8 2010 – 2019 Rebranding enterprise search – ‘cognitive search’ and ‘insight engines’

From 2010 to 2013 there was a rapid consolidation in the enterprise search business. Between 2010 and 2012 Exalead was acquired by Dassault (2010), Autonomy by Hewlett Packard (2011), Endeca by Oracle (2011), Vivisimo by IBM (2012) and ISYS Search by Lexmark (2012). Some of these vanished without trace, some notionally exist (Exalead) and Autonomy returned to the UK following its acquisition by Micro Focus. In August 2022 Micro Focus was acquired by Open Text, a Canadian company with diverse enterprise applications including enterprise search.

Others emerged to fill the gaps. As mentioned above Funnelback was initially developed by CSIRO in Australia but did not really move into the limelight until the establishment of a UK office in 2009 following its acquisition by Squiz. Lucid Imagination was set up in 2009 and was then renamed LucidWorks in 2012. BAInsight dates back to 2003 as a supplier of add-on modules to SharePoint but over the last few years has repositioned itself as more of a systems integration company and in 2021 was acquired by Upland Software. Mindbreeze, an Austrian company offering a search appliance, was founded in 2005 and as with the other companies mentioned above has flourished over the last few years.

In 2016 Google announced it was leaving the enterprise market and terminated the licenses at the end of 2018 without offering a replacement product.

Looking back at the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Information Access Technology in 2005 there were four companies in the Leader/Visionary Quadrant, and they were FAST, Autonomy, Verity and Endeca. The majority of the companies surveyed in 2005 were towards the lower end of the Ability to Execute axis, and that has always been a challenge for the enterprise search business. Many companies with very good technology could not generate sales and cash flow to finance the marketing and sales effort needed to get to a critical mass. Over the last decade the market has been dominated by Microsoft SharePoint in terms of an installed base of search functionality (perhaps close to 300,000 installations?) though Google built up a substantial installed base of appliance servers before leaving the stage. The Enterprise Search Summit was launched in New York in 2008 and the exhibition space was full with around 40 vendors. Those were the days!

The Enterprise Search Europe event was launched in 2011 but 2015 marked its closure as there were just not enough sponsors to keep the delegate fee at a sensible level. Thanks to Findwise we do now know much more about the way in which enterprise search is being implemented and used through the Enterprise Findability Surveys that started in 2011 and continued to 2016. The survey was run again in 2019 and the Danish consulting company IntraFind introduced its digital benchmarking service. Both surveys confirm that there have been no improvements in the low levels of search satisfaction.

Over the last few years the concepts of ‘cognitive search’ and ‘insight engines’ have been proposed by two IT industry analysis firms, Gartner and Forrester. The basis of both is that search results can be customised down to the level of an individual employee based on what they are working on within the context of their colleagues. The aim of these applications is to deliver the most relevant information at position 1 on a search results page with the searcher just entering anything from a single word to a section of text they are working on. The technology involved is a combination of AI and machine learning allied to developments in natural language processing.

As yet there is no independent research that shows whether these approaches are scalable and extensible for enterprise-wide use in situations where employees are working on multiple tasks and projects simultaneously and in a range of languages.


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A history of enterprise search 1938-2022 Copyright © 2022 by Martin White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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