Tag Archives: information

The Time Has Come to Approach Search Differently

Anyone in the search / eDiscovery business lives and breathes search – we think about all day, every day because it is our livelihood.  At X1, we have many customers making real progress with enterprise search, so there can be the perception that organizations have learned to address the very real challenge of helping employees find information.  Thus, it can be surprising to run into research that shows just how bad the traditional approach to enterprise search is.

I came across the “Enterprise Search and Findability Survey 2014” on the Findwise website.  It is very interesting reading and really confirms that a new approach to enterprise search is needed.  Some of the key points, from my perspective, are;

  • Almost half of the survey respondents in large organizations (1,000 employees or more) find it difficult or very difficult to find information.
  • Almost two-thirds of respondents are either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their existing search applications.
  • Almost two-thirds of respondents believe it is very important to improve the ability to find the right information.

Simply put, traditional enterprise search did not work.  Too many employees complain about not being able to find what they are looking for.  The search solutions deployed over the last 15 years focused on IT requirements rather than end-user requirements.  These tools required end-users to tag and rate their search results, something end-users have neither the time nor the emotional investment to do.  This very point is something that Marcus Stimler, CTO of Capgemini UI, points out on the webinar we did earlier this month – the reliance of traditional search tools on end-users to tag information leads to a lack of findability.  This survey just confirms that fact.

It is not all doom and gloom, however, as many X1 customers know.  There is a better way to approach enterprise search and it begins with the end-user.  In today’s business world, end-users know what they want.  They demand good experiences with technology.   A web page with links to search results will not cut it in the enterprise.  Users need a single-pane-of-glass view to all of their information – email, files, SharePoint, archives like Symantec Enterprise Vault, and other enterprise repositories that users might access.   X1 Search 8 provides just that – a user-friendly interface to all information that lets workers use their brains to find what they are looking for.

Beyond the desktop, X1 Rapid Discovery indexes other sources of content – either on-premise or in the Cloud – and makes the information available alongside a user’s local content.  Perhaps the beauty of this approach lies mostly with its simplicity.  Workers are happy because they can find information.  IT is surprisingly happy because they have a search tool that is easily deployable, as opposed to the traditional complex science project.  This overall happiness is a result of a new approach to enterprise search starting with end-user requirements and extending outward.  It is a subtle difference, but a meaningful one that will drive the results of future findability surveys to a new level.

For more on our perspectives on why enterprise search initiatives often fail, while X1 is invariably successful, please download this short treatise. This was inspired by direct feedback from many successful X1 install sites.  In a nutshell, X1 addresses users’ personalized requirements for business productivity search.

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Click image to enlarge

A key mistake is to take big data or web search solutions and apply them to the very different use case of business productivity search. The matrix displayed here illustrates the key differences between these use cases.

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Filed under Business Productivity Search, Enterprise Search

End-User Computing & Search Go Hand-In-Hand

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by Barry Murphy

Last week, John Patzakis here at X1 blogged about the VMworld 2014 event and how it has become the Comdex for enterprise IT.  I was at the show and it was very clear that end-users are the future of IT.  The trend has been talked about for quite some time and is commonly called the consumerization of IT.  The heat around that topic has tended to focus on devices and not as much on what is behind information access on those devices.  But, as BYOD takes off and mobility becomes increasingly important, enterprises care more and more about the flow and availability of information.  Why?  Because easy access to information is critical to the end-user acceptance of enterprise IT offerings; when users cannot quickly find what they are looking for, they reject what IT rolls out to them.  Without that end-user acceptance, there is no chance for a positive ROI on any IT project.

End-user experience is so key that VMware has named a division of its company “End User Computing.”  That EUC unit made several major acquisitions in the last year, including Airwatch and Desktone.  This is because technology providers need to win the battle with end-users.  For an example of a company that built its business on the backs of end-users and leveraged those relationships to bully its way into enterprise IT, look no further than Apple.  As VDI users have learned, it is critical to bake search requirements into virtual desktop deployments from the get-go in order to ensure an optimal user experience.  And, as Brian Katz points out in his blog, the same thing will hold true with mobile – usability will be key.  That is why we at X1 are so excited about the future.  X1’s user interface for search is second to none.  And, users actually rave about it.

