Data & Intelligence

Introduction to Enterprise Search

I recently investigated a few Enterprise Search tools.  After attending some training, I was really excited to learn more about the software and what Enterprise Search is all about.  I wanted to use this blog as an opportunity to share some information that I have obtained and present my opinion on where this industry is headed.  Please provide your comments into any of the below sections as I am excited to tap into this industry and learn from my peers.

To me, Enterprise Search is all about unlocking data within an organization and presenting that data in a usable/actionable format to the business user.  However, what sets Enterprise Search apart is that it searches across all sources and formats of data – structured (Databases), unstructured (images), and semi-structured (XML) – within an organization.  Once this data is accessed, the Enterprise Search “engine” then aggregates this data in order to create “relationships” among the data.  Lastly, and perhaps most important is the ability to present this data in a format which is usable/actionable.  Business users can easily identify and drill-down into data in order to perform analysis.  Additionally, many Enterprise Search programs have customizable front-ends which allow for Agile-BI development.  I like to think about Enterprise Search in relation to other BI Reporting applications – both are trying to answer business questions.  However, the key component of Enterprise Search is that it is less rigid in terms of the source data/systems.  In practical implementations, Enterprise Search has been popular in call centers.  As customer service representatives are assisting customers on the phone, they can easily navigate through relevant content to assist the customer.

I believe Enterprise Search fits into the Business Intelligence (BI) strategy of an organization – of course I am biased given that I am part of the BI group, but I believe Enterprise Search is a perfect complimentary tool to many of the other BI reporting platforms that exist today.  According to Forrester,

Enterprise Search is a key component of an Information Workplace (IW) strategy that organizations build to unify their diverse information environments.

Data Intelligence - The Future of Big Data
The Future of Big Data

With some guidance, you can craft a data platform that is right for your organization’s needs and gets the most return from your data capital.

Get the Guide

Below is a list of the key players in the industry as identified by Forrester – “Market Overview: Enterprise Search.”  In addition to this list I also just discovered Solr which is an open-source Enterprise Search platform.  Please note: this article is over 1 year old and some major acquisitions have taken place – more on that later.

  • Autonomy
  • Attivio
  • Coveo
  • Endeca
  • Exalead
  • Fabasoft
  • Google
  • IBM
  • ISYS Search
  • Microsoft
  • Sinequa
  • Vivisimo

Forrester identified the below three categories for Enterprise Search products in the “Market Overview: Enterprise Search.”

  • Specialized search vendors. This category includes vendors that position search as a strategic investment to solve a specific problem, such as accessing and analyzing information within a particular business function, like customer support or supply chain. These vendors see great promise in industry-specific and role-specific search-based applications and in search as a supplement to business intelligence (BI) investments. Vendors in this category include Attivio, Coveo, Endeca, Exalead, Sinequa, and Vivisimo.
  • Integrated search vendors. Vendors such as Autonomy, IBM, and Microsoft have merged search capabilities with other information management functionality (e.g., web content management, archiving, content analytics, and collaboration). These vendors do sell search independently from their other products, but their vision is to push search deep into and across the Information Workplace stack. When infrastructure vendors acquire specialized search vendors, they will join this category.
  • Detached search vendors. This group of vendors — including Google, ISYS, and Fabasoft — focuses on ease of deployment and flexibility. Google dominates this category with its handsoff appliance. ISYS has deconstructed its offering into adaptable components for end users and other vendors to buy.

During my training and analysis, I repeatedly heard terms that were foreign to me.  I have consolidated that list here as I felt it would be helpful to track the key terms across the industry; especially when comparing tools.

  • Faceted: also known as faceted navigation or faceted browsing; enable a user to navigate information along multiple paths corresponding to different orderings of the facets.  For example, a collection of books might be classified using an author facet, a subject facet, a date facet, etc.
  • Structured Data: data that is identifiable; for example, data within a Database
  • Unstructured Data: any data that has no identifiable structure. For example, images, videos, email, etc.
  • Semi-structured Data: form of structured data that does not conform with the formal structure of data models associated with relational databases or other forms of data tables, but nonetheless contains tags or other markers to separate semantic elements and enforce hierarchies of records and fields within the data.  For example, XML.
  • Metadata: data that describes other data; used as part of the analytical process
  • Taxonomy Management: organization of data to improve retrieval of information
  • Crawl: search engine “Spider” will read the text and follow the links on a site. As the spider robot moves throughout the pages of a site it is Crawling the site and collecting information for the search engine.  This can become an additional source of data as many tools having crawling functionality.
  • Information Workplace: enables the aggregation of software functionality that helps knowledge workers access the information and expertise they need.
  • Social Tags: method for Internet users to organize, store, manage and search for bookmarks of resources online.  Used as part of the “engine” process in Enterprise Search to develop relationships among the data.

In the future, I envision an Agile BI team which builds analysis and reporting on the fly without involving IT in the typical project.  No need to wait for resource availability, prioritizing, approval, data discovery, infrastructure procurement, development, etc…to name a few.  These “reports” are used for ad-hoc business/situational analysis; while at the same time functional BI reporting is still the backbone of the organization.  I also feel that given the recent major acquisitions of two of the key players in Enterprise Search (IBM Completes Acquisition of Vivisimo – May 29, 2012; Oracle Buys Endeca – October 18, 2011), the industry will continue to become consolidated as awareness has now increased.  I feel Enterprise Search is a trending technology that will continue to grow as Big Data evolves and becomes a staple in the organization.  Additionally, from an organizational perspective, it simply makes a lot of sense to unlock the hidden data and knowledge within and outside the organization.  External data becomes especially important with the growth of social media and the opportunity to track customer sentiment of the organization and its products.

Questions to readers:

  1. What predictions do you see in the Enterprise Search market?
  2. Can you think of any other Key Terms that I should include in my list?
  3. What other Enterprise Search software have you used?
  4. What are your experiences in using these tools?
About the Author

More from this Author

Thoughts on “Introduction to Enterprise Search”

  1. Brett Baloun Post author

    Hi Martin, Thank you for your comment and for passing along the additional information. I sent you an invite to connect on LinkedIn and I am also following you on Twitter. I look forward to seeing your comments about the selection and implementation of enterprise search applications.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe to the Weekly Blog Digest:

Sign Up