As Chairman of the conference it is difficult for me to be neutral about whether or not it was a success beyond the fact that there were over 100 people in the room. However I’ve received quite a number of emails from delegates commenting favourably on the event, and throughout the two days there were animated discussions during and between the presentations. One of my objectives in working with the Programme Committee was to bring together the information retrieval and enterprise search communities, and the keynote from David Hawking (Funnelback) set the scene very well. I’m not going to try to summarise all 20 papers but at the end of the conference the key themes and issues seemed to be the following, in no particular order.
- Just what do we mean by the term ‘enterprise search’? Certainly whatever it meant in the past is now changing rapidly as search-based applications and unified information access approaches emerge from many of the vendors.
- There was a concensus that the recent HP/Autonomy and Oracle/Endeca deals will have raised the visibility of enterprise search in the IT community, but are other vendors in a position to capitalise on this?
- Search satisfaction seems to be as low now as it was a few years ago. One of the main reasons for this is that organisations do not realise the need for a search support team, and vendors tend to gloss over this as it might make their solutions look more expensive and risky to implement.
- Another reason is that organisations pay little or no attention to information quality, and hope that the search application will be able to make sense of the mess. It won’t.
- Even when organisations do recognise the need for a search support team it it very difficult for them to find and evaluate potential candidates
- Making a convincing business case for search is a challenge, and this is because organisations fail to place any value on effective access to unstructured information.
- Vendors don’t help the situation by selling on functionality and technology to organisations who have no prior experience of search outside perhaps a search application for their intranet
- Big Data could be a very important catalyst in increasing the awareness of organisations about the need to pay serious and immediate attention to information discovery
- Open source search is on the ascendancy. It is not free; there will still be development costs, but overall the solutions are likely to represent good value for the investment
- There is a lot of research on information retrieval going on, but connections between the academic and corporate communities are poor
- In the EU public sector procurement policies may be inhibiting search implementation
Alan Pelz-Sharpe has blogged his own take on the conference, with which I am in total agreement.
Planning has started on the 2012 event, and I hope to be able to announce the date and location towards the end of November. Until then I would like to thank Information Today for supporting my vision for a European enterprise search event. 2011 in the UK is not the best of times to start a new conference where there has never been anything like it in the past. Kat Allen, the Event Director, the Information Today team in the UK and the Programme Committee all worked very hard on the planning and event organisation, and the support of the sponsors was crucial in managing the commercial risk inherent in any conference. Tyler Tate and Charlie Hull brought members of the London and Cambridge Enterprise Search Meetups to the evening social session and devised a most enjoyable discussion session somewhat along the lines of high-speed dating. The presentations will be published on the conference web site during November and I will Twitter their availability.
A number of new books and reports have arrived on my desk over the last couple of months. I hope to get around to reviewing them shortly, but in the meantime here are some brief details.
- Innovations in Information Retrieval. Allen Foster and Pauline Rafferty (Editors). Facet Publishing. This is a set of seven essays on a range of information retreival topics, including the role of browsing in information retrieval, the importance of classification and the assessment of web search engines.
- Interactive Information Seeking, Behaviour and Retrieval. Ian Ruthven and Diane Kelly (Editors). Facet Publishing. Another excellent collection of thirteen essays from Facet Publishing. The range is so broad it is almost a textbook on information retrieval. The authors are all respected authorities, such as Kalervo Jarvelin writing on evaluation, Ryen White on interactive techniques and Elaine Toms on task-based information searching and retrieval.
- Usability of Mobile Websites and Applications. Raluca Budiu and Jakob Nielsen, Nielsen Norman Group. This report runs to nearly 300 pages and has around 500 screen shots. As always with NNGroup reports the level of insight is very high. An invaluable report and if you have any interests in mobile websites and apps then this is essential reading.
- Transforming Collaboration with Social Tools. PWC Technology Forecast. 2011 No. 3. A ready readable introduction to social media with a strong focus on collaboration. There is a good comparative table of the main collaboration tools and some excellent case studies.
