Stephen Arnold delivered the endnote at the Enterprise Search Summit, held in New York City on May 14 and 15.
The format of the session included remarks by Mr. Arnold, followed by comments and rebuttal from Robert Peck, Managing Director, Bear Stearns, and Sue Feldman, VP, IDC. The audience offered comments and asked questions during the 50 minute session.
The highlight of the session from Mr. Arnold’s point of view was a question from a 20-something, perspiring Google employee. He asked Mr. Arnold, “May I have a video of your remarks? I was caught in traffic and missed your speech.” Alas, Mr. Arnold’s analysis of enterprise search and his opinions were captured by Dan Farber in his ZDNet blog. Click here for his summary: http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=5064
Below is the text from which Mr. Arnold delivered his introductory remarks.
We’ve spent two days and heard from more than 24 speakers about enterprise search. What I’ve learned is that there is no such thing as enterprise search and what search implementations exist are in crisis.
Let’s look at my interpretation of what I will call “the crisis in enterprise search”. For me enterprise search is the service that indexes some organizational content and maybe other types of information. In most cases, enterprise search focuses on unstructured information. Some systems handle the structured data tucked into database tables. Regardless of the mix of content, the systems in organizations don’t work very well. In fact, our research shows that most organizations have five or more enterprise search systems and none of the organizations we studied have indexed all of the content that could be indexed. Who wants employee compensation, health data, and confidential agreements in a system that may be compromised, crash, or not work reliably.
Why is there a crisis? There are five reasons:
IT in enterprises is in crisis. Existing staff are overwhelmed, underpaid, and overworked. Search--arguably one of the most complex computational tasks--just adds complexity to the IT department’s work load. Once a system is up and running, the users learn that search is not what is needed. Who can search for something if you don’t know what you want, need to answer a question, or use the keywords in a document containing an answer. If the answer is in a video or podcast, most enterprise search systems can’t index these documents, so the user has to rely on brute force methods. For most enterprise users a list of results is * not * what’s needed. Answers are. IT departments are lucky to get the search system up and stable. Niceties like answering questions are a lower priority than indexing new and changed content. Many IT departments rely on vendors to handle enterprise search. While this may reduce short term stress, it causes additional management work to fall on already heavily laden shoulders. There’s no resolution to the IT crisis in view. Enterprises don’t trust hosted solutions, don’t have the resources to invent a search system, and don’t have staff able to deal with the scaling and performance issues an enterprise search solution brings to the IT department’s cubicles.
The result? IT staff can’t cope. Companies are in danger of losing market share or being forced to sell or close their doors. Is anyone prepared to argue that in most organizations, IT is a healthy, vibrant and respected unit of the organization?
And where’s Google? I’m not going to talk about Google. I talk about an imaginary company called Googzilla. It has two leaders, an imaginary Sergey Zilla and his twin brother Larry Zilla.
This imaginary company doesn’t know where it’s going because it follows the clicks. Let me explain. You and I click on a service offered by the Zillas. The Zillas are good at math. When a service gets a lot of clicks, the Zillas offer more services to feed the need of the users.
Therefore, if enterprise search is in crisis chichi it is) and it implodes (which it will), a vacuum is created, and the Zillas--whether they like it or not-- will be sucked into the void. Those clicks are addictive and the Zillas are hooked on clicks.
The bottomline is that existing vendors are creating a vacuum, and nature abhors a vacuum. The Zilla are a force of nature and will obediently have an opportunity to dominate enterprise search. The Bills don’t agree with me. That’s okay. I’m 64, recovering from a heart attack, and ignore “received wisdom” from PR people.
To the gentle, kind audience I say, “Learn, demand accountability, focus on costs, go beyond marketing hype.”
Thanks for your attention. Bob, Sue, rebuttals?
Spoken remarks vary from my manuscript.