I attended the inaugural Enterprise Search Europe in London October 24-25 and was impressed with a few things. Firstly the attendance was stronger than I thought, perhaps around 100, although that includes sponsors’ attendees. There were half a dozen main sponsors and two vendors I spoke to said they wanted to sponsor it but were too late – so there is demand there for such an event. Chairman Martin White of Intranet Focus did an excellent job of keeping things moving along and stepped in to fill a gap in the program caused by last-minute absentees. He’s summed up the whole conference himself here.
I was on two panels, one more formal than the other. I was responding to the thoughts of Funnelback’s chief scientist David Hawking, who talked of current research in the enterprise search area and contrasted it with the wealth of research done in Web search. I pointed out that if some organizations such as TREC made its output actually usable by vendors (who aren’t permitted to say where they come in TREC rankings) then it would get much more support.
In the evening in the Hand & Flower pub across the road from the hotel for the latest Enterprise Search Meetup London I was one of two permanent panelists (Laura Wilber of Exalead being the other), with a goldfish bowl set-up where anyone wanting to ask a question had to joint the panel’s spare seats to do it from there. It made for some pretty lively discussions about what the next big things might be impacting enterprise search (big data being one of them, of course), helped by the beer & wine paid for by Exalead.
The evening in the pub might have been livelier than the panel at the conference itself, but the themes were similar, namely that enterprise search as a use case and value proposition is dead; people don’t buy enterprise search engines to ‘find stuff’ within their organization anymore. There has to be a more tangible use case, such as electronic discovery, or fraud detection and the like. I’ve written about this recently.
Two other analysts were at the conference – Alan Pelz-Sharpe of RealStoryGroup and Mike Davis of Ovum. Alan has penned his forthright thoughts here and Mike and I talked enough to know that the three of us – and plenty of others at the event that weren’t analysts but actual users – were thinking similar thoughts. So despite the fact that the conference is called Enterprise Search Europe and most people seem to think that enterprise search as a concept is redundant, I would recommend the event for next year, by when I suspect it may be called something else.