- The Impact of Internet Technologies: Search. McKinsey. This 56pp report looks at the $780 billion of value created by the 1.6 trillion searches conducted across the web each year, and assess who benefits and why. A very interesting read with some fascinating statistics.
Two weeks today the Enterprise Search Europe conference will be starting at the Hilton Olympia Hotel, London. Launching a new conference in the middle of a difficult economic situation could have been a challenge but we had excellent support from our sponsors right from the start. The result of their support and an excellent programme of speakers is that already there will be around 100 people in the room, so you will not be short of networking opportunities. Plans have now been finalised for the Enterprise Meet-Up event on the evening of Monday 24 October, which will take place in a venue only about 5 minutes from the hotel. Charlie Hull and Tyler Tate, the Meet-Up organisers, have developed a rather neat way of getting the discussions going. A sort of ‘Musical Chairs’ approach that I’m sure you will enjoy talking part in.
We’ve had a few changes to the programme, but only in terms of one speaker replacing another from the same organisation. David Thomas, from The National Archives, is unable to be present, and his paper will be given by Tim Gollins, Head of Digital Preservation at The National Archives. If you have to deal with a very messy range of file types there will be much to learn from Tim’s paper. Adriaan Bloem is also not able to come, and his place is being taken by Alan Plez-Sharpe, also from The Real Story Group. Alan is flying in from the USA to be present, and is an outstanding analyst of the enterprise content/search market. He has been closely following the Autonomy/HP situation. I’m sure that this deal will be one of the talking points at the conference. Alan joins Mike Davis (Ovum Group) and Nicholas Patience (The 451 Group) as a triumvirate of world-class industry analysts participating in the conference.
Book today before we run out of room!
The announcement has just been made of the winners in the StepTwo Designs 2011 Intranet Innovation Awards. I have been a judge of these awards since their inception and look forward every year to working through the entries. This year there were 50 entries from around the world, though some of them were disappointingly presented. When I looked at the initial list I was somewhat surprised to see the UK company Framestore had entered for a second year, as they had won a Gold Award in 2010. How could they possibly maintain innovation momentum? However it was clear from the moment I started to read the documentation that this was an exceptional example of inspired innovation (and a lot of dedicated work from the intranet team) that has had a significant impact on the way that the entire company operates as a leading-edge computer animation studio. The team are worthy recipients of the Platinum Award.
The Gold Awards are for innovation excellence in front line delivery, core functionality, communication and collaboration and business solutions. The UK did well this year with not only the Platinum winner but also Gold Awards to the mobile intranet service developed for the UK Parliament and to Arup for a social microsite it created to support the work it does for the SportsAid charity. Other award winners came from Australia (Queensland University of Technology and CRS Australia), Denmark (Lundbeck), France (Alcatel and Lafarge), Sweden (Malmo City) and the USA (ScottsMiracleGro). There were also some Commended entries from CSIRO and RSPCA Victoria (Australia), Vancity (Canada) and Reynolds Porter Chamberlain LLP (UK).
This year the 179 page report on the award winners deserves an award itself for the quality of the presentation and for the quality of the analysis of both the individual winners and the trends and issues that are exemplified across all the winners. There are lots of lessons to be learned and the StepTwo team, led by Steve Bynghall have done a brilliant job in presenting these in an informed and concise way. You get a lot of information and inspiration for just $89, or $189 for a complete set of the reports from 2007 to 2011.
The key message I take from the report is that with careful planning, and listening carefully to users about the tasks they need support for, even a small investment in time (rarely technology) can make a huge difference to the operational performance of an organisation.
Apple and I go a long way back. From 1979 to 1981 I worked for a company called Creative Strategies International, set up Larry Wells and Dave Norman, who knew each other at Stanford Research Institute. CSI was one of the first of the high-tech market research and forecasting companies. Dave Norman went on to found Dataquest, which was subsequently bought by Gartner. Although I was running the European operation I visited Cupertino, the CSI HQ, on quite a regular basis, and can still remember that the street address was 4340 Stevens Creek Boulevard. Apple was a client of CSI and I visited the offices (which were small and drab) on a couple of occasions and can still remember attending a launch event for (I think) the Apple IIc in San Francisco. It would be nice to say that I met Steve Jobs, but I’m fairly certain I didn’t. CSI did have an impact on Steve, because around the time I joined he hired a young analyst from CSI as the first director of market research for Apple Computers, which is how they became a client of CSI!
