Saturday, December 31, 2016
Search in the Land of Information Silos
Information access and retrieval within most organizations is a work in progress. There might be a general search system for marketing information, and probably one or more database search systems.
The larger the organization, the greater the number of information retrieval systems. Each laptop and mobile device has a search system. Mobile phone apps sport their own search systems. The lawyers in an organization may have different search systems for specific types of legal matters. The enterprise resource planning (ERP) users have a search system. When it comes to enterprise search, there are many silos.
A “silo” is a content collection available to certain users. In the face of the reality of silos, it might be impractical idea of providing access to “all” information. “All” may not mean all or even some available information. Big data is easy to talk about but difficult to make accessible. The same challenge exists for images, audio recordings, and engineering drawings with details hidden into the proprietary system’s database.
Search which is variously called universal, unified or federated search is a solution to the challenge of information silos. The term meta-search is often used to describe an integrating function that passes the user’s query across discrete content indexes and returns a single results list to the user. Endeca, Inxight Software, Northern Light, Sagemaker and Vivisimo are search applications that can be used for universal, unified or federated search in an organization.
The initial query might not unlock the information stored in the system’s index. The facets, topics and suggests make it easy for the user to click through the links without having to craft additional queries.
Behind the curtains, federated search results requires some maintenance. A user does not want to know the file format in which the information he or she needs is stored. The user wants answers. Early federating systems like WAIS relied on standards for content representation. Today, however, there are many “standards,” and content processing systems must be able to process content in the hundreds of formats found in organizations.
It is important to deliver a system that makes an organization’s disparate types of digital content available.
There are barriers to unified, federated or integrated search.
Some digital content cannot be included in a general purpose search system for security, business or legal reasons. Technical content such as chemical structure information at a pharmaceutical company requires special purpose systems. The same need applies to product manufacturing data, legal information and engineering drawings.
Most search applications exclude video streams from the index. If video is indexed, the system processes the text included in the digital file or indexing provided by the video owner.
The cost of creating connectors to connect with certain content types could be too high, or license fees could be required to gain access to the file formats.
The computational burden required to process certain types of content might exceed the organization’s ability to fund the content processing. Big data, for example, requires a computing capability able to handle the Twitter stream, RSS feeds and telemetry data from tracking devices. Cost could be prohibitive for processing all content types.
The most important challenge is the need for confidentiality. The legal department does not want unauthorized access to information related to a legal matter out of its control.
Some government contracts required that for certain types of government work, the information related to that project must be separated. Common sense dictates that plans for a new product and its pricing remain protected. If someone needs access to that information, a different search system may be used to ensure confidentiality.
Even in the absence of business or legal requirements, some professionals do not want to share content. That may be a management problem. When a manager locks up information in a no-access silo, a software script will skip the flagged server.
To summarize, silos of information present a challenge to process and effectively use in organizations. In the enterprise, integration should take place within silos of content.
Galaxy Consulting has 17 years experience in integrating information silos using universal, unified or federated search. We have experience with search applications. Contact us for no obligation free consultation!