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How enterprise search can help transform digital businesses

The aim of enterprise search is to make searching for business data as simple and user-friendly as searching for something on Google or Bing.

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The information economy is transforming how businesses operate around the world, with many companies now operating entirely digitally. There is great value in the vast troves of business data, but that data can be very difficult to access and analyze.

Search engines such as Google and Bing have tamed a lot of this publically accessible knowledge and made it much easier to find and use, but for many private businesses, their vast data repositories are disorganized and individual information is hard to find.

This is where enterprise search comes in.

At a very high level, enterprise search can be thought of as a private search engine for an individual business. The aim of enterprise search is to make searching for business data as simple and user-friendly as searching for something on Google or Bing.

While these search engines can be used to search a company’s website, they use publically accessible information to do so and this data typically represents only a fraction of overall business data.

Private information such as customer contacts, suppliers, forecasts, budgets, projects, and plenty more cannot be found in this way.

brave search engine
Image: Brave

Very often, this private business data is siloed away in disparate repositories. Customer and supplier information is kept in a CRM, which is separate from budget and salary data that is kept on accounting software, which is separate from employee information kept on HR systems…the list goes on.

This is without mentioning spreadsheets, documents, and other files that are stored locally on an employee’s device. Finding specific information when it is spread across so many disconnected systems can make for an extremely difficult task, even when you know where to look for what you want.

How do enterprise search solutions help?

Enterprise search solutions aim to make it easy for any employee to find whatever they are looking for by entering keywords into a search box, just like they do when searching the web.

Behind the scenes, an enterprise search solution brings together data, regardless of origin or format, and returns the most relevant data to an employee based on their search keywords.

Companies may already do this to some degree with data lakes and data warehouses. However, these usually come with limitations that make them difficult to search or navigate in some way.

For example, very often the case is such that these repositories only contain very specific types of information, which requires employees to know ahead of time where particular information is stored. Another limitation is the format data is stored.

google desktop search dark mode
Image: Google

Data is often stored in heterogeneous formats, such as spreadsheets, documents, audio files, video files, and many more data formats.

This makes searching very difficult, as many storage solutions may only allow searching within one format at a time and may not be able to search through some formats at all, resulting in data orphans.

Enterprise search solutions are built to tackle many different file formats and offer a holistic search solution that includes all of these different formats within a single search and without requiring specific or intricate configurations by the user.

This is typically achieved through a 3-stage process:

  • Crawling – Much like search engine spiders crawl the web, so too must an enterprise search solution first crawl through all the different data sources to discover and identify all of the data that is to be included and made searchable. These data sources can include both internal and external data.
  • Indexing – This is a process that helps to speed up data discovery and retrieval. Without getting too technical, it suffices to say that searching upwards of hundreds of thousands of files each time a user makes a search request would be far too slow for general use.

    Indexing is a process by which connections between different data are made and then encoded in a format that allows for much faster searching and retrieval.
  • Searching – The final stage allows users to make practical use of enterprise search. There is much more to this going on under the hood than meets the eye. Techniques such as Natural Language Processing are used in order to be able to accept end-user input in many different forms and translate that into a search query that successfully finds the most relevant data.

    This can also involve customizing search results based on parameters such as the searcher’s data access levels and their role within the company, allowing search solutions to deliver the most relevant results on a per-user basis.

Conclusion

The goal of enterprise search solutions is to provide unified access to both public and private company data across disparate formats that are as easy to use as the web search engines many of us are already familiar with.

This grants even non-technical employees the power to find and retrieve company data without needing to know where it is located, what format it is in, or having to use very specific search terms in order to find it.

Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Chris has been blogging since the early days of the internet. He primarily focuses on topics related to tech, business, marketing, and pretty much anything else that revolves around tech. When he's not writing, you can find him noodling around on a guitar or cooking up a mean storm for friends and family.

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