What is Enterprise Search?

The practice of identifying and enabling specific content across the enterprise to index, search, and display to authorized users.

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What is Enterprise Search?

Search is not just search any more. It is the art and science of making content easy to find. One might also consider "findability," a word popularized by Peter Morville in his book Ambient Findability. The art refers to Language Arts – specifically, the leveraging of software that can parse (In computer science and linguistics, parsing, or, more formally, syntactic analysis, is the process of analyzing a text, made of a sequence of words, to determine its grammatical structure with respect to a given (more or less) formal grammar), diagram, and/or infer meaning from captured content. The art also refers to the development of a user interface that makes the retrieval process intuitive and responsive.

The science is Library Science, including techniques such as metatagging, categorization, and taxonomies, all of which have to do with information organization and are key to efficiently getting stuff back out of an information management system once it has been put in.

Findability is far more than just typing something into a search box and getting a result. It’s also about discovering things about a topic that you didn’t necessarily know you were looking for, and thus includes elements of browsing and discovery as well.

Enterprise search is how your organization helps people seek the information they need from anywhere, in any format, from anywhere inside their company – in databases, document management systems, on paper, wherever. Just because there are powerful search tools available, does not mean that you should not organize your content.

Enterprise search is made up of several sub-systems as depicted here by the Real Story Group.

Enterprise Search

What happens first is that a “crawler” crawls directories and websites, and extracts content from databases and other repositories, and arranges for content to be transferred to it on a regular basis so it can notify the search engine that new information is available.

Next, a searchable index is created, and other value-added processing, such as metadata extraction and auto-summarization, may take place. These functions group information into logical categories that in turn can be searched and return results to users based on how the particular search engine has categorized them.

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Effectively Organize Content

Once this index is created, queries can then be accepted. Queries aren’t necessarily questions, as they can also be just terms or phrases that represent whatever you’re looking for, typed into the search box.

At this point, the search engine processes the query by passing over the index, finding the information that matches the particular term or subject entered, and sending that information to some sort of processor, which then sorts the information by relevancy or other measure, clusters it based on the categorisation, applies some other logic (such as “best bets” or “recommended best”).

Last comes the formatting, which presents the results page that you’re used to seeing, in whatever format you’ve chosen.

Note: This information is taken from the body of knowledge that comprises AIIM’s Certified Information Professional exam and designation.

AIIM has recently introduced a new course on Taxonomy and Metatada that will help you learn how to optimize navigation, information discovery and findability. Courses are available online or classroom, and please visit www.aiim.org/training for course objectives and agenda.

Additional Resources on Enterprise Search:

Videos - http://www.aiim.org/training/certification/get-prepared/videos/access-use/enterprise-search/search-components-overview
8 Keys to Findability    http://aiim.typepad.com/aiim_blog/2010/10/8-keys-to-findability.html
Findability Research 2008    http://www.aiim.org/Research-and-Publications/Research/Industry-Watch/Findability
Taxonomy and Metadata course   http://www.aiim.org/Training/Certificate-Courses/Taxonomy-Metadata/Overview
How to Develop Effective Content Structure for Navigation, Information Discovery,  and Findability  http://pages2.aiim.org/taxonomies_navigation_discovery_findability.html
Content Access – maximizing availability across the enterprise    http://www.aiim.org/Research-and-Publications/Research/AIIM-White-Papers/Content-Access
Toolkit: Search/Information Organization and Access (IOA)    http://www.aiim.org/Research-and-Publications/Research/ECM-Toolkits/1719
E-Discovery and ERM – how is records management performing in the new spotlight?    http://www.aiim.org/Research-and-Publications/Research/Industry-Watch/ERM-and-eDiscovery-2010

If you liked the above resources, you may also want to review the following standards:

[List of standards to be added with links for acquiring.]

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