Enterprise Search Drives Productivity
But It takes Hard to Make Enterprise Search Easy.
Many of the best search applications are quick and simple to use – like Google.com or your favourite e-commerce site. We often take these sites for granted and don’t appreciate how hard it really is to deliver a great search experience. When search isn’t fast and accurate, or when it doesn’t deliver the expected results, users are quick to become frustrated.
But with the right approach, supporting expertise, and a little effort, any search system can be tuned to deliver a productive user experience - even those notoriously under-performing enterprise search applications.
ALL SEARCH SYSTEMS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL
Despite having tens of billions of Web pages to deal with, Google and Bing continue to provide a Web search capability that satisfies most of the people almost all of the time. Leading online retailers provide fine-tuned search systems because they know, and have measured to a high degree of accuracy, that great search directly improves sales revenues.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, enterprise search applications continue to disappoint. Our summary of enterprise search surveys over the past decade illustrates this.
Outcomes, in terms of the search user experience, vary hugely.
Why is this? After all, core search engine technology is mature, scalable, very reliable, and available from most of the world’s leading software companies. And, billions of dollars have been invested in search software development during the past decade. The huge variation in outcomes cannot be explained by a lack of technology.
CUSTOMIZATION & EXPERTISE
Simply put, great search applications don’t happen by accident. They require customization to meet the needs of the application and the environment. Let’s consider how a few of the best search applications have been put together:
- Google.com is the world’s most highly customized search application. It has been built for a focused purpose – to search the Web. Among other things, it employs a wide range of content processing strategies prior to indexing, including but by no means limited to the famous PageRank algorithm, a massive, recursive calculation run on huge clusters of servers. The PageRank approach has proved invaluable for Web search, but is not applicable in environments where there is little or no interlinking between documents – it is a customization to support a specific search use case. On top of the technology, Google also employs a worldwide army of staffers and contractors, who manually assess quality issues, and help Google to deal with those who try to game the system.
- Leading retailers, some using specialized technologies such as Oracle Endeca, others using open source options such as Solr or Elasticsearch, put in the effort to create e-Commerce specific search systems that work well with product catalogue content, and provide merchandizers with a controlling hand, and a whole lot of analytical feedback. As with Google.com, this process involves the application of expertise to cover the bases that technology cannot cover alone. This can be done using in-house teams, and with services such as Search Technologies’ Search Quality Analysis Service.
In summary, these fabulous search applications are highly customized, and enjoy on-going support from human experts.
In contrast, most enterprise search surveys suggest that half of all users are not satisfied, or cannot find the information they need. Enterprise search can be used to support a wide range of applications, from customer service to research & development, and from legal due diligence to intranet portals.
In most cases, search applications that disappoint have adequate technology in place, but customization and expertise have not been applied. Enterprise search can be a complex application. In addition to serving multiple use cases, systems have to deal with heterogeneous content – from news articles and discussion threads, through carefully controlled product documentation, to large and lawless file shares. Too often, implementation is left to the IT department where great skills can be found for networking, security, infrastructure planning and a range of other vital tasks. But seldom can IT provide search expertise, nor make the time to implement customizations for search systems.
SEARCH IS ESSENTIAL FOR BUSINESS PRODUCTIVITY
Improved business productivity is directly driven by a great enterprise search infrastructure. This may be less immediately measurable than e-Commerce sales, but it still impacts the bottom line. Enterprise search is a key initiative for maintaining a competitive edge.
Whatever your application and technology stack, CONTACT US to discuss how we can help your organization to excel at search.