Enterprise Search Europe 2015 – themes and reflections

by | Oct 26, 2015 | Conferences, General, Search

As Chair of Enterprise Search Europe 2015 I am inevitably biased, but in my opinion this year the quality of the papers and of the discussions, was very high indeed. The conference took place in the Olympia Conference Centre in west London, and as usual the exhibitors were arranged around the main conference area. This year we ran just a single parallel session other than three roundtable sessions on open source search development, SharePoint 2013 search implementation and the use of search logs to enhance search performance.

I’m not going to try to provide summaries of the presentations, other than to say that the presentations by Charlie Hull (Flax), Steve Woodward (Astra-Zeneca), Dayle Collins (PwC UK), Ian Williams (NHS Wales) Anni Waarst (COWI), Lesley Holmes (Nottinghamshire County Council), Alban Ferignac (IFCE, France)  and Paul Cleverley (Robert Gordon University) were outstanding examples of how search can make a significant impact on business performance.

Over the two days a number of themes emerged, and these included

  • Search is a superb integration platform, capable of bringing together unstructured and structured data with equal ease
  • This integration capability is most evident in the development of search cards, in which information from multiple repositories is brought together into a display that presents information, not just a list of results
  • This integration capability puts search as the core platform on which to develop digital workplaces, and indeed both the Astra-Zeneca and PwC applications were far closer in both concept and delivery to a digital workplace than to either intranet or enterprise search
  • Making sure that user requirements are fully understood is essential, because search has to support the way in which they work, not just the way they query a repository
  • There needs to be the staff resources to undertake the user research, train and support users and make full use of the capabilities of the technology, The search team for PwC UK was so large that I had to clarify with Dayle Collins in mid-presentation that he was just talking about the UK operation and not PwC world-wide!
  • There are no quick fixes in search implementation. It is a long journey of multiple steps and the direction has to be set by users and not by the IT road map of the technology.
  • Open source search and commercial search can both provide excellent solutions. In planning the conference I made sure that both search business models were equally represented. Jeff Fried made the point that it is not one or the other, but possibly both in concert.
  • Migration from one content platform to another, and/or a migration of search application, are complex tasks and need both very careful planning and excellent communications with users and stakeholders.

Two of the most lively of the many discussion periods were about the value that information retrieval research can bring to enterprise search and possible approaches to making a business case for search investment. It was interesting to note that the best attended round table was the search logs session facilitated by Helen Lippell. You can catch up on comments from the conference at #eseu2015.

Martin White