Starting to plan for 2018

by | Jan 4, 2018 | Digital workplace, Information Management, Search

I’ve just been updating my Outlook calendar for 2018 and am already finding it difficult to fit everything in. I closed 2017 with five search projects underway and these will continue into 2018. Two are projects where clients are using SharePoint search and are finding it difficult to meet all the user requirements on their to-do lists. One of these clients, a major global business, has an active digital assistant/chatbot project which is giving me very useful insights into both the technology and the business opportunities. Then there are two long-term search procurement projects. Both started around May last year, and will probably continue to May this year. It really does take that long to move from vision to implementation. The selection process has involved assessing proposals from ten vendors and that has provided me with some very good intelligence about the current market in terms of both commercial and open source framework platforms. The fifth project, the development of a search strategy for an engineering consultancy, actually finished last year but there is still the final presentation to give to the project sponsors.

Another search-related project that started towards the end of last year involves eight independent search consultants from the USA and Europe. We are working together on what we are currently calling the Book of Search as a convenient project title but it is certainly not going to be a book. The idea is for each of the contributors to share their expertise on what it takes to specify, select and implement search applications, wrapped up with vendor profiles, a glossary and some other elements. We plan to have it available towards the end of February, in time for the IntraTeam event in Copenhagen.

As always I am looking forward to IntraTeam. It has a very distinct ethos, helped by always being in the same location and being the outcome of a year of Kurt Kragh Sorensen travelling around the world to hunt down the best speakers on emerging issues. One of the benefits of the Radisson Blu location is that there are so many places to sit down and network between sessions, and of course it is just a Metro journey from Copenhagen Airport.

On a more personal level I am also looking forward to the iSchool Conference at the end of March. I have been a Visiting Professor at the Information School, University of Sheffield, since 2002 but my appointment comes to a close in 2018 and being able to attend the first UK-based iSchool Conference will be a good way to bow out, though I will not be severing my links with the School, and in particular Professor Paul Clough. Paul and I (together with Dr. Paul Cleverley) will continue to work on a new framework for enterprise search evaluation, something that has been on our respective desktops for a couple of years. Project meetings with two people called Paul need careful management.

All this has to be fitted around writing a monthly column on enterprise search for CMSWire and my Perspectives column for Business Information Review. Both these are invaluable in ensuring that I keep abreast of developments in both search and information management. One of the great benefits of my Professorship is access to the digital library holdings of the University. So much of the research in my areas of interest is published in journals that are behind a subscription firewall. Even when I download copies of the papers I cannot share them with my clients, which is very frustrating, though of course I can alert them to the existence of this research.

I’m not going to attempt to forecast what will happen in search in 2018. I’ve always had great respect for the forecasts that Paul Miller (CEO Digital Workplace Group) publishes each year. His 2018 forecast, published in November last year) is well worth reading. However I noted with concern that his 2017 forecast about the advent of a wider adoption of quality search was not born out by events. In the 2018 forecast there is no explicit forecast about search. I can empathise, but also have concerns about how digital workplaces are going to function without good quality search. If you can’t find information then you can’t use it and you can’t share it. If organisations such as DWG and AIIM do not evangelise about search in the way that they do about other technologies then who else is going to spread the message?

Martin White