Search as a Service, Anyone?

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Search as a Service, Anyone?

Everybody offering their solutions to complement existing enterprise search deployments have encountered heavy resistance, if not to completely freeze selling efforts, at least to slow them down significantly.

In our earlier posts we have listed some of the most commonly heard reasons and excuses, and those are just the tip of the iceberg. Instead of dwelling deeper into the darkness, let’s this time focus on considering alternatives to overcome such heavy resistance. We are, after all, trying to help enterprise to do more, get things done more efficiently, improve the way their key people work – and make some business for ourselves too while doing all this.

One of the most commonly discussed ideas during past year or so can be described as…

What if this solution would be offered to you as Search-as-a-Service?

Would that make any difference? Would you then consider getting your dormant information discovery need served? Or can you still come up with sufficiently mean reasons why not, and pass the offering to improve your business once more?

After putting some thought on this, we can define few key requirements which need to be met, and perhaps then search-as-a-service (SaaS) could make a difference…

  1. Everything boils down to simplicity and trust. People need to verify a new solution works before buying it – seeing is believing. In the context of search-as-a-service offering, this means that users must be able to test the solution with their own data, verify that it really works, and feel comfortable enough to start using it as an integral part of their business day. Superior user experience, in this regard, crowns the king.
  2. Try&Buy. People need to understand what do they get when they purchase the service, what is free and what is not. They need to understand how much will it cost, over a period of time (36 months?), if they start using this new solution across their business unit/company. How expensive will it be?
  3. Subscription-based business model is must-have. People want to pay based on the number of user, amount of data, number of repositories connected etc. Pay only for the actual usage, and perhaps gradually pay more as usage ramps up. Subscription-based business model takes the costs from traditional CAPEX investment side into operational side (OPEX), and subscription payable via credit cards – for example – allow also others than just the CIO and his/her team to make the purchase.
  4. Easy-to-get-rid-of-the-service. It must be as easy to stop using (AND PAYING) for the service, as it is to start using it. Ultimately this means ability to change the solution without cost lock-ins, but also ability scale the service usage up/down as needed basis; the number of users may change, usage scope and repositories change  – and the service must immediately adapt (cost-wise) to such changes.

It would be easy to offer such a service, wouldn’t it?

Unfortunately, there are quite a few open items which still lack good answers. Namely:

  • Pricing. How much should a company pay for such a search service? Per user per month, in average? And why? What service offers a good comparison and justification for such a cost?
  • Customers. Who is the customer? CIO and his team? Probably not. If buying such a service is simple enough, the customer should be the guy owning P/L within a business line, or perhaps people benefiting most from improved information discovery capabilities – like VP of Sales or similar.
  • End-user experience. It really must be so SIMPLE that anybody within an enterprise can and will use the solution. Forget cryptic search queries, complex faceted navigational aids, advanced-search-control-it-all settings. Focus should be on simplifying the simple, focusing on providing productivity tool for the masses.
  • Security. Enterprises are afraid of letting their data go outside their firewall. Cloud-provisioned enterprise search effectively does that. For those security-focused companies who still think their data is withing their firewalls, while they have outsourced most of their IT infrastructure all over the world, such a service must be able to convince that a new service does not INCREASE their exposure to the malicious world.
  • Location of the service and its data. The global power play between EU and the US effectively forces enterprises to choose where they want their cloud data to reside, and which legislation they built their business on top of. Most likely, search service provider needs to provide options where the service (and the data it handles) is running.

So, what do you think? Will Search-as-a-Service ever become mainstream offering? Will it replace, or perhaps complement, existing enterprise search deployments? Will it focus only to serve those cloud-savvy pro-consumers who live and breathe cloud all day long?

 

By | October 29th, 2015|