Data is the primary commodity online. For most businesses especially those reliant on online systems, the importance of data is even more underscored. Companies and businesses handle a wealth of data, from organizational files and records to sensitive data such as customer profiles and contact information. In this modern digital age where data accessibility is an important functionality for both customers or clients and company employees, a system for data mining should be part of a company’s or a business’ digital infrastructure.
The power of enterprise search capability
A popular system for data indexing and mining is enterprise search, a tool that allows a search to be made within an enterprise and indexes and aggregates data from a wide-range of sources, including files, emails, the business’ own database, intranets, and other information systems used by the enterprise or business. Unlike the more common web search, the search function for this one is predominantly focused on indexing and mining information from the enterprise’s own information sources rather than documents and mentions in the Internet.
What can this mean for businesses?
A major value attached to enterprise search technology is the reach and coverage it provides to a business or company online. Indexing and mining data from the enterprises’ own information sources like its intranet and databases can mean higher results and ranking in online searches on the company or business. A client doing an online desk research of insurance companies, for example, may easily have access to a company’s annual reports, investment portfolios and other similar documents.
As far as improving a company’s MIS (management information system), enterprise search solutions can provide a central repository of data by indexing and integrating files saved in various databases, deleting duplicate files, and updating files saved in several formats. This makes it easier for company employees to search for and access files and documents, both active and archived. In a lot of ways, it also facilitates knowledge sharing within and outside the company or business.
Enterprise search technology has many applications in various industries and sectors – from businesses and corporations to the academe, government institutions, and nonprofit organizations.
The key features of an enterprise search solution
The choice of an enterprise search solution is not a simple task. It is as much an investment as it is a critical component of a company’s digital infrastructure. A report from Google identifies seven important features that a good enterprise search solution should offer.
1. Relevance. This pertains to how a search solution can easily turn up the exact information that users are looking for. Measured in terms of precision, the enterprise search solution should yield the information within the top 3 – 10 results. However, more than precision, relevance is also evident in the way that the search solution can yield updated content across all queries.
2. End-user experience. The solution should make the search as easy as possible, in turn, delivering a satisfying experience to the user, whether it’s the company employee or the external public. Results should be in within seconds or less. Relevant results should be easily displayed at the top of the page so the user won’t have to scroll down for more search results. It should also help the user make sure that they made the right search through features like auto spell check, suggested queries, stemming and synonyms.
3. Reach. Search results should be as extensive as possible, covering all sources of information available. An enterprise search solution should turn in unstructured content found on other sources like documents, PDFs, slideshare presentations and other shared files aside from those in typical databases. Furthermore, the solution should be able to support the format in which the said information was created (i.e., open PDF files or play certain audio/video formats).
4. Fresh. A smart enterprise search solution should be able to efficiently crawl information, yielding relevant and fresh information.
5. Access Control and Persona. By making searchable certain company and business documents, databases and internal management information systems, businesses and companies also expose themselves to higher risk of infiltration and data theft. The search solution should ensure that it yields only the documents and information that are allowed for the user identity accessing or performing search, making sure that these information are the only ones that turn up in the search results. That requires the search engine awareness of the person accessing the search, his role and authority within the enterprise. This is called the Persona, and the awareness of the search engine about the persona enables securing the results according to roles and authorities within the enterprise. Also, persona attributes can affect the relevance feature of the enterprise search mentioned above, so the role of the individual within the enterprise is taken into consideration while ranking search results.
6. Scalability. As a company grows and expands, so does the data. A good enterprise search solution should consider future expansion, both in terms of the data it handles and the human resource needed in light of this expansion. In most cases, businesses plan for a period of 3-5 years.
7. Total cost of ownership. It is bound to cost something. Companies should figure in the budget items such as yearly software license cost, implementation cost, hardware maintenance cost, and user training cost among others.
Besides these basic features, it’s also good to check other key functionalities that an enterprise search solution can offer. According to a Forrester’s report in 2011, other functionalities that a search solution may offer include mobile support, support for social tags, and support for other operating systems.