There’s a lot going on in search technology still, or again, depending on your perspective. We’ve analyzed search in a business context periodically over the years. I want to provide some more analysis on the business side of search after many announcements that I have been analyzing over the last two months from Endeca, our analysis of IBM CognosMarkLogic and my analysis of QlikView, all of which include significant enhancements to existing search capabilities in their most recent product upgrades.

The Cognos 10 and QlikView search capabilities are somewhat similar and focus on searching BI-related, mostly structured data. MarkLogic tackles unstructured data pretty much to the exclusion of structured BI data. Endeca Latitude makes a valiant attempt to bridge the gap between the two, but it still favors structured data over unstructured.

Our research validates the importance of search. In our business intelligence and performance management benchmark research, search is one of the top three capabilities organizations have deployed or are deploying. Participating organizations ranked search as the most important end-user capability in our information applications benchmark research. Clearly end users want search capabilities today.

As well as fulfilling a basic need in working with information, search is appealing because of its simplicity. Google has made nearly every Web user aware of search. It has the promise of bringing together disparate information and at least potentially can combine structured and unstructured information. It can cut across information from different systems and from departments with entirely different structures such as customer information, employee information and vendor information.

Another simplicity element of the most successful search technologies is that users do not have to create description information about the data in what is called metadata or impose any specific data structure on the disparate information they wish to access. Sure, metadata and structure may facilitate more accurate searches or speed the search process, but the search vendor takes care of that for the user.

Several challenges remain to enable more universal use of enterprise search. First, the divide between structured and unstructured data must be conquered. Users shouldn’t have to think about whether the data was in a PowerPoint presentation, a PDF document or an analytic dashboard. The second key challenge is the divide between internal and external data. Increasingly, external data includes not only unstructured Internet content but also cloud-based applications with structured data like that from Exalead. Lastly, as these challenges are overcome, users will want to leverage search agents across this universe of combined data. I expect we’ll hear more from companies like ConnotateFetch and Kapow Software. Today these technologies operate independent of the BI landscape, but the more they integrate with BI architectures the more valuable they will become. As BI vendors search for ways to broaden their product lines, they ought to look at what these vendors have to offer.

In any event, I expect search to continue to rise in popularity and in its presence in the enterprise software market. It is too compelling to end users to be ignored. Challenges remain, but we are seeing progress to overcome those challenges.

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David Menninger – VP & Research Director