Enterprise search is attempting to make itself a staple part of every business – and it’s well on its way. As enterprise search digs its claws deeper into business models and gains a stronger, more viable presence, it should come as no surprise.
Set against today’s environment of exponential information growth and globalization trends, and with a significant chunk of information lying behind the firewall, most of the issues faced on the Internet are replicated inside the enterprise. “All of the same challenges that consumers and internet users have in terms of easily creating, finding and sharing information, we see those as much – or even more so – inside the enterprise,” Glotzbach says.
Certainly, enterprise search is nothing new – and Glotzbach makes sure to point out that enterprise search has existed as long as computers have – but only recently has it really taken off as a standalone category. What’s expedited the evolution of enterprise search tools is the rampant growth of information, which has outpaced traditional methods of being able to sort through, find and extract information. In fact, Glotzbach compares today’s rise of enterprise search with the rise of Internet search, back in the days of the collapse of the portal. “The traditional means of navigating information has fallen short; and if you think back over the last five to 10 years, it’s the same thing we saw with the portal. As the amount of information continued to grow, that navigation paradigm really started to break down and search emerged as the real application through which people found information.”
Now Glotzbach is seeing the same thing happen within the enterprise. “With information growing dramatically, the traditional means of tagging and categorizing information are starting to collapse under the load. Users’ expectations are being set by the experiences they’re having on the Internet, and search is really emerging as a powerful application inside of the enterprise.”
Enterprise search has also asserted its presence amid huge investments in enterprise content management (ECM) systems in recent years. Failure to pull ROI from ECM investments has helped set the stage for enterprise search to remedy the problem. According to Glotzbach, ECM’s number one value proposition is its “find-ability,” though its overall search capability is lacking. “Most ECM systems have some basic search capability but the focus of that technology isn’t on the search component,” he insists. “Instead, these systems focus on the storage, metadata and security, but oftentimes, those ECM systems lack that high-quality, fast, effective search.”
With the majority of ECM investment focused on getting information into the content management system, the applications have faltered on the other end of the spectrum – getting the information and value back out from it. Here is where search becomes the missing link. “That’s where we see the Google Search Appliance, in particular, being a really strong complement to an ECM system,” Glotzbach says. “Now a user can go to one place, type in a few words and not only search across their intranet, file shares and similar systems, but really tap into their ECM system and experience the promise of easier access to information.”
With the October release of Google Search Appliance version 5.0, enterprise search has taken a major step towards bridging the gap between Internet search. The latest release brings ‘universal search’ to the enterprise, just five months on the heels of the consumer version being introduced to the Internet search environment. The universal search capability helps to unify search results by pulling relevant information from different repositories – such as images, videos, news, etc. – for one consolidated view of information. The added search capability is just as important inside the enterprise, where businesses oftentimes house information in separate silos.
Along with the delivery of the universal search capability, another major advancement offered with Version 5.0 is connectivity to large ECM systems. “With Version 5.0, we released the Enterprise Connector Manager, a framework for managing and configuring native connections to different ECM systems, including EMC Documentum, IBM FileNet, Open Text Livelink and Microsoft Sharepoint,” Glotzbach notes. Google also went one step further by offering both the framework and the connectors through open source so customers, partners and third-party vendors can take advantage of their code to build connectors to one or more of the roughly 300 commercial ECM systems on the market today.
Other enhancements were added in the areas of relevancy, security and control – with additional security capabilities such as Windows Integrated Authentication, which allows a customer to seamlessly connect to a Windows-based security environment. Additional capabilities were added around biasing features, which are administrator controls that allow users to customize and personalize their search appliance to their company’s environment. A new ‘date biasing’ capability allows search rankings relative to the date of the content, a feature that should be particularly useful to news organizations or the like, whose operations are dependent on the most current information.
