Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Thoughts on Enterprise Search Summit 2011

It has been a couple of weeks since ESS 2011 in NYC, and I've had a chance to collect my thoughts about the conference.
The conference, as usual, was a don't-miss opportunity for anyone interested in search systems, search projects, or practical ways to improve search satisfaction. There were more attendees than last year. I found a surprising dichotomy among the attendees and vendors. As to the attendees, they were either new to search or long-time search professionals. Vendors included only one big name (Google, who else?) and many smaller vendors from both the US (such as Basis Technology, H5, and Vivissimo) to vendors from Europe and Australia (Raytion –Germany—and SpringSense –Australia).
As to the themes, they were many. Some could have been from a conference 5 years ago. The enduring themes dealt with such topics as Search projects, and bringing failing search projects back on track (my own presentation) to newer themes of integrating search with social media and search on mobile devices. I was very surprised and pleased to see eDiscovery as a topic and to see at least two vendors offering eDiscovery products and services (H5 and Clearwell).
About 1/3 of the attendees at my presentation requested a copy of Guident's free "Findability Checklist," now expanded with attributed quotes anyone can use in their own search presentation. I've expanded that to include general ECM quotes too. If you want one too, send me an email.
Other observations:
  • Google was somewhat cocksure about its position in the commercial search market. This is the second year in a row when I found their presentation hard to understand, hard to hear (speakers need professional presentation training), and as much marketing as new material. Nice water bottles at their booth though ;-). I still believe their search appliance inside the firewall is up against competition, from vendors small and large.
  • Improving Search user satisfaction. These systems must be intuitive, and in this respect, Google sets the standard.
  • No Bing. No surprise.
  • Delivering search on mobile devices, although that is still a nascent theme inside the firewall.
  • Personalizing search also remains a holy grail.
  • Search systems still have plenty of differentiation, and there is plenty of room for vendors (such as SpringSearch) to add value to others' systems.

Best of show, IMHO, was RealStory's "Search Vendors in 30 minutes." The only disappointment (and a big one) is that they did not make their presentation available after the show.
All in all, a show worth attending.