April 24, 2006 10:53 AM PDT

Corporate search needs to heed workers, Google exec says

BOSTON--The corporate search market is held back by the industry's focus on improving the technology rather than pleasing the worker, according to Google's head of enterprise search.

Known across the globe for consumer search, Google has sizable ambitions to serve business customers as well. Last week, the company introduced two search appliances aimed at corporations and gave details of third-party partnerships for technology to search specialized document types.

Speaking at the Search Engine Meeting conference here Monday, Dave Girouard, general manager of Google's enterprise search business, diagnosed why the corporate search market is dwarfed by the consumer search market by roughly a factor of 10.

Because consumers can easily switch search engines, there is a great deal of "Darwinism" among Web search vendors, he said, meaning that those who are most successful at meeting people's needs are the ones that survive.

By contrast, corporate search vendors do not typically interact directly with the people who use their products. Instead, the corporate sales process is usually mediated by business and technology specialists, who don't necessarily think about the worker's experience.

"We as an industry--and I'm not excluding Google--are not delivering enough value to the end users," Girouard said. "It tends to be a focus on technology and not a lot on what people want."

As a result, very few people use search as a starting point for gathering information from their corporate networks, he said.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Google's primary search rivals are Yahoo and Microsoft. In the corporate search market, it competes with several specialized vendors as well as larger companies, including IBM and Oracle.

Girouard singled out the user interface as the prime example of the poor product design that limits the potential size of the enterprise search market.

Researchers and search vendors have sought to improve search with various technologies, such as natural language processing, which allow people to write a question into a command line, such as "Where do I find the company expert on search technology?"

Some start-ups are already trying to improve enterprise search. Siderean, for instance, provides a navigation diagram on the left pane of search results that describes how the search engine obtained the results and where different matches to a query might be found. Meanwhile, ZoomInfo and Trovix have created search tools specifically targeted to extracting relevant information out of resumes.

But Girouard cited studies which consistently show that business employees want to search corporate networks by typing in a few keywords, much the way the use a Web search engine. Yet the search software used in most enterprise has a more complex user interface, which is "bereft of soul," he said.

"Consumers and employees are the same people," he said. "Search has the opportunity to be the human interface to all information in the corporation."

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6 comments

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Google over D&B
Dunn and Bradstreet ate the dominant company search company and I would love to see Google beat them around a bit. ThomasNet sucks, Goliath stinks, and MacRae's (like the other two) can't seem to get past that they aren't book-based directories anymore. D&B's information is rarely correct, it's over-priced, and lacks flexibility (unless you fork-out more money Harris, Company Reach, etal. have not earned). Why can't the largest credit rating company manage to get financials correct?

I look forward to Google helping to improve company search methods and the industry as a whole. I hope half of the existing players go out of business, because they fail miserably at delivering any value to their clients.

Go Google!
Posted by phillynets (73 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Google over D&B
Dunn and Bradstreet ate the dominant company search company and I would love to see Google beat them around a bit. ThomasNet sucks, Goliath stinks, and MacRae's (like the other two) can't seem to get past that they aren't book-based directories anymore. D&B's information is rarely correct, it's over-priced, and lacks flexibility (unless you fork-out more money Harris, Company Reach, etal. have not earned). Why can't the largest credit rating company manage to get financials correct?

I look forward to Google helping to improve company search methods and the industry as a whole. I hope half of the existing players go out of business, because they fail miserably at delivering any value to their clients.

Go Google!
Posted by phillynets (73 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No PageRank on Intranets
Ranking based on the number of inbound links was Google's great idea, which everyone else in the consumer search business now uses too. But there's no such thing on an intranet. So what could work similarly for this sort of site-specific search?
Posted by (54 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No PageRank on Intranets
Ranking based on the number of inbound links was Google's great idea, which everyone else in the consumer search business now uses too. But there's no such thing on an intranet. So what could work similarly for this sort of site-specific search?
Posted by (54 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Access is another issue worth noting
One of the big problems in corporate search, even within
corporate boundaries, is that crawlers and indexing consume
resources and require controlled access.

Though it is certainly not apparent to users, search engines
work quickly only when there has been a lot of preparation work
done in advance to index appropriate material (including a
scheduling strategy that ensures timely updates without
excessive consumption of scarce resources), store the indexes
on fast drives, and ensure that links will work for the users.

Most valuable corporate information has several layers of
permissions and access restrictions that make the preparation
work more complicated.

It would be a lot easier to provide good corporate search if
information was more open, but that is not necessarily in the
best interests of the corporation and certainly not always in the
best interests of the holders of the information.
Posted by Rod Adams (74 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Access is another issue worth noting
One of the big problems in corporate search, even within
corporate boundaries, is that crawlers and indexing consume
resources and require controlled access.

Though it is certainly not apparent to users, search engines
work quickly only when there has been a lot of preparation work
done in advance to index appropriate material (including a
scheduling strategy that ensures timely updates without
excessive consumption of scarce resources), store the indexes
on fast drives, and ensure that links will work for the users.

Most valuable corporate information has several layers of
permissions and access restrictions that make the preparation
work more complicated.

It would be a lot easier to provide good corporate search if
information was more open, but that is not necessarily in the
best interests of the corporation and certainly not always in the
best interests of the holders of the information.
Posted by Rod Adams (74 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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