I came late to PCs, despite running the European research operations of International Data Corporation for a time. I did have a PC but used it only for email. In those days I had a secretary, as I did on moving to Logica in 1989. A year later and my secretary vanished in some corporate cost-cutting, and I was faced with having to do all my correspondence on a PC. I was given an Apple SE30 with a 40MB hard drive and immediately fell in love with it. When you switched it on a small face smiled at you. What a great way to start a day. It was also mobile, or at least luggable, and had a nice carry-case that enabled me to take it home and use it over a weekend despite a weight of 20lbs. It was so easy to use that even I, as a total PC neophyte, had no problems working out how to get the best out of it. I took it with me to my next two jobs, and it never let me down. Eventually in 1996 I had to join the IBM PC club, and retired the SE30 to the loft. Do you remember the Y2K scare? Many consultants made a lot of money predicting the end of computing we knew it. On 1 January 2000 I brought the SE30 down to my office, plugged it in, and once again it smiled at me. I felt reassured that even if MS-DOS collapsed I would still have my Mac to use. It’s still up in the loft.
Last month I acquired an iPad2. My first return to Apple since the SE30. It was just like the old days. The only information in the instruction book is how to turn it on. Every time I use it I find myself saying “Mmm. That’s neat!” I can’t work out why it took me so long to acquire one, but like the SE30 it has changed the way I work without making me change the way I work. I’m waiting now for iPhone5 to emerge, but maybe I’ll make do with iPhone4S.
The media coverage of the very sad early death of Steve Jobs has been quite amazing. I cannot think of any other businessman in the past or of the current generation that would have caused so many people, like me today, to reflect on the impact they had on business and society. I gather Steve was a very difficult person to work for. So was Winston Churchill. But Steve Jobs had a vision, and he has always stayed true to that vision. Apple products have transformed the way we work, and our attitude to design and usability. Despite the best efforts of the world-wide IT industry everyone has to build PCs, tablets and phones to meet benchmarks set by Apple, and of course Pixar did the same for the digital film industry. The iPod and the approach to music downloading was equally innovative. Steve Jobs was one of a kind. For some strange reason I miss him even though I never met him. I wish I had.
Three weeks to go now before the first-ever conference in Europe totally devoted to enterprise search. Enterprise Search Europe 2011 opens for registration at the Hilton Olympia Hotel on Monday 24 October. By the close at 5pm on Tuesday we aim to have found an answer to all your enterprise search challenges. The topic range is very wide, including mobile search, making effective use of search analytics, the future of multi-lingual search, the convergence of enterprise search and business intelligence, future directions for enterprise search in Europe, benchmarking enterprise search performance, best practice in search implementation and …… Just take a look at the programme. There will be a strong open-source element to the event, as open-source search is now really offering great performance and scalability. All the session chairs are experienced in both search and making sure that speakers stick to their brief and to their time slot, so that there is time for them to respond to questions.
But papers on their own, no matter how good, do not make a conference. We have three panel sessions, with the final session being a chance to you to ask a group of search experts the questions that you still have about how to get the best return on your search investment. Good networking opportunities are also an important element, and on Monday evening there will be a social event at which every effort will be made to link together people with similar interests. This will not be in the hotel so there will be a chance to get some fresh air and a change of scene. There will also be a “Can you help?” board at the back of the conference hall where you can post anything from a technical query on a particular search engine to finding good Lucene developers.
Since the programme was published a couple of months ago we have persuaded SmartLogic to talk about a couple of market surveys the company has undertaken, so that delegates go away with some user research data as well as good case studies. On the opening day of the conference the Strix Award for innovation in information retrieval will be presented to Professor Alan Smeaton, from the School of Computing, Dublin City University.
