The good folks at Microsoft and High Road invited a dozen or so of us types out for drinks last night to talk all about Microsoft and Enterprise Search to us. After taking, of course, the (dubious) precaution of well saucing us in advance. We bloggers are a surly lot of soapboxers at the best of times.
This is what I learned:
# Microsoft actually calls their enterprise search product by what it does “enterprise search”. Kudos. More companies should do that. Esp, this from a firm that once brought you branding horror shows like “Windows Live Local”.
# Microsoft calls Information Workers IWs, pronounced i-dubya’s
# IW’s want to be able to find information and expertise inside their organizations
# Search increasingly interface of choice – (though Bryce points out there’s frequently also a backlash because today Enterprise Search tends to be so bad in reality
Good/better specialized search products tailored for various industries exist but very expensive
# Consumer web search (eg product search) keeps getting better and raising the bar. Users expect Enterprise Search to work as well as Google internet search and the i-dubbya’s get upset because it doesn’t.
# Search is not just about search boxes but also something to do with “facets” and intuitively narrowing down results by ticking through categories of results (like eBay or Amazon searching). Letting users build sophisticated queries step by step without them even knowing they’re doing it.
# Microsofties consciously try very hard not to use “google” as a verb in regular conversation. Unsuccessfully.
# The trouble with Enterprise search is because “pagerank” doesn’t work as well in the enterprise. There’s much less useful link structure in corporate intranets to help identify most relevant content.
# [Social Media in the enterprise a.k.a. Social Computing is clearly the answer to this]
# Microsoft thinks that social side of search will be the killer app in the enterprise – but they don’t really have a credible story (yet) as to what they’re going to do enable that. Technically
Sharepoint supports blogs and wiki’s, and technically these are “social media” but I don’t believe MS quite “gets” social computing in the enterprise just yet (they are thinking hard now though, wait for SharePoint 2011).
# Potential long term MS advantages in search, they control the desktop, the user directory, the intranet portal and the rest of the hydra that is SharePoint, so theoretically they have a lot of implicit and explicit data they could be using to inform search.
# MS is looking to search as the catalyst to sell/upgrade SharePoint 2007 into organizations
# Other troubles with Enterprise Search: i-dubya’s find stuff they weren’t supposed to find, customer data, search for “confidential” in docs etc. and all that porn stashed on the shared folder.
Things I learned from what MS didn’t talk about:
# MS is not talking about visual search. (get idée for that!)
# MS is not talking about federating desktop search across multiple desktops. (Damn, for someone who works from 3 computers). I guess that’s what Groove is for.
# MS is not talking about video or audio search (Sutha and I were thinking about machine transcription and indexing of voip conference call meetings or video media)
# MS is not talking about Enterprise Search as a filter for driving better search results on the outside web. This is another (theoretical) killer app talked about by social computing types.
# MS is not talking about Social Bookmarking at all (but then I have mixed feelings about social bookmarking myself).
Thanks to Jared Spataro of Microsoft for the show and tell.