Another exciting addition to the enterprise search space is Google Enterprise Labs, a new public site that according to Glotzbach, “takes a page out of our consumer playbook, the popular Google Labs”, and applies it towards enterprise search capabilities. “The idea of the Labs page is to take a best practice from the consumer environment and try to drive much faster innovation around the enterprise search experience.”
Three search projects were launched as part of Labs. “A ‘Search-as-you-Type’ capability provides real-time, auto-complete suggestions for search queries and performs dynamic real-time search as you’re typing,” Glotzbach explains. He compares it to Google Finance where you can begin to type a company name and it will look up the stock ticker and provide a list of completed options. In the enterprise, this feature would come in handy for looking up employee directories, company acronyms and so on.
The “Do-It-Yourself-Keymatch” feature on Labs leveraged some of the principles around Web 2.0 and social search, enabling users to insert KeyMatches into search results to influence the standings or order of the results. Glotzbach views it as an interesting means to get the community of users within a company contributing to the search experience.
The third project on Labs is a parametric search and parametric filtering capability for companies who have content with a lot of metadata and would like additional navigational elements to further refine a search. For example, additional filtering capabilities could refine the search to include results within a certain date range or division of the company.
The enterprise search report card
With enterprise search capabilities expanding and more companies looking to how search can help their business, the question now is what the true benefits of enterprise search are. According to Glotzbach, the biggest opportunity offered by a good enterprise search tool is a phrase he calls “information velocity”, which basically refers to the notion of businesses trying to move faster and more efficiently. It means different things to different businesses. For a business with a large customer support team, being able to find the right answer for a customer faster would translate to hard-dollar benefits around operational efficiency, shorter call times, etc., and then soft-dollar benefits around improved customer experience. For a technology or engineering-driven company, it means being able to quickly assemble a team’s collective wisdom for improved decision-making.
Another overarching benefit of enterprise search that applies to all companies is improved collaboration. “We see search as a key component of collaboration, especially in today’s global economy,” Glotzbach says. “It’s not uncommon for even midsize companies to have offices located throughout the world. Unfortunately, with that geographic dispersion, the left hand doesn’t necessarily know what the right hand is doing.” Search can thus become the glue that helps to connect teams with all the same information, so everyone is working on the same page and sharing the same insights.
Glotzbach summarizes the end goal of enterprise search thus: “It’s all about getting the right information to the right people at the right time and doing so in a user-friendly, effortless way – just like we’ve all come to expect with going to Google.com. The power of search gives us the opportunity to facilitate this process across business and help drive that information velocity.”
While enterprise search has certainly broken through some limitations, there’s still a way to go to meet user expectations. One looming aspect preventing enterprise search from evolving to where it needs to be is the less-than-desired vendor efforts. One thing’s clear: Glotzbach is not impressed with vendor efforts in the enterprise search space to date and believes they really need to step up to the plate. “Our view is that the vendors in the enterprise search space have really done this space a disservice over the last decade or so. They’ve seemingly intentionally made search extremely complex to deploy, an extremely pricey proposition and they’ve really scared companies away from going after a true universal search experience in the enterprise, and that’s what we’re trying to change.”
According to Glotzbach, two specific things that need to change in order to improve enterprise search adoption and usage is that enterprise search needs to get easier to deploy and prices need to come down. Ultimately, Google and vendors alike need to work to meet user expectation – and move the needle in the direction of a ‘nice-to-have’ to a ‘must-have’ when it comes to an enterprise search tool. “Most importantly, we have to deliver on that user expectation: a user needs to be able to go to their search page inside their company and it should be just as easy, fast and powerful as when they go to Google.com,” Glotzbach says.
About the contributor
Matthew Glotzbach is responsible for the development, management, and marketing of the Google Enterprise product lines. He brings 10 years of enterprise product management, marketing and sales experience to the team, specializing in the business and technology needs of enterprise customers. Prior to joining Google, Matthew was a senior member of the management team for the Computer Industry Business Unit at Trilogy, an enterprise software company based in Austin, TX.