The AIIM Digital Landfill Blog recently published an article about making information findable in the enterprise:
With the explosion of content in the enterprise, findability has become a major concern for most organizations. Tens of millions of documents can be scattered between multiple file systems, databases and content management applications. Each application has a different access method and no common interface exists for a user who needs a piece of knowledge to get their job done. Putting all of this content in a common location and providing an interface to find this data is the job of enterprise search.
The “8 keys to findability” apply to federated search every bit as much as to enterprise search. Here are the keys with my thoughts on each:
- Data in Many Types of Files. Combining files of different types from multiple sources into a single index is nice in theory but very difficult in practice. An approach that is frequently more practical is to federate the content and to access each source (regardless of its content type) through a specially crafted connector.
- Data Locked in Systems. This is the content discovery problem. Useful content is scattered throughout the enterprise. “Out of sight out of mind” is not a good thing when it applies to enterprise data. Federating multiple sources keeps anything that might be relevant in sight.
- Not all Text is the Same. Context is important. Enterprise search places great value on going beyond keyword search to providing search results in context. Federated search could do more in this area.
- Users Can’t Spel so Gud. A spell checker is a start but it’s not enough. A domain-specific thesaurus can widen the net just enough to find relevant content that would be missed otherwise.
- Word Forms should not be Important. Not a whole lot to say here. Stem. Lemmatize. Do reasonable things with stop words.
- Relevancy is not the same for Everyone.
- Security is Paramount. Access control is a big deal in the enterprise but is more a special case in federated search.
- Effective Search Experience. Usability. Usability. Usability. Not all federated search applications are created the same. If they can’t use it they can’t find what they need.
Relevance and personalization come together. Allow tuning of what fields matter most in search results. Ideally, customize these parameters for each user.
The AIIM article concludes with a fitting summary:
These eight items are critical to consider when implementing an enterprise search solution. Keep in mind however, that most often this needs to be an iterative process. The goal of findability requires regular reviews of user activity and tuning to ensure that the application is still effective. The core, however, is a good search engine and some domain knowledge about the content available to an enterprise. While these projects can be difficult, achieving findability for your knowledge store will make your users productive. And that is certain to make management happy.