If asked, most directors and senior managers would say the most important resource in their organisation is either information or people. Many would also admit that their organisation is not good at supplying one to the other. Despite spending much time and effort—not to mention large sums of money—few enterprises deliver complete, reliable and usable information to their employees, where and when they need it.
The main cause of this shortfall lies in the nature of corporate data. It comes in dozens of formats, from an expanding range of sources, sits in any number of places, is often stored higgledy-piggledy and is of variable quality. The range of tools and methods used to get at it is equally diverse. In particular, there is a gulf between the way users access numerical and textual data. They can seldom use the same tools to find and analyse business correspondence, say, as they do for business statistics.
Modern search software can bridge this gap. Being able to work with all kinds of data, in any kind of repository, it aims to offer a universal source of supply. Also, it helps turn that data into information. From raw figures and words, it creates something meaningful to, and immediately usable by, human beings.
Good manners are often described as a social lubricant, easing communication and interaction between people. Search is an informational lubricant. It eases the communication between people and business data and how they interact with it.
The problem with search is that it is almost too familiar. Because we use it every day, we think we know what it is and how it works. That is far from the truth. There are several different types of search, each using a different mechanism and technology.
While we focus in this paper on ‘enterprise search’, it is important to distinguish between this and other forms of search. We will explain these differences. Further, we will discuss the applicability of the varying search technologies that are available and consider how and why enterprise search is important to your business.