An Interview with Bjørn Laukli
In 2009, I spoke with Bjørn Laukli, who is the CEO of Comperio US, Inc. Comperio is a search solutions company. The company was founded with a vision of utilizing search technology to improve the way people interact with information, ensuring that the solutions understand people and context. Some vendors expect the users to adapt to the search system.
The company is Microsoft-centric. Microsoft is the company’s key global alliance partner and we are especially recognized for the deep expertise in the Fast Search & Transfer and SharePoint. Comperio, according to the firm’s Web site at www.comperiosearch.com, “offers clients long-term commitment and partnership in order to generate real business value from search solutions.”
The company was founded in 2004 and Comperio was a spin out from the original Fast Search & Transfer SA operation. From its inception, Comperio focused on becoming a specialist consulting company for search and content processing. In the last eight years, Comperio has continued to grow and now serves clients worldwide from offices in Norway and the US.
We are in an era of what I call “good enough” search. At Comperio, the company’s professionals focus on delivering search solutions which meet users’ needs. Comperio also has a mission statement which is, “Through customer driven innovation Comperio shall create acknowledged search solutions for the most demanding customers in the world.” The company’s catchphrase is “Search Matters.” Other vendors seem content to emphasize “Billing Matters.”
Here at Beyond Search, we don’t play favorites between Google and Microsoft. It is important to point out that in July 2011, Comperio were recognized as 2011 Microsoft Search Partner of the Year, for demonstrating excellence in innovation and implementation of customer solutions based on Microsoft technology.
Prior to joining Comperio, Mr. Laukli was Fast Search & Transfer’s executive vice president. He possesses a B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Civil Engineering from University of Colorado at Boulder. In 1999, he joined FAST Search & Transfer, initially in R&D working on alltheweb.com, the Web index which was competing with Google. He moved in 2000 to the Boston area. After more than eight years at Fast, he joined Comperio in the fall of 2008 to head up the company’s US operations.
I spoke with Mr. Laukli at a search conference in New York, New York, on April 15 . We completed the interview via email on May 30, 2012.
Would you update me on Comperio’s activities?
Comperio is a search solutions and services company that was founded in 2004 with a vision of utilizing search technology to improve the way people interact with information, ensuring that the solutions understand people and context, rather than the other way round. Early on, Scandinavia was Comperio’s focus area, however, since 2008, it has expanded into the US and UK. Initially, the business was building a practice around the FAST Enterprise Search Platform (ESP) with both products and services. Since Microsoft acquired FAST, Comperio’s business focus has expanded into SharePoint and FAST Search for SharePoint.
What’s the focus of the company?
There are basically two areas of needs among our clients, either the client wants to improve the business productivity (more internal work behind the firewall), or the client wants to increase its revenue by improving traffic, page views and conversion rates (outside the firewall).
When did you become interested in text and content processing?
When I joined Fast Search & Transfer (FAST) in 1999, that was really the company and technology that got me interested. I saw huge opportunities to create products that could help other businesses succeed either in terms of revenue creation, business efficiency and/or cost savings. However, my first job after college was at Dataware Technologies. That company focused on professional content created by major publishes. The experience was quite useful to me when FAST added advanced content processing to the core system.
What are the research areas Comperio is exploring?
We have a philosophy where our customers are driving our innovation. So, when we do development in these areas, we ensure that the effort is “productized” and can be leveraged for other future project. Our goal is to make the search deployments predictable from the implementation and maintenance perspective, and at the same time deliver high-end solutions to our clients.
Without divulging your firm's methods or clients, what will you characterize a typical use case for Comperio's search and retrieval capabilities?
Comperio works with a wide range of companies across Media/Communications, Engineering/Professional Services, the Public Sector/Government and Financial Services. These customers are looking for a great search experience for their internal web site, public web site and/or extranet. What’s common across all of these verticals is our methodology. In the initial phase, we listen to their needs and gather requirements before we start creating a detailed project plan that will ensure that the business objectives are met. Along the way, we have key milestones established to ensure that requirements are implemented according to the plan. Before the solution goes into production, we either do a formal handover to their technical team with documentation and training, or if Comperio takes on the application management service (AMS) we establish a process and framework of what work we will perform on a regular basis. We do also offer AMS as a 24x7 service.
Who are some of your customers?
Our customers include SINTEF, the largest independent research organization in Scandinavia. We also work with Opplysningen 1881, a firm which is a leading directory publisher. Svensk Byggtjänst is a good customer. Standard Online is also a client. In the US, we also have a good footprint. Some of the customers include UNICEF, Weight Watchers, Market Research, RAMP and Allegis.
Why should an organization work with Comperio instead of a more general Microsoft services firm?
Comperio has skilled and qualified resources to handle engagements within both of these segments. Our organization is structured such that we have business consultants, project managers, architect and engineers that have subject matter expertise and focus more of their work within their respective business segments. We have also seen a larger demand for user interface work, so we have a dedicated team working on helping clients with their user interface, usability and design.
How does an information retrieval engagement with Comperio move through its life cycle?
After an engagement agreement has been established, we typically enter the discovery phase. Often we follow an agile methodology like Scrum, and in such a setting we refer this phase to Sprint 0. In Sprint 0, we gather requirements and talk with the stakeholders from the client. This includes business and IT resources, as well as end users of the system. Sprint 0 consists of many activities from analysis, to concept development, interaction and technology design. The output of this initial phase is normally a detailed project plan outlining key deliverables and dependencies. A system design is also outlined and communicated.
After sign-off on the project plan, we start the implementation. After the solution is deployed, it enters the maintenance phase. Comperio offers application management service (AMS) which in many cases is a great option for the client. That way they can focus on their core business, while we can ensure that their system produce high-quality results all the time.
One challenge to those involved with squeezing useful elements from large volumes of content is the volume of content AND the rate of change in existing content objects. What does your firm provide to customers to help them deal with the volume problem?
This is a good question. It is one we are often asked.
When we run into a big data scenario, we often partition the data, which means we are indexing the documents into two different clusters. Often, the source data has different patterns, so when doing the document processing, you have to treat the documents differently. The indexed data might also have different indexing update requirements. However, as an end user, you will not notice this “back-end” design. The search results can either be displayed in different areas of the screen, be blended into one set, or navigations or use of tabs can help the user find the information they are looking for in an intuitive way.
Visualization has been a great addition to briefings. On the other hand, visualization and other graphic eye candy can be a problem to those in stressful operational situations? What's your firm's approach to presenting "outputs" for end user reuse or for mobile access?
There is no question that visualization can be helpful, however, as with anything, the output is the key. Early in the project, it is important to involve the stakeholders to define what is needed for them to do their job. That means, overloading with too much information is not good, it is better to get input from them on the result format and how it is presented.
Put on your wizard hat. What are the three to five most significant technologies that you see affecting your search business?
Currently, we see that Social Media content and sites, Mobile devices, and new applications built on these are on most companies’ radar. Related to these areas are also the Cloud offerings and how companies can leverage this. Many have a vision, while others are getting educated about how to best handle or move forward. From a search and retrieval perspective making this information available in a user friendly and relevant is still a great opportunity for Comperio’s search business. The objective is still the same, and that is to make sure that the user is finding the relevant information in the shortest amount of time, and have a good experience doing that.
Where does a reader get more information about Comperio?
Check out www.comperiosearch.com to learn more about our company and how to contact us.
Comperio has emerged as one of the preferred sources of expertise for Fast Search. The company knows the Fast Search system and has compiled an excellent track record among clients worldwide. If you are struggling with a Microsoft Fast or FS4SP installation, contact the company at this link.
Stephen E. Arnold, May 31, 2012