Are you in the market for an enterprise search platform? It’s a necessity for companies of all sizes these days. However, that doesn’t mean any option will do. Instead, you should carefully shop around to find a program that contains the following five key factors. Otherwise, you’ll eventually run into serious problems.
Introducing Enterprise Search Platforms
The below will be much easier to make sense out of if you first have a firm grasp on what we mean by an enterprise search platform. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to understand. Right now, your company is sitting on a mountain of data. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in or how big your company is, unless you just started, you have a vast collection of information.
All of this information comes with a number of costs, as you may already know. It has to be stored in a virtual environment, for example, which means servers and other forms of software. It means paying to support this kind of digital infrastructure too. The list goes on and on, but sufficed to say, it’s vital that you see something in return for all these costs.
This is one thing an enterprise search program does well. It goes a long way toward making sure that all of that data you’ve worked so hard to collect and store doesn’t go to waste. After all, if you can’t find it, what use is it? It’d be like paying for a library full of books when you weren’t able to take a single one off the shelf and read it.
The Difference Between an Enterprise Search Engine and the Kind on the Web
One thing we need to get straight right off the bat is that an enterprise search engine is not the same kind as a web search engine. The latter refers to those like Google and Yahoo. They’re exceptionally good at what they do, of course, but they can’t do the kind of thing we’re talking about.
Maybe you already know this. A lot of people try pivoting Google or other search engines to some degree in an attempt to search their own records. The problem is that these web engines are best at skimming the surface of their data sets. They aren’t designed to drill down very deep, nor are they even that good at deciphering relevance. They’re just supposed to return with as much information as possible in the hopes that their wide net will have been successful.
Also, it’s worth pointing out that a complete lack of backlinks in your company’s digital environments means that Google and other search engines will be completely crippled. They depend on backlinks even more than keywords these days so, without them, they can’t return very good results.
Text Analytic Functions
Most of us don’t give search engines much thought above the fact that we enter in the words we’re looking for and then just assume the program will go out and find what we want. Of course, the majority of the time, this is all we really need to know. There would be no point in sitting down and looking into it further, but it’s worth thinking about a bit right now.
That’s because if you plan on selecting the best possible enterprise search program for the job, you’ll need to consider this function in a bit more detail. That’s because your software can go searching for your target in a handful of ways.
There’s entity extraction, for example. This means the search engine is able to identify an item in your text that falls under a predefined category. A category could be the names of locations, people, organizations, monetary values, teams, etc.
Then there is entity co-reference resolution. This refers to your search engine’s ability to accurately interpret what your text means. It does this by connecting pronouns to the correct individuals. In this way, your search engine needs to be able to “read” on a certain level.
Relationship extraction is a similar feature. It finds links between entities that were previously extracted around the same reference. Perhaps a certain date, location and list of people are all associated with the same meeting; you’d want a search engine that knows how to draw up that association.
Sentiment analysis also falls under readability to a certain degree. It refers to a program’s ability to classify text as positive, negative or neutral based on emotional emphasis.
A faceted search would be one that progressively narrows through guided navigation, which helps drill down to the right category. This is a fairly standard feature these days, but no less important.
Finally, there’s clustering. It refers to the ability to find all documents related in some way even if you don’t necessarily know how they relate to one another. If you were looking for all the documents relevant to a class-action lawsuit, for example, this would be an important feature to have.
Theoretically, there are all kinds of ways you could design the architecture for an enterprise search program. That being said, the only acceptable version these days is to go with a pipeline.
As you just saw, high-performing search engines incorporated at least five tools. The question then becomes, how do you do use all these tools in such a way that you aren’t going to get a disorganized mess as a result? How do you get these assets to work with one another harmoniously?
The answer is the pipeline architecture you want in any search program you’re considering. Sometimes called plug and play, this type of organization allows you to add or subtract various functions in order to get an ideal solution.
By doing this, you get a number of advantages over just trying to throw everything you have at the search. First, it comes with the benefit of being able to add in more search options down the line. If the manufacturer of your program comes out with new algorithms, just add them in and start benefiting from them immediately.
Obviously, with this type of architecture, as time goes on, you can get rid of search functions that are no longer worth their digital research and replace them with better versions. This is why pipeline architecture is probably the best available option for your budget.
Rest assured that better ways to do searches will come along. However, brand new methods will be created as well. With a pipeline search architecture, you can always benefit from them.
No matter what kind of digital solution you’re considering, it absolutely needs to be scalable. That should go without saying. For one thing, it’s another smart way to stay on top of your budget. The more you can scale, the more your investment can grow with your company or even shrink back down if necessary. Otherwise, you’re going to be spending money in any direction your company moves.
Of course, scalability also refers to how many employees can use your search function right now. You don’t want to pay for a platform and then have to regulate who can use it when because you’re worried about the kinds of delays people are facing when they try doing searches. Some companies end up needing multiple copies of the same solution simply because they went with an enterprise search program that lacked scalability. Avoid this at all costs or your costs will be exceptionally high.
The pipeline architecture we brought up earlier is great for getting the most from the functionality you pay for with an enterprise search program. What about all the other technologies you use though? Make sure your software can also play nicely with any content management systems you use, relational databases, your favorite Internet platforms and any other file systems your company relies on.
Hopefully, it goes without saying that security needs to be a priority with any software you purchase. When it comes to an internal protocol like a search platform, though, you may not think it’s as important as, say, a mobile app.
The truth, though, is that you could be creating a dangerous back channel with your search engine if it isn’t adequately protected. Anyone who is able to hack their way to this software can use it to treat your company’s data like their personal library. Make sure the latest security protocols are in place.
Once you understand how these search engines work and the importance of the five features listed above, finding the right search platform for your company will come down to a much shorter list of options. Fortunately, these platforms have become so important that the vast majority of the ones you’ll find these days are of high quality. If you really want to speed up the process, though, look into what other companies in your industry use. Software developers always like boasting about their customers. Find one that has customers in your industry and you’ll have a good idea of a platform that will most likely meet your needs.
Written by Mike Miranda.
Mike Miranda writes about enterprise software and covers products offered by software companies like www.rocketsoftware.com about topics such as Terminal Emulation, Legacy Modernization, Enterprise Search, Big Data and Enterprise Mobility