The organising committee is already planning the 2012 event, but why wait until then to join the community of enterprise search professionals that will undoubted be formed from the alumni of this inaugural event. Managing an enterprise search implementation can be a lonely and frustrating experience until you find out that others have been there before and will be delighted to offer advice and encouragement both at the conference itself and in the months to come.
Finally, if you are wondering why I am doing this sales pitch the answer is that I am the Chairman of the Conference and am totally confident that you will find the event stimulating, valuable and enjoyable. Those are the three things I look for from a conference, and with my colleagues on the planning committee I aim to deliver them to you in a few weeks time.
Following on from a couple of successful intranet roadmap workshops earlier this year the UKeiG Intranet Forum is now running two more of these workshops. The first takes place in Birmingham on 6 October and the second in London on 17 November. The workshops will be facilitated by myself and Dion Lindsay, bringing together our experience in working in the corporate and public sectors. Whereas many intranet workshops have fixed agendas the only fixed item in our roadmap workshops is a determination to help delegates solve their short-term problems through bringing together the experience that Dion and I have together with the experience of all the other delegates. Feedback from the first two events was very positive, but we have also learned from the mistakes we made in the initial workshops!
An important feature of the workshops is helping delegates to develop a personal agenda that they can work through when they return to the office. It is so easy to take lots of notes which don’t translate into action when the morning avalanche of emails and requests starts up the following day. So we try to ensure that everyone leaves with an achievable agenda for the next week after the workshop, the next month and finally actions that might not immediately fit into a work plan but which need to be monitored and prioritised
So if you are looking for a very practical workshop that will give you some immediate actions to take with your own intranet and enable you to build good contacts in other organisations do come along to either the Birmingham or London events. The workshops are priced at just £240 plus VAT for non-members of UKeiG.
I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the number of registrations that have already been made for the first-ever Enterprise Search Europe conference. We took a conservative view on how many people might want to spend two days in London at not only the first-ever ESE conference but the first conference in Europe ever totally devoted to enterprise search. Already the room we have is about half-full so there is no better time than this week to register as you get an early bird discount up to the close of business on Friday 16 September. The opening keynote is being given by David Hawking, who has a great deal of experience in both enterprise search and in information retrieval, and one of the aims of the conference is to bring together the best of both worlds. As well as the conference sessions there will be a first-class opportunity to network with other delegates, speakers and some invited guests at a social event in the evening. Bring plenty of business cards!
There is certainly a lot to talk about. HP and Autonomy for a start! For the last three months I have been working on a very detailed study of the EU enterprise search market, trying to develop some indications of the size and potential of the market, and have come up with an analysis that goes totally contra to that of Ovum in their recent report. As part of the study I also ran a Delphi study among vendors, analysts and integrators, and was rather interested in the different viewpoints on the market from the three groups.
If the speed at which sponsors signed up for the event is any indication of the importance of the conference I would recommend a touch of “Action this day”. The discounts for bringing a colleague are very attractive as well. Your search team don’t exactly see a lot of people in the course of the average day so they won’t be missed for a couple of days at a nice hotel and a great conference.
See you on 24 October
It has been difficult to concentrate on anything this weekend as the events of 9/11 are commemorated. I certainly remember the beautiful weather that morning in Washington DC. Together with colleagues Howard McQueen and Kiki Ross I was working at the IMF on my first major intranet project, and we were rather overwhelmed by the scale of the project, the warmth of the welcome from the IMF staff and the size of our very own project office. Quite how we came to win the project was a mystery, but the meetings on Monday had gone well and we walked down 21st NW in the morning sunshine ready to start our first round of interviews. We were very fortunate to have Vicente Galbis on the team as well. Vicente was a retired Senior Economist at the IMF and knew every one and every IMF process.
At just after 9am the phone in the project office rang. Kiki answered it to find it was her partner in London. He was in the brokerage business and news of the first plane flying in to the WTC had just been flashed across the world and into an incredulous City of London. We thought it was a private plane and that it was just a tragic accident. Shortly afterwards news of the second plane was phoned through. This was no accident, and we asked our project manager Elaine Khan if we should cancel the meetings for the morning. Elaine had no idea what we were talking about, and that’s when we realised we were amongst the first people in the IMF to know the terrible news.
