Saturday, January 27, 2007

Can the miracle enterprise search engine please stand up?

The success of search engines on the internet in helping one find information makes us wish for similar results inside the enterprise too. This need has been understood by the search engine companies and they have all tried coming out with their perfect solution for enterprise search. Many organizations have taken the plunge in implementing enterprise search engines expecting a substantial improvement in the getting the knowledge that their employees are looking for. But then the results haven't been all that impressive. One reason that I could think of us is that a Google or any search engine on the internet is not the same as Google or any search engine inside the enterprise. In the internet the search engine actually has access to a huge amount of content from which the chances that its crawlers or bots will find the information that a searcher is looking for is quiet high. While at the same time in the enterprise, the search engine on traditional KM systems which basically consists of a content management system with portals on them, the search results pulled up basically are dependent on the content captured in the CMS in the first place. Of course I agree I have been guilty of simplifying the description of a KM system in an enterprise to a alarming strip bare level. But what I want to bring out here is that search engine results are only as good as the quality of content captured in our databases. Also with the emergence of newer collaboration tools in an organization, it is not longer the CMS system that is the only database for knowledge. The enterprise search has to search through chats, forums, blogs, traditional databases and multiple other systems to bring out the iformation that a user is looking for. But I agree the importance of a well tuned enterprise search in an organization cannot be undermined. The complexity of the information being generated and used in an organization is very high. The expectations therefore, from the search engine, are certainly steep. But it would be grossly unfair from our side to judge the performance of enterprise search only through its achievements so far. There is still a long way to go in this area. The good part of this of course is that big players are looking at enterprise space as an important area of growth in the near future. Investments by these large players on this space will finally help the consumer of this development, which is basically the employee of an organization, benefit from the output of this search by being able to better find what he is looking for in an organization. All this will bring us back to the question of whether organizations should only focus its efforts in identifying the right search engine, implement it and tune it better or shouldn't it also look at what kind of knowledge is being created in an organization and ensure proper processes are in place to better help create quality knowledge objects and have better content management in place. The thin line between quantity and quality of knowledge is sometime too thin to be noticed!


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