Book review: Enterprise Search by Martin White

Search is a tremendously important topic within organisations. The phrase “information overload” has long since passed into cliche, and yet we’ve done little of practical value to help staff and managers find what they need. With the pressure on organisations still growing, there is real urgency to deliver search that works.

I’ve known Martin White for a long time now, and we’ve shared many an interesting discussion on search, intranets, digital workplaces, and beyond. Martin was also one of our keynote speakers at last year’s intranet conference in Australia.

It was therefore with great anticipation that I received Martin’s latest book: Enterprise Search, published by O’Reilly.

This is Martin’s best book yet, written with immense clarity and depth of knowledge. This is a topic that Martin has been involved in for decades, and it shows in his structured and measured approach to the topic.

He starts with a compelling argument for why search matters, and moves on to outlining key concepts such as “recall”, “precision” and “relevance”. His section on researching staff and business needs is comprehensive, and references many great sources (including a number of Step Two articles).

The core of the book is an outline of how search engines work, and what needs to be put in place to make them succeed. This is more than just a technology issue, as search also requires people, resources, processes and governance.

Martin outlines the search industry, and how to chart it to find the right solution. The book is rounded out with a discussion on implementation, and an exploration of the future of search.

This is a book that everyone involved in search, whether in business or IT, needs to read. While it doesn’t attempt to provide a “bible” of search technologies, it does provide a foundation of knowledge that will underpin every successful search project. Highly recommended.

James Robertson
James Robertson is the Managing Director of Step Two, the global thought leaders on intranets, headquartered in Sydney, Australia. James is the author of the best-selling books Essential intranets, Designing intranets and What every intranet team should know. He has keynoted conferences around the globe. (Follow him on Twitter or find him on Google+)