We left the office around mid-morning as the news of the Pentagon disaster filtered through along with the heroism of UA93 and spend the rest of the day glued to the television set in the hotel trying, and of course failing, to make sense of it.
When we returned to the IMF the next day the mood was remarkably ‘business as usual’. Not because they did not care but because the IMF had a crucial role to play in making sure that the global economic situation was monitored and managed. We left Washington just a day late at the end of the week with the reassurance from the IMF that the project would proceed to schedule. Indeed it did just that, though being one of just 32 passengers on a 777 across the Atlantic a few weeks later was very unsettling.
The project was successful as we just buried ourselves in the work as a way of shutting out the situation in New York and Washington, but much of the success was also due to the guidance of Elaine Khan and Vicente Galbis, and to the Project Director Dr Choi Soon-Hong, who is now CIO at the United Nations. It was the project that really marked the start of Intranet Focus Ltd. Although I had carried out a number of projects up to that time none were as complex and business critical as the IMF project, and we all learned a great deal from the experience. When prospective customers asked me for a reference site I could just say “The IMF” and that worked like a charm!
So ten years I have very mixed memories of 9/11. I suspect I will carry them with me for ever. Even now I can remember virtually every detail of that week in Washington. Given the difficulties we ran into, especially with travel and the scale of the project as it developed (a feature of intranet projects!) I surprised myself by the determination I had to make it all work despite the terrorist’s actions. I learned a lot about myself in the weeks following 9/11 which have helped me a lot ever since that terrible day in world history.
Over the last few months a number of very interesting reports and surveys have been published, and in this post I have provided some brief reviews of them.
‘Big Data’ is emerging as an important topic. The McKinsey Global Institute have published a superb report on the challenges and opportunities of Big Data. The title says it all. “Big Data: The Next Frontier for Innovation, Competition and Productivity“. The report is 156pp long. After chapters on Growth and Value Creation and then Big Data Techniques and Technologies there are detailed assessments of how Big Data could transform the health care and retail sectors in the USA, public sector administration in the EU and manufacturing and personal location on a global basis. One of the most interesting tables in the report is the scale of information storage by vertical industry sector in the USA, showing that companies with more than 1000 employees typically have over 100 terabytes of stored data, and in many cases substantially more.
MarkLogic have also published a report about Big Data management. Entitled The Post-Relational Reality Sets In, this excellent survey also looks in some detail at attitudes to the management of structured and unstructured information. 86% of the respondents to the survey regarded unstructured information as being business-critical but only 11% have procedures and policies in place to manage this unstructured information. Only 24% of respondents felt that they were in a position to cope with the significant increases they accept there will be in the volume and value of information in the years ahead. In my view this degree of complacency is going to have some serious impacts on the economic growth that we need to sustain society.
Mind the Enterprise Search Gap has just been released by SmartLogic. This large-scale survey (2000 directors in the USA, UK, France and Germany) found that more than half the respondents said they cannot find the information they are seeking using their own organisation’s enterprise search facility within an acceptable time. 65% said that a good search should take no more than 2 minutes but only 48% said that this was the case in their organisation. Quite a gap!
Another recent study from McKinsey looks at the economic impact of internet search. The term ‘enterprise search’ tends to be used in the context of internal repositories, but someone should be taking care of corporate web site search, which is often poorly executed and supported outside of the e-commerce sector.
Finally there is the Second Annual New Intelligent Enterprise Survey from the MIT Sloan Management Review. Currently only a summary is available, with the full report due out in the next couple of months. This was a very large scale global survey of 4000 executives. Although the theme of the survey is data analytics in fact the scope is somewhat broader and there is a lot of useful information presented using very clear charts and diagrams. Almost 20% of respondents have little or no access to the information they need to succeed in their jobs. It seems as though there are some rather unintelligent enterprises out there.
Overall some depressing reading, unless like me you happen to be an information management consultant with a speciality in enterprise search!