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ESS notes: selecting search engines

A lot of good sense and vendor skepticism from two people trying to implement enterprise search.

Raytion Consulting

  • Search is an opportunity to improve the enterprise
  • Know your users, their problems and needs
  • Aim for trustability
    • do they believe if it isn't in search, it isn't there?
      • [ed: and are they right?]
  • get the basics right
    • example of a fancy search engine with concepts and semantic network, no one used it because it couldn't do simple search
    • exact matching (people's names etc.)
    • relevance ranking
    • simplicity and predictibity
    • speed!
    • spelling corrections (suggestions)
    • synonyms
      • example: letter V turned out to be search for the Palm V (via log analysis)
    • dealing with date unreliability
    • metadata variability - look for average, low & high quality
  • plan, select and build assuming search will grow
    • maintenance and optimization
    • know contraints
    • time / quality & features / money: pick any two
    • be sure you can connect to data sources
    • handle document formats
    • deal with languages
    • consider entity extraction for automatic metadata
  • Federated search
    • combine multiple sources
    • can access hidden content
    • framework for integrating all enterprise search
  • User Interface
    • standard interface
    • good results navigation
    • grouping by source
    • clustering by topic
    • faceted metadata
    • query-based descriptions (aka match terms in context)
    • (remember: relevance ranking)
  • management tools & interface
    • index maintenance
    • duplicate detection
    • synonym and suggestions management
    • rankings and weightings
    • reporting & analytics
  • architecture
    • scalability
    • freshness, query load, data volume
    • APIs for indexing, query processing, etc.
    • access control integration
  • Vendor issues
    • viability five to ten years
    • references
    • customization: in house, vendor, outside partner
  • Evaluating
    • build proof of concept
    • test most critical items



VOCA UK, user point of view

  • Lots of intellectual capital, want to leverage that
  • How to get buy-in: simple servey
  • time spent looking for information already in the company?
  • (10% to 65% (average 30%)
  • find the gatekeepers in the organization
  • gather a group with a mix of people
    • champions, early advocates
    • cynics - keep vendors honest
    • blockers - bring them on board before they say no
  • vendors
  • tend to promise the world
  • tend to look down on small installations
  • huge list of companies: how to whittle down?
  • do they understand user problems? do the features fit you?
  • do they want to make money on consulting?
  • are they interested in customers?
  • will they do demos?
  • are they enthusiastic, expert and use their search internally?
  • do they want to be a partner with you? solve your problems?
  • references
    • don't be impressed with big names - they buy one of each!
    • do contact reference customers
  • Be open to new ideas, don't assume you don't know what the solution looks like
  • Then be rigorous on vendors

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