Enterprise Search Summit – New York, 9-11 May 2011

by | May 17, 2011 | Intranets

This year’s Enterprise Search Summit was an excellent event. It took place as usual at the Hilton Hotel in New York, and attracted around 200 delegates, with a higher than usual percentage of visitors from outside North America.  This was also the case with the exhibition, where you could find IntraFind and Raytion (Germany), Exalead and Sinequa (France), Sophia and  Smartlogic (UK) and Fabasoft (Austria) even though many of the larger US search vendors were absent.  The keynote this year was given by Eric Reiss (FatDux Group) talking about the dumbing down of intelligent search. It was a very witty and lively presentation, which was a lot more than could be said for the representative from Google who followed on and could only offer platitudes about Google and some of the most unreadable slides in the history of the event.  Luckily Lisa Welchman then gave an excellent talk on web governace, which though mainly based on web sites had a lot of relevance to the enterprise environment.

The conference then divided into three tracks, search management, tools and tactics and applied search. Day 2 tracks were search solutions, applied search and the SharePoint effect.  I acted as chairman to two of the tracks, and therefore was not able to do my usual rush from track to track to see specific speakers, so I am not going to try to do a summary of the presentations. However in general they were of a high quality, and in most cases there were real-world examples of search in action. The panel sessions generated some lively discussions, and this was a feature of the entire conference. I had a strong sense that there were largely senior practitioners at the event and not junior members of the search team trying to make sense of it all.  Some of the post-presentation questions were seriously challenging!

Picking out some themes from a conference of this scale is not easy, but I walked away with the following in my mind

  • Attention to taxonomies and metadata management will have a significant impact on search quality
  • Mobile search is going to give rise to opportunities and significant challenges
  • Senior management awareness of the benefits of search is still limited and getting the message across to them is difficult
  • A good search solution may involve more than one search vendor
  • Search analytics are immensely important but need to be seen (for intranets) in the context of web analytics
  • Search needs the support of a skilled and trained search team
  • Open source search now offers a lot of opportunities but does need good development resources
  • There are many options for SharePoint 2010 search, not all of them Microsoft in origin
  • Specifying and selecting a new or replacement search application needs time (probably a year) and effort to make sure that the right solution is implemented
  • Without high quality content high quality search is unattainable

As always the Information Today organisation was very professional though the conference programme was not easy to follow given the three-track approach.

Your next opportunities to learn about search good practice are the new Enterprise Search Europe conference on 24-25 October in London and the Enterprise Search track at KMWorld in Washington on 1-3 November. The programme for the Enterprise Search Europe conference will be released at the end of May, and already all the sponsor slots have been sold.

Martin White