In my days as an industry analyst, I rarely had technology users raving about the tools they were using.  And, I never ever had an enterprise search user tell me that their solution solved the challenge of finding information quickly.  The rabid users of X1 have been an eye opener for me.  In fact, an X1 customer recently polled its users and virtually every user said that X1 is easy to learn and use (no easy feat for a piece of enterprise software) and over 70% of users described their experience with X1 as very positive or positive.  Those numbers are unheard of in terms of technology satisfaction.

With what I’ve learned from my days as an analyst and in my time here at X1, I’ve come up with some ways to approach enterprise search in a way that is both IT and user-friendly.  We will share the knowledge in a webinar on October 9 at 1pm ET / 10am PT.  We’ve titled it, “Making Enterprise Search Actually Work by Putting User Experience First.”

In this “no-death-by-PowerPoint” webinar, attendees will not only learn, but actually see how to deploy enterprise search solutions in ways that make both end-users and IT departments happy.  This webinar will demonstrate both why and how to put end-user experience first.   Specifically, attendees will learn:

  • Why the human brain is the best analytical engine for business productivity search
  • How federation can save IT time, money, and headaches
  • How to best deploy search solutions in all IT infrastructures
  • How to achieve ROI on enterprise search in ways never seen in the past
  • That search can be like BASF – it can make many other technology deployments better, including VDI, SharePoint, and Enterprise Vault

I will be presenting on this webinar and will be joined by some special guests to be named later.  Come learn why search and end-user computing go hand-in-hand.

Register for the webinar here >

 

 

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Filed under Enterprise Search, Hybrid Search, Information Access, Information Management

The “Desktop” Of The Future

In talking with a business acquaintance recently, a question came up about the future of desktop search:  what happens when the desktop is no longer the interface of choice for business professionals?  It’s a great question, and one I clearly have a vested interest in given X1’s status as the leading desktop search engine.  The reality is that today’s workers access their information from a variety of interfaces across many devices.  What we need to do is think of the desktop less in a literal sense and more in terms of being a user interface for information.

Since the dawn of the PC, the desktop has been the user interface for most business professionals to access information and do their jobs.  The future of that desktop no longer lies in accessing it on a PC, or even a laptop or mobile device.  Given the speed of innovation, it is useless to try and forecast what the “desktop” will look like beyond a five-year timeframe.  Already, there are stories emerging about the desktop being built into things like tabletop coffee tables.  It is absolutely fun and inspiring to see developments like this and to know we are making forward progress in the tech world.  At the same time, we need to make sure that information – which will be stored in a variety of locations, too – is accessible to the business professional no matter what the desktop looks like in the future.

That is why X1’s Search 8 Virtual Edition is so exciting.  The flagship product, Search 8, represents years of experience providing a beloved user interface to a business profession’s most critical information – email, files, SharePoint, etc.  When the product first came out nearly a decade ago, most of that information was stored locally.  Thus, a local index could live on the desktop and X1 could provide fast-as-you-type search results and filtering on that local index.  Given the evolution of the desktop and the variety of devices accessing that desktop, a local index is not always a possibility.  That’s where Search 8 Virtual Edition comes in.  The client interface is decoupled from the index, which can live anywhere (typically off on a server farm).

VDI image

This allows IT teams that have invested in desktop virtualization (VDI) to turn off Windows indexing (necessary to save virtual resources) and still provide business professionals the ability to find their information.  Desktop virtualization enables many of the things that businesses value highly – especially security and mobility – and comes in its own variety of flavors.  VDI can be either on-premise and through the Cloud, as Desktop-as-a-service (DaaS).  Increasingly, DaaS offerings such as Amazon Workspaces are becoming more enterprise ready and promise to deliver desktops in a “whenever, wherever” fashion (and, as I’ve posted about before, a good search experience will be crucial to getting the most out of DaaS).

That Search 8 Virtual Edition helps enable an optimal experience with desktop virtualization and DaaS is a great thing, but the value does not stop there.  The same concept – allowing the index to be decoupled from the client interface – will enable great search experiences for mobile, which is the next big stomping ground for enterprise IT.  And, X1 is the only search vendor providing this capability.  We know that the concept of the desktop could live anywhere.  And, our customers want to be able to use X1 Search 8 even if they are unable to have a local index on their machine or device.

The term “desktop search” is already out there and meaningful to many people, so it’s not about changing what we call this market.  Rather, it’s about changing the mindset – realizing that the desktop is not just the screen on your PC, but rather the gateway to all of your important information needed to do your job.

