Sometimes I stray from writing about federated search to covering enterprise search. Enterprise search is a close cousin to federated search so I’m not straying too far. I find myself at times inspired by what people are thinking about and doing in the enterprise search world. Enterprise Search: Rethinking it in a Web 2.0 World is a FUMSI article by Jayne Dutra that is visionary in its view of where enterprise search is going.
Dutra understands that search is complex because the needs of the enterprise are complex as are the many ways that information can be gathered and assessed. Dutra writes:
Enterprise search is no longer a one-size-fits-all problem. Information retrieval is a complex area that is being increasingly seen as task dependent. In other words, how and why a user searches is directly related to what type of activity he is engaged in. Therefore search solutions must be designed around specific business problems that provide meaningful value to the enterprise.
Google doesn’t cut it for today’s hard business problems, and neither does traditional federated search.
What should we expect to see in enterprise 2.0 that belongs in federated search 2.0? Dutra has ideas:
- “creating a holistic information architecture designed for the enterprise that allows input and evolution by the users themselves.” Think social bookmarks and content tagging, then searching this user-created metadata.
- “Metadata about people can be reconciled with metadata about objects and process to facilitate personalised content delivery. Knowing an employee’s department and role implies something about the tasks associated with that employee.” Single-sign on environments, and an awareness of a user’s relationship to the organization facilitates this.
- “Data should be available without regard to device or location thereby setting the stage for recall in handheld devices or mobile units.” Yes, yes, yes.
- “The corporate information environment should be available to access by machines as well as individuals and utilise a common data reference model for improved data consistency.” A semantic layer is badly needed here. Automated semantic tagging and semantic analysis are advancing. While I don’t think we’re there yet I bet in a couple of years we’ll be much closer to having a semantic layer.
Dutra sums up her vision of the future:
The ultimate goal is an information environment enhanced by metadata and served up through a number of rich user interactions facilitated by role based access. Unified enterprise search at my organisation is conceived of as a set of integrated systems utilising different types of technologies to provide information quickly and represented with a variety of visualisation techniques including charts, sliders for query definition, and thumbnails of engineering drawing families.
Her vision is compelling and achievable. It’s no longer about a list of search results. That’s so 2005!
If you’re interested in other pieces I’ve written about enterprise search you might enjoy these:
- Enterprise search train wrecks: lessons for federated search vendors
- Federated search in the enterprise
- Federated Search: True Enterprise Search