Enterprise search: How long to deploy?

Ask an enterprise search vendor how long it'll take for a customer to deploy the company's software and you get a everything from a few days to a few months. In other words it depends--mostly on the customer.

Ask an enterprise search vendor how long it'll take for a customer to deploy the company's software and you get a everything from a few days to a few months.

In other words it depends--mostly on the customer.

I did a little informal poll at the Enterprise Search Summit this week and here are the results. This isn't scientific, but does offer some color on the variables enterprises need to consider as they use search to surface a host of documents.

The question was just a five words: How long to deploy this? The answers weren't as simple.

Here's a look:

Autonomy: A week to six months.

I asked TJ Lepore, district sales manager for Autonomy, that simple question above. His answer: A standard installation will take about a week. If you want security--and what enterprise search system doesn't--you're looking at two weeks to two months.

Lepore, perhaps detecting the loaded nature of my allegedly simple questions, called in reinforcements. Autonomy had one of its integration partners, Jose Colon senior vice president of systems integrator MicroLink, handy.

Colon had a simple response: "It depends," he said. "But for a true enterprise deployment it could take four to six months."

That's a bit different than the first answer. Why the difference? Hooking up search software out of the box is what takes a few days. Hooking that search up to surface key data--say human resources, financial and legal documents--securely is another thing entirely. Colon says companies need to think about how they want to share data, what the results should look like and work through all the internal politics--some departments are data huggers.

In other words, you need a project just focusing on data and goals before even bothering with a search provider.

Fast: 30 to 60 days.

Dan Stroman, director of OEM sales at Fast, was presented with my question and went for clarification right away.

"For an out of the box document portal 30 to 60 days. A little less if you hire us to do it," he says.

If the enterprise runs on .Net or Java chances are Fast's implementation goes a bit faster. Stroman says the actual time to deploy though varies. Anyone that says it only takes days to deploy enterprise search is lying--at least you plan on getting the most out of search.

"There's no such thing as plug and play because all the business rules have to be worked through," said Stroman. These business rules should cover document retention requirements, how documents are imported and other concerns.

Expert System: Three to six months.

J. Brooke Aker, director of consulting services, at Expert System says the actual installation doesn't take much time. But measuring data sources, tweaking results and determining what the outcome should be takes a while. Aker said his company starts out with customers by asking for lists of data sources, things they think will make a difference to the company and even competitors.

These lists will give Expert System, which focuses on semantic search and idea of how to piece information together.

"We ask customers to sit and think first and not worry about getting enterprise searching right out of the box," says Aker. "The more you do upfront the faster it goes."

Aker's time frame, however, may be a tad optimistic. Dante Casati, technology monitoring and strategic planning director at Italian oil giant ENI, said his Expert System search has taken two years of refinement. Casati said that his aim is to bubble up research and development intelligence to develop ways to extract more oil or create alternative fuels.

To hit Casati's mark the company requires a lot of tweaking to its search. "It has taken time and effort," said Casati. "We've been working for two years. Our semantic platform is very rich dictionary of specific words. (But) it is never ending work."

Vivisimo: Days not weeks (sort of).

Jerome Presenti, chief scientist of enterprise search provider Vivisimo, said the company's focus is on two items: Making search easy and rapid deployment.

Vivisimo, a Carnegie Mellon spin-off that counts the U.S. government as one of its largest customers, builds its search to connect with a variety of applications, say a Microsoft Sharepoint server. From there, Vivisimo tries to automate as many business rules as possible.

Other firms also noted that they do something similar. "We use Web services to create one step installs," said Presenti.

However, to hit Presenti's mantra of days not weeks for a deployment Vivisimo needs a big spreadsheet from customers. This spreadsheet includes things like data types, repository locations and user data. If this spreadsheet--and all the business rules that go with it--is filled out Vivisimo can be up an running in days.

If not--you're looking at 6 weeks much like the other vendors.

More enterprise search stories: