Reflecting on the state of enterprise search and trends for 2011, just described by four knowledge management thought-leaders, and Coveo’s visionary CEO, Louis Tetu, I have thoughts on two aspects of the topics. One is on the concept of anything classified as 2.0, and the second relates to leadership. In my first of two guest blog posts, I’ll focus on the concept of Enterprise Search 2.0.

In a webinar hosted by Coveo on January 25th four panelists elucidated trends in the application of Enterprise Search 2.0 for strategic advances in managing knowledge assets and content. As the moderator, it was stimulating to be engaged with four professionals who articulated clear reasons for how and why search technology has and will continue to be a game-changing piece of their respective business infrastructures. Coveo customers, including Denise Chochrek of Frito Lay, Cheryl Duggan of Bose, Dave Held of Yum! Brands, and Tina Yarovsky of Trading Technologies, have all thought through what makes Enterprise Search 2.0 an improvement over previous search technologies. In the webinar they shared how they are leveraging this technology.

Several questions came from the audience about the phrase, Enterprise Search 2.0 as a concept or a technology. This made me consider whether it is the right label for a class of products. Historians often work within the context of major shifts, political (Federalist Period), cult of leadership (Reagan Era), lifestyle (Art Deco), and so on. Early on, the computer industry developed a mechanism for labeling versions of operating systems, usually N.n reflected additional features and functions (plus bug fixes), while a new N.0 reflected a significant shift in architecture and capabilities. Thus, it is appropriate for any shift in computer technology software applications to be so labeled.

Today we are in our third stage of electronic searching, the first being command language searching done by professional searchers across limited sets of published (external) content, previously searchable only in print. The second stage began with the delivery of full-text search engines that could be deployed inside the firewall for indexing and retrieving internal content. This stage signified the first era of electronic searching for and within the enterprise, or Enterprise Search 1.0. It has been a long era during which the Internet, hundreds of social tools, content management systems and collaboration platforms have arrived and evolved. Every application and every technology environment from the Internet, to thousands of unique intranets, is distinctive and, as each of the webinar thought leaders noted, characterized by development of silos of standalone content.

Now we are in the third technological phase of digitized search technology, but the second era of enterprise search. This era is one that is informed by all the unique applications that have evolved in the 2.0 era of the Internet, an era of social, collaborative, and highly networked applications, all enabling massive content creation opportunities and challenges. We have moved from linear, serial searching through single sources using strings of keywords, to search technology that supports hyper-linkages, and conceptual linkages across silos. Search has become multi-dimensional because of better indexing techniques, better metadata management and its adaptation to hundreds of data formats and forms. The label Enterprise Search 2.0 reflects capabilities for seamless integration with all applications 2.0, and a position in the 2.0 technological era.