The survey aims to help you by finding out your views about Enterprise Search and Findability. The research will help show what business value an Enterprise Search solution can provide.

The survey is structured into five sections, each of which provides a specific perspective on Findability:
• Business
• Organisation
• User
• Information
• Search Technology

More information about the perspectives is provided in each section.

The survey will take approximately 20-30 minutes of your time. If you need a break, you can continue answering the survey at the same question where you left. If you give us your contact information we will send you the finished report based on this survey when it is finished, we are aiming to have it finished by the month of June.

The survey results will be presented at Enterprise Search Europe 2012 (London, 30-31 May 2012) and Enterprise Search Summit (New York, 15-16 May 2012).

Inspiration from the Enterprise Search Europe 2011 conference

A couple of weeks ago, me and some of my colleagues attended the Enterprise Search Europe conference in London. We’re very grateful to the organizer Martin White at IntranetFocus for arranging the event, and having us as one of the gold sponsors.

For me it was the first time in years I attended a conference like this, and while it was “same old, same old” for many of the attendees, for me it was enlightening to meet up with the industry and have a discussion on where we are as an industry.

There were mainly software vendors and professional services/consultants there, as well a few customers or actual users of enterprise search… and I think the consensus of the two days were that we in the industry STILL haven’t really figured out what we should do with the enterprise search concept, and how to make it valuable for our customers. We at Findwise are not alone with this challenge, but rather it is an industry challenge. There are some vendors who seem to be doing some good work of delivering real value to customers, and also there are a few colleagues to us in the industry that do good professional services/consultant work. At first it was a bit of a downer to realize that we haven’t progressed more during the 10 years I’ve been in the business, but at the same time it was very inspirational to see that we at Findwise together with a few other players, seem to be on the right track with our hard work, and that we have the position to solve some of the real industry challenges we’re facing.

As I see it, if we gather our forces and make a focused “push forward” together now, we will be able to take the industry to a new maturity level where we better solve real business challenges with enterprise search (or search-driven Findability solutions, as we like to call them).

My simple analysis of all the discussions at the conference is that we need to do two things:

  1. Manage the whole “full picture” of enterprise search – from strategy to organizational governance, involving necessary competencies to cover all aspects of a successful Findability solution.
  2. Break down the customer challenge into manageable chunks, and solve actual business problems, not just solving the traditional “finding stuff when needed” challenge.

I think we are on the right track, and it’s going to be a very interesting journey from here on!

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