Custom Search Applications. Fast.
Better. faster. Cheaper. from Scratch
To paraphrase Steve Jobs, there is something insanely powerful about being a company which can create brand new systems so quickly. Recently, three of our largest projects have gone from literally zero to production in a mere 3 months (large corporate-wide search system), 4 months (recruiting search and match) or 9 months (large government archive).
And then we turn around and do it again.
I continue to be amazed at what a different (and more vibrant!) an environment we have at Search Technologies when compared to most software product companies. When I worked on my software product, RetrievalWare, I spent 11 years (1989-2000) improving / selling / differentiating / releasing / and bug fixing (basically) the same bunch of code. By contrast, at Search Technologies we craft brand-new search systems for our customers hundreds of times a year – from scratch.
Interesting fact: Search Technologies has over 60 active projects right now. We do lots and lots of projects both large (months) and small (hours).
In many ways we are more like the film or construction industry than the traditional software industry. We put experts who love what they do together (directors, cinematographers, architects, carpenters) to build something special. (Using this analogy, our assessment process is roughly equivalent to a screenplay or a set of architectural drawings.)
There’s something powerful about our ability to start from scratch and create working search sites dozens of times every year – often faster than it takes to configure and integrate packaged solutions to work properly.
How do we do it?
1. We strive to understand your business needs
I know it’s weird, but it thrills us to know how search can help you achieve your business goals. We love search and we love it most of all when it’s successful and making peoples’ and companies’ lives better.
People are often surprised that we want to talk to your business analysts, business stakeholders, marketing managers, and executives whenever we do a search assessment, but this is a key part of our strategy for success. If we understand exactly why you need a search engine (and don’t just focus on the what), then we are better able to deliver something which best meets your business goals -for today and for the future.
This feeling goes throughout our company. For example, we are just now starting a new training course for our architects called ‘how to write an assessment’. The assignment for Class #2: “Describe your customer’s business model. How do they make money? How do they add value to their resources? Next, describe how search works within and improves this business model to improve ROI.”
2. Our Architects are “Searchinistas”
What are the latest trends in search? How can they be used to drive business? What are the latest techniques for implementing SharePoint 2013 search? Solr Search? GSA Search? Attivio search? What is “on-trend” for solving search problems?
It is no exaggeration to say that our architects love search. They seek out the latest developments to make it easier, less expensive, more powerful, and (most of all) more reliable. Everything they discover is thoroughly researched and prototyped in POCs. Products, tools and techniques which pass muster are implemented at customer sites and evaluated each step of the way. What is working? What is not? What is real? What is hype?
And not only for their own projects, but across all projects. Architects frequently chat amongst themselves (one of our distribution lists is called “Architectural Topics”). They learn what’s working and what’s not (and why) on each other’s projects, and they constantly debate every new product, tool and technique (sometimes with a little too much enthusiasm!).
And it helps that we do so many projects. It’s not long after a tool, product, or technique is discovered before it is used on a project (if it passes muster in a POC). This means that our customers are always available to take advantage of what we know to be the best and most reliable technology for search which is available.
3. We have the best project managers
Project Managers at Search Technologies are very special people. First, they are awesome communicators. When building so many new systems from scratch, a PM must be able to listen to the customer and to ensure (at every step of the way) that we are producing exactly what is needed. We like to show the results of our work frequently. Agile processes are very helpful.
And our PMs are also super-flexible. For every engagement their attitude is: “what is best for the customer and what is best for the project”? They are quick to create a new process, template, or spreadsheet as needed to make sure that everything and everyone is super clear about where we are and what needs to be done.
Finally, our PMs embrace the mantra that “great teamwork divides tasks and multiplies successes.” The end result is always a satisfied customer.
4. All search, all the time
There are enormous advantages to being able to focus on a single technology. At Search Technologies all we do is search. We have implemented search systems thousands of times since the company was started, and all of that information about what works, what doesn’t, how it’s used, and when it’s most successful accumulates over time into a body of knowledge that’s extensive and powerful.
We are lucky to be working with a technology with such wide applicability. Search engines are used in corporate portals, web sites, eCommerce systems, data warehouse analytics, engineering services, fraud detection, government intelligence... the list goes on and on. But at the heart of it is always a search engine, and our focus on search allows us to understand exactly how that engine can be used to solve each and every problem for each and every type of customer.
No search system is an island. Search engines must live within some sort of environment that includes a business, infrastructure, technology and history. A corollary to this statement is that (in our experience) no software product will solve the entire problem. A software product is like a table saw. It is a wonderful and useful tool (and slightly dangerous!), but you’ll need many more tools to build a house. This is why we have created Aspire and QPL – two extremely valuable technologies for ‘filling the gaps’ which most often occur when putting together new search systems.
Search: Like Mom’s cookies, better from scratch.
In the United States, recently a number of our states have created brand-new health-care exchanges as part of the Affordable Care Act. The states which were most successful (Connecticut, Kentucky), were the ones who created it from scratch. The states which failed (Maryland and Minnesota) were the ones who thought it was best to start with an existing product and modify it.
From an IT perspective this is weird, right? Who would think: “Start from scratch = low risk” whereas “start with a product = high risk”?
I think this is a lot like “Extreme Home Makeover” where at some point (around their 3rd or 4th house) they just decided it was easier to tear down the entire home and build something brand new from a hole in the ground – rather than try and renovate what was already in place.
What we’ve discovered at Search Technologies is that the tools for creating search systems (and houses, for that matter) from scratch have become super powerful. Assembling new systems is becoming so much easier and the result is so much more reliable and production ready that it’s completely changing the notion of how software is built. Our systems are becoming so easy to create (and re-create) that it’s OK that we can build brand-new ones over and over.
Of course, it only works if you’ve made a lot of cookies.