Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Future of Enterprise Search

Enterprise search is a developing industry. In this post, I will describe the latest developments in enterprise search.

Effective enterprise search represents one of the most challenging areas in business today. The whole area of search has been revolutionized by Google. Employees now expect to be able to locate relevant data as easily as they navigate the web through Google. When this ease of search is not replicated in organizations' systems, it can be quite frustrating. As we create more content than ever before, the importance of effective search across the enterprise continues to grow.

Until recently, much of the enterprise search technology remained unchanged. The general purpose enterprise search offerings were fairly similar in technology and scope. There are now many software companies who direct their efforts towards enterprise search. The future will bring shorter innovation cycles, continuous user experience improvements, deeper integration with first- and third-party applications and more ETL-like (extract, transform and load) functionality to handle poor quality content.

In the second half of the 2000’s, the enterprise search companies were absorbed by the large software companies:
  • Microsoft acquired FAST Search in 2008
  • Adobe acquired Mercado in 2009
  • Dassault Systèms acquired Exalead in 2010
  • Hewlett Packard acquired Autonomy in 2011
  • Oracle acquired Endeca in 2011
  • IBM acquired Vivisimo in 2012
User experience is a broad topic in itself, with active trends including:
  • Richer information about the user to determine context, such as their business context, social context, mobile device sensors, location, speech recognition, preferences and historical usage.
  • Advances in visualization such as HTML 5.
  • Natural language processing as in the trends seen with Wolfram Alpha and smart phone digital assistants, such as Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google Now.
  • Richer results that look less like a page of links and more like answers to questions.
  • Elements of knowledge management that add meaning to queries and results.
  • Enterprise search products will become increasingly and more deeply integrated with existing platforms, allowing more types of content to be searchable and in more meaningful ways. It will also become less of a dark art and more of a platform for discovery and analysis.
The future of enterprise search seems destined to continue with simple keyword and Boolean searching, augmented by faceted navigation based on metadata. Virtually every e-commerce web site today offers guided navigation based on metadata.

This ubiquitous model now appears in most of the leading enterprise search products and users immediately understand how a simple text query can quickly be focused to a specific domain by clicking on a metadata filter. This updated search model is increasing demand for auto-classification products which can generate descriptive metadata automatically based on an analysis of the document’s unstructured content.

Open source software has made significant improvements, displacing many of the traditional search vendors. Lucene and its supporting companies like LucidWorks provide solid search functionality at a hard-to-beat price. Where vendors are seeing success is in four main areas:
  • Providing functionality beyond typical "search" – extending to facets, true knowledge management, multimedia search, and other functionality.
  • Focusing on vertical-specific applications like fraud and supply-chain management.
  • Working with larger, more conservative enterprises.
  • Providing a SaaS, one-stop-shop for zero (or low) touch functionality.
A few major factors are going to drive the industry going forward:
  • Open source will continue to get better and drive out inefficiency in the market .
  • More, better information about the searcher: location awareness, profile sharing, time dependence, deeper understanding of the context and content of the search. With this information, you can provide better, more relevant results. 
  • Lower tolerance for hassle: people expect search to "just work" – not understanding that it can be just as complicated as any other major IT initiative. By having low-touch solutions, SaaS providers will make major progress in the small/medium business world.
  • Search all the things!: Integrated understanding of objects, video, speech, as well as traditional semantic sources like text will combine together better into a whole that allows for information retrieval no matter what the format.
Another area for future development is machine to machine consumption of information and sharing. Search providers are increasingly applying advanced analytics of text and other media so their users’ desires are more deeply satisfied through relevant search results. Search will be increasingly entity-centric and collaborative.

Future of search will include more semantic understanding of both content and queries. For example Exorbyte is focused on searching in structured master data – people, products and places, and its ability to query this data without use of restrictive match-keys for both lexicographical and semantic similarity is globally unique.

The future of search goes through natural language processing while on the other hand it will entail the capability of providing advanced information analysis during indexation time.

The facility to search within the document itself is becoming vital. The Docurated platform caters for instant access to the most relevant page or slide without even having to open the document.

Effective enterprise search can eradicate inefficiency. Enterprise search will become instant and intuitive, paving the way for increased productivity across the enterprise.

In my next post, I will highlight few search applications that could be worth looking into...

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