War on information overload spawns growth
- By Colleen Frye
The value proposition of information-retrieval technology has expanded
dramatically from traditional search technology, and market growth over the next
few years is predicted to reflect that, according to new research from Delphi
While Delphi expects that, due to the economy, the information-retrieval
market will show a 10% decline in 2002 (from $400 million in 2001), double-digit
growth is expected through 2004, putting the market at a projected $540 million
at that time.
Driving this growth is the continued information overload of unstructured
data that Global 2000 companies face, as well as the effectiveness of advanced
information-retrieval technologies. ''In this era of downsizing, managers are
coming to the realization that wasting time trying to find things, either in
internal document stores or on the Web itself, is a luxury they can't afford,''
said Hadley Reynolds, Delphi's information retrieval director of research. ''The
newer information-retrieval technology suites are providing personalized alert
systems, the ability to filter news, and a whole range of personalization and
information-location aids that haven't been broadly available.''
In addition, noted Reynolds, employees across the enterprise can benefit from
information-retrieval technology, which is ''the opposite of putting in an SAP or
making a large investment in an enterprise application product that winds up
being used by only a few people.''
Information-retrieval technology has its roots in computer science and
artificial intelligence. While it may be heavily automated, it may still rely on
humans -- librarians, in fact - in large part to get things done.
An information-retrieval system organizes, classifies, and retrieves
unstructured and semistructured data that may reside in newsfeeds, Lotus Notes
databases, Exchange public folders, enterprise applications like PeopleSoft and
a range of other underlying sources. Delphi breaks down information-retrieval
software into five categories: basic search, advanced search,
taxonomy/classification, question answering/enterprise management and
ontologies/topic maps. Delphi projects that advanced search and
taxonomy/classification products will grow the fastest through 2004; the top
market leader in both of those categories is Verity, followed by Autonomy.
Research indicates that advances in information-retrieval technology are
having a particular impact within two important mainstream market segments:
customer relationship management (CRM) and business intelligence (BI).
''The e-commerce application of information retrieval was not widely
appreciated in the first generation of commercial Web sites, but it didn't take
long before the proprietors of public sites learned by bitter experience that
you have to have good search capability; the same is true for enterprise
services,'' said Reynolds, particularly in the area of self-service CRM.
Meanwhile, information retrieval opens up business intelligence around
Information-retrieval software, explained Reynolds, can identify where
customers are finding the most confusion or asking the most questions,
particularly in a service environment. Reynolds said there has been speculation
about a blending of the BI/information-retrieval segment. But, he noted, ''it
will probably be integrated through someone in the CRM world.''
Reynolds cautions that while information-retrieval technology does not add a
lot of complexity to a technology infrastructure, an information-retrieval
implementation does require a good deal of care and feeding. The setup itself
typically necessitates subject-matter experts and an expertise in linguistics or
library science, and ''the organizational changes and language changes are
Colleen Frye is a freelance writer based in Bridgewater, Mass.