 

 

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Filed under Desktop Search

Why the “Google Paradigm” Has Damaged Enterprise Search

by Barry Murphy

In last week’s post about what we are looking for with enterprise search, I mentioned what we call the Google paradigm.  A reader asked me to be more specific about what the Google paradigm actually is and it’s a worthy request.  The Google paradigm is actually a summation of the resulting perceptions based on the popularity of Google; those perceptions are that enterprise search is as easy as Google web search, and that a central index of an enterprise is the right way to do enterprise search.  The result of these perceptions is an approach to enterprise search that has not solved the problem of allowing business workers to easily and quickly find the information they are looking for.

It is important to note that web search is not the same as enterprise search, and therein lies the major problem with the perceptions caused by the Google paradigm.  Google is an excellent tool for informational web search – I use it frequently when researching various topics that I need to learn more about.  The point is that Google is for Web search, which uses organic linking (looking at the number of sites that link to a particular page) to determine the rank order of results.  That approach provides zero value in the enterprise because the users typically have more than an inkling of what they are looking for, and perhaps have specific criteria they know are relevant, and thus require an interface that allows them to quickly filter the result down to a manageable number.

But, in reality, enterprise search is often synonymous with Google – the web search paradigm.  There is a tendency to think of search as easy.  After all, Google completes search queries for users; it is easy to assume that technology will eventually just know what users are looking for and offer it up to them.  This message is reinforced in the age of Big Data and business intelligence.  There is a fascination with the stunning dashboards we see in CRM and SFA applications.  There is a belief that analytics will replace any need to search and find information.

While analytics will certainly help many business processes, its biggest impacts will be in feeding structured data into business processes and informing those responsible for the process of performance.    There is much value to be had in that and the Big Data market prospers as a result.  Despite the availability of advanced business intelligence tools, though, business workers still struggle to find the one email or document necessary to complete the next urgent task.  People waste hours looking for it, only to most likely recreate all that work when they can’t find what they need.  Organizations lose millions of dollars per year to this lost productivity and typically don’t even know it.  Companies implement traditional enterprise search to help employees, but only make searching more frustrating because those solutions do not leverage the power of the business worker’s brain.

Web search – the Google paradigm – has allowed us to take search for granted.  When doing a web search, however, users are typically searching for something authored by someone else and the system is using programmatic analysis to conduct the query.  For a business worker, though, search is very different.  The worker has a sense of what they are looking for because it is very specific to them – the method of analysis is personal, not programmatic.  Web search is inquisitive in nature.  But, the web search approach – which has been pushed on users by IT for years – does not work well for business workers looking for the information needed to do their jobs.

The Google paradigm also ignores the challenge of scalability.  Indexing the enterprise for a centralized enterprise search capability requires major investment.  In addition, centralization runs counter to the realities of the working world where information must be distributed globally across a variety of devices and applications.  The amount of information we create is overwhelming and the velocity with which that information moves increases daily.

 

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Google Data Center (Click to enlarge)

 

The image above is of a Google Data Center (one of more than several dozen that power the internet).  Look at the sheer magnitude of just what it takes to power those Web searches we are all so used to.  This illustrates exactly why it is so hard to “Google the enterprise.” And yet many people, and even CIOs, think doing so should be easy.  Such has been the approach to scaling traditional enterprise search solutions in the enterprise.  And while Google obviously has solid software to drive its web search, hardware and sheer computing power on a massive scale are essential components of Google’s success.

The only “successful” enterprise search deployments – as judged by customer references – tend to exist only in a very specific type of organization: highly regulated, with deep pockets.  These organizations can make enterprise search work because, due to regulatory and Legal drivers, they have unlimited budget for hardware to make the solution scale.  They are also able to invest in double digit FTE’s to implement and maintain the system over time.  But, these organizations represent “the 1%.”  Most organizations do not have the budget or human resources needed to make traditional enterprise search work.

There will always be hardware investments required to make productivity search work, but such investments do not need to be heavy in the way that traditional solutions have been.  Rather, organizations should look at more flexible options that mirror the realistic IT environment they live in.  That environment typically includes a hybrid of on-premise, virtual, and cloud-based infrastructure and content spread across multiple repositories.  Rarely – if ever – is content centralized.  As such, a good productivity search solution will allow access to the content that business workers need the most while leaving as little footprint with IT as possible.

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Filed under Desktop Search, Enterprise Search, Information Access, Information Governance, Information Management