If you decide to forge ahread, you'll need to determine which type of product is the best fit. In general, enterprise search products fall into three categories, Owens says:
Specialized search vendors address specific user information needs (such as customer service) or industries. Vendors include Attivio, Coveo, Endeca, Exalead, Sinequa and Vivisimo.
Integrated search vendors such as Autonomy, IBM and Microsoft merge robust search capabilities with other information management functions, such as web content management. They also sell search technology independently.
Detached search vendors, including Google, ISYS and Fabasoft, focus on ease of deployment and flexibility.
Google, Autonomy, and Microsoft dominate enterprise search but other players have capable products worth examining. Notes Owens: "Coveo and Vivisimo specialize in customer service; Attivio, Exalead, and Endeca in custom applications to merge structured and unstructured information; Sinequa and IBM in semantics; ISYS in OEM; and Fabasoft in eGovernment."
Detail Your User Requirements
The next step is to start a wish list itemizing everything your users want from a search engine, says Gillies. Group the items under related topics and prioritize them. Cassels Brock & Blackwell came up with five categories: "Essential," "Very Important," "Important", "Nice to have" and "Useful but not critical." The firm also drew up a list of the top 10 essential items, which "proved very useful in doing a focused comparison between the two search engines we compared."
Gillies says the four key aspects of an enterprise search engine to evaluate are relevance, responsiveness, consistency of results and proper working of key functions.
In Forrester's Sept. 2011 evaluation of 12 enterprise search vendors, the research firm considered 10 criteria, including the following:
Secure mobile support.
Social and collaborative features, such as support for social tags, ratings, and recommendations.
Security, including integration across multiple directories for authentication and the flexibility to map and modify security.
Interface flexibility, including WSIWYG tools for customizing the interface.
Relevance model, such as the ability to tune and bias search results based on user behavior.
Platform readiness, including support for language-specific APIs, an SDK for custom development and support for different operating systems.
Gillies recommends additional factors to consider when weighing enterprise search products:
If you use other applications from the vendor, how responsive have they been to issues you've raised?
What's on the vendor's development roadmap?