Canada’s Government Technology Event (GTEC 2011) Recap

Well, another GTEC has finished. We definitely had a great time attending this years government technology conference, and thoroughly enjoyed camping out in a booth there for a few days. We met a lot of really interesting people, from just about every possible business spectrum. All Canadian government departments seemed to be in attendance, and the people we met definitely made these departments shine.

From an enterprise search point of view, we received questions from all over the search space. There were definitely a few re-occurring themes however, such as:

  • When we asked first-time booth visitors if there were any search related questions we could answer for them, the most common search question was: “Why does our search suck?” We love answering questions like these by helping people first consider why they think their search sucks. Getting to the root of the problem, from an end-user’s point of view, is a really interesting exercise.
  • Open-source based search engines: With recent government cut backs, and ever shrinking department budgets, open-source based search engines were definitely a hot topic. We were asked about the advantages/disadvantages of going with a free or lower cost open source based search engine, and more specifically, what the savings really are – if any. Definitely an interesting subject, especially when the questions are coming from groups currently paying top dollar for high-grade commercial search software.
  • We were asked a good number of questions concerning data discovery as well. Not only legal based e-Discovery related questions, but also questions along the lines of how people and departments can best uncover what information they really have. It seems like just about all areas of government are suffering from digital information overload, and are really looking for ways to help improve their internal information discovery and data management processes.
  • Business intelligence was a very hot topic. We met quite a few people who were involved with government based business intelligence planning and software. Booth visitors were quite interested in hearing how search software can be used as an excellent business analysis tool, especially when the first step of any analytics based process is to collect and refine the data that will be examined.

Outside of the above areas of questioning we received, we were a little surprised by a few search related areas that people weren’t talking about. For example, mobile search based applications. These days we are quite used to hearing people talk about mobile platforms and applications, but we did not receive a single question concerning mobile search based applications. Quite interesting, given that this is a hot area right now in the private sector. Due to public demand, Government departments will need to adapt and start considering mobile platforms more seriously, sooner than later. Another area that surprised us, relates to how some government departments spend millions on a new search infrastructure, then tend to forget about it. After the system is live, they’re done. Some groups don’t seem to be concerned with knowing how the people the search system was built for are actually using the system after it has been launched. We are definitely search analytics nerds so we might be biased, but to us the idea of watching how people use your search system, so you know what to do to make it better, is absolutely necessary.

GTEC was a great opportunity for us to introduce our new Government of Canada enterprise search forum. A lot people were interested in the idea of sharing and talking about search. Hopefully this will help all departments implement search faster, repeat success stories, and avoid failure.

That should just about do it for our GTEC recap. We could definitely ramble on for quite a bit longer about the great search discussions we had, but we should probably take a break from talking everyone’s ears/eyes off. A big thank you to everyone who stopped by, and put up with us talking about our “search” passion.

Last, but definitely not least, we’d like to congratulate Michael from CRA on winning a new Norconex branded iPad! We hope you enjoy the device as much as we do Michael. Thanks to all who participated in the draw, and another thanks to Eloise O‚ÄôRiordan from Curam Software for picking the lucky winner.

See you next year!

Over the past 15 years Hugh has worked on just about every kind of software design, development and maintenance project. Using his thorough technology experience, and developed search expertise, Hugh helps Norconex deliver successful search implementations. Hugh currently holds the position of Vice-President of Infrastructure at Norconex.