Rediscovering enterprise search

See also: Market report on enterprise search

The recent wave of mergers and acquisitions would seem to suggest that the enterprise search market is maturing as the number of players condenses.

With Oracle buying Endeca and HP taking Autonomy, it would seem there is little in the enterprise market to get nervous about.

But consider the fact that 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are sent from sensors, mobile devices, online transactions and social networks every day. CIOs must help make sense of these information sources.

Simon Price, European director at search vendor Recommind, says that IT departments must make people aware that effective enterprise search does not follow the same principles as web search.

“Enterprise search requires a much higher level of precision and recall than users are used to on the web. In web search, if users are unable to find their desired results within the first page, they tend to amend their search terms by adding more keywords,” says Price.

“But if employees don’t find the desired results at the top of an internal search, they presume the information is not available, or often blame the IT team,” he adds.

Any fault, says Whit Andrews, Gartner Group analyst, will always be with the content creators.

“They may not have developed the content that the users want. If the content exists, the question is whether the search engine can find it, and then whether it knows how to analyse it,” he says.

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The next challenge for CIOs is whether their organisation’s query capture mechanism is effective.

Then they must consider whether results are displayed in a way that allows the user to participate in a conversation resulting in successful document/data location or analysis.

Erik de Muinck Keizer, the head of Google’s enterprise search division for EMEA, cites a recent McKinsey report (The Impact of Internet Technologies Search) which identified one trillion dollars worth of productivity value that search has contributed to the global economy.

By linking this to a report from IDC that says 39 per cent of an executive’s time is wasted on fruitless hunts for the right person or the right information in their own company, then, he argues, there are good grounds to say that search has a much bigger contribution to make to industry.

Given that the IDC report quantifies each knowledge worker as costing $200,000 a year (£128,000) (based on salary, training, maintenance and other factors) then, logically, each knowledge worker in your company is wasting $78,000 (£50,000) a year on fruitless searches.

The problem with enterprise search is its lack of usability, says Keizer.

This is something that Google can address because its priority has always been to simplify search.

“Simplicity drives usability,” he says.

The introduction of Google’s search appliances has created massive cost savings and productivity gains in banks, governments and manufacturers, he claims, by unifying the various systems into one cohesive whole.