Meet our Speaker: Lynda Moulton

5 March 2013

Lynda MoultonLynda has worked directly with hundreds of information professionals to plan, implement and manage large-scale information technology projects during her 20 year tenure as founder and CEO of Comstow Information Services. She now consults on specific information technology projects relating to enterprise Knowledge Management. Here she talks about her views on enterprise search and looks ahead to her presentations at Enterprise Search Europe.

Tell us a little about you, your background and your current role.

Throughout my career I have been focused on the practice of knowledge and information transference, first as a secondary school teacher, then as a technical librarian and business software architect.

I pursued a career in the industrial sector, and as my career evolved I was brought into contact with early mini-computers. In 1980 I was introduced to a database management system and in collaboration with the developers, I launched BiblioTech, a company that designed one of the first fully integrated library management systems and was a forerunner of today’s content management systems. At its core was a thesaurus development module tightly integrated with both metadata management and search navigation modules.

After almost 20 years of deploying BiblioTech in the corporate and government sectors, I sold the intellectual property to pursue broader work in the information and knowledge field. I have been engaged since 2002 in consulting work, helping technologists, content managers, and business professionals with findability issues of all types.

What will you be talking about at Enterprise Search Europe? Why have you chosen this subject?

In addition to moderating a couple of tracks with “Big Data” as the major theme, I will be doing a wrap up at the end of the conference, Bringing It All Together: Technologies and Practices for Successful Search Deployment.

Up to that point, I will be listening carefully to the preceding speakers to capture the essence of their experiences and teachings. From those, I hope to be able to present what I will take away as the best comments, practices, and experiences that the audience should pay close attention to. I will also share some thoughts about what I have heard from the Findwise survey results and the significance to our audience.

Finally, I may offer some observations about what has not been said and ponder these omissions. Perhaps my closing will spur others to consider new topics for the coming year. The subject is easily chosen as a wrap-up because what the audience needs is a synthesis of ideas they can take back to their work for immediate benefit.

Name some key challenges faced by you or your clients and how are they being overcome?

I am most often brought into content and search implementation projects after key decisions have been made, team members and technologies selected. It is after an initiative has been launched that organisations find that they are missing crucial aptitudes, expertise, or technology understanding. A major challenge for them is to unravel the complexities that exist around business needs and match them to the chosen path.

I suspect that the Findwise survey will reiterate a finding from last year’s survey, that human resources on search projects are minimal and not highly respected. Although my consulting presence is nominally for completing a single task, it often becomes my role to coach, guide and put into place human infrastructure for the ongoing task of sustaining search and content processes, permanently. Gaining a more robust understanding of all the moving parts is a big challenge for most organisations.

I view my job as being the messenger and champion for the people who will be doing the work when I leave. That is what a good consultant must leave behind, a path to making search work for the enterprise. Sometimes the path is expressed in documentation as the result of working out methods, practices or guidelines. Other times it is a series of training, instruction or working sessions with members of the team. As long as I can leave them with clear instructions, next steps or recommendations for improvements, the next challenge for my client is to take up the mantle and execute. Sometimes, there are new steps or the need for tune-ups and I respond by building on what has gone before.

What do you see as major trends in the Enterprise Search field?

First, most enterprises are evolving in their understanding of search, how it works and when it does not. This makes them smarter about their next selection of technologies and implementation. They are learning that one size does not fit all business problems and that much of what needs to be found in the enterprise does not need to be accessed by all employees. Only a small fraction of enterprise content has universal applicability and that content has a different profile for a different search application than more specialised pockets of content.

This brings me to the second major trend, the diversity of options for making content searchable or findable. Search vendors are specialising by packaging their search technologies for highly specialised solutions. For example, business development, finance or manufacturing may be turning to business analytics embedded in search applications, while R&D has a demand for e-discovery products with a topically rich and specialised terminology component for semantic retrieval across a relatively narrow subject spectrum. Enterprises are now learning how to differentiate among categories of search applications.

The third trend, which I anticipate will strengthen, is recognition that people with subject and search expertise are needed to integrate content management, terminology management and search engine tuning into a systemically robust architecture that actually delivers excellent results to meet searcher expectations and needs.

Whatdo you enjoy the most about your job in this industry?

I love the opportunities to share and leverage past experiences and knowledge for solving new search problems with new tools and technologies. It is really enjoyable to be able to learn from clients and at the same time to be appreciated for the wisdom that comes from years in the field. It is especially rewarding to circle around a challenge in a group, working to understand what their problem is and finally delivering or communicating in a way that their issue and a solution has been clearly articulated. The diversity of enterprises and learning their business operations is a constant fascination.

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