Enterprise search empowers people: let's discover how
Last year, we addressed the rhetorical question Do workers still waste time searching for information? Depending on the (digital) nature of your business, any number between 10 to 30 % of knowledge workers’ time is spent searching for information. That time can be well spent, but it is a substantial and significant cost.
If people at your company spend a considerable amount of time searching for information, do they find what they need? How much time does that take? How many wrong turns do we take before arriving at our information destination? To visit new places, we search for them on Google Maps. Without such a guide, we don’t discover that the essential piece of information exists. Even worse, we waste substantial amounts of time recreating an inferior copy. Over the last decade, searching in a professional context has increased in importance and complexity. If data is the new gold, enterprise search (ES) is the shovel to dig.
According to Harvard Business Review – “How should we measure the Digital Economy” – consumers value search engines (Google, Solr) more than other digital categories, with no comparable off-line substitutes. Research uncovered that users are willing to give up on search engines only if they receive more than $ 15,000.
Although we invest large and increasing amounts of our time and money in information, we only have limited insight into the return on information. However, it is possible to quantify information efficiency much better than we do today. We need mechanisms to measure and improve.
The new content management systems, collaboration tools, and corporate portals have improved access to information. However, they have also created an information deluge. New information silos arise on a daily basis, via ‘old school desktop sync (dropbox, box ..) or data and document ‘stores’ in the cloud. Without a doubt, accessibility (A) has improved, and concurrent editing is a wonderful achievement in Google Drive or Microsoft Office online. But confidentiality and integrity (CI) have suffered. Alongside cognitive clarity.
Today, we would like to address three vital questions on intelligent information management:
- How can I measure information efficiency?
- What is Enterprise Search?
- How would Enterprise Search help me do my job?
How can I measure information efficiency?
We hope you agree at this point that it is a good idea to measure information efficiency. This can and should be done in a practical manner. It requires a number of steps, that can often leverage existing information assets and processes at your company:
- Mapping the Information – Search is a journey, so we must start out being as certain as possible that we are heading in the right direction. What is there to find to do my job?
- Identifying and controlling the points of access to the information -Pay particular attention to collaboration repositories (aka Google Drive & Sharepoint). Set up measurement instruments to map where information is created and how, where and by whom or what it is consumed.
- Introducing a central point where searches are served – Google created it for the public internet. That central point acts as a compass to the underlying land of information, but it can be instrumented to capture your information needs. Consider search as a central service.
This central point in your information architecture is where enterprise search thrives. It is where you serve information and you measure its consumption. Creating enterprise search as a separate service allows you to measure usage, improve the service (for your colleagues, for your customers and partners), and disclose and secure as you deem fit, not as coincidence decides.
What is enterprise search?
Accordingly to the Enterprise Search Buyer’s Guide, enterprise search (ES) is to corporations what Google is to the internet at large, where most people no longer use homepages and have largely abandoned bookmarks. Google extracts enormous value from information just by measuring and analyzing our usage of it. So it did on internet-scale what we think you should do on a corporate scale: create a central point of information access. As-a-service. And extract the enormous value hidden in your information assets.
We can define Enterprise Search as the process of making content from different data sources available and accessible to users across the whole organization. Searching across documents and emails is the most obvious application. This applies to all organizations with large collections of documents, such as publishers, research companies, government offices, insurance, and so on.
Today, thanks to open source, those capabilities become accessible and affordable for any organization. You can bring relevance ranking, search speed, and knowledge productivity of Google to your organization. ES can put 360 up-to-date views on your customer, your project, or your product at your fingertips. Imagine you have to send out milestone invoices to your customer. You don’t want to make a mistake. Retrieve all relevant emails with that customers concerning the contract in a specific period, list the last 2 invoices, and consult the last status report on the project, in one query, on one screen. Just press “search” to get your job done.
Enterprise Search (ES) is how your organization helps people seek the information they need from anywhere, mobile, or desktop, in any format, – in databases, ERP, CRM, document management systems, wherever. So, Enterprise Search is the practice of identifying and enabling specific content across the enterprise to be indexed, searched, and displayed to authorized users. Search engines process and store information they find in an index, a huge database of all the content they’ve discovered. Enterprise search empowers data consumers to seek insight and drive productivity on their own.
- ES is a crucial central service to enable digital transformation.
- ES is the dominant UI in intelligent information management.
How would enterprise search help me do my job?
No doubt that the Internet and companies like Amazon and Google have changed our expectations of what search should be. As these expectations grew, the need to index more data and provide more context grew. Fast forward to today, where users frequently tap the microphone icon on their phone and say, “Give me a list of four-star restaurants near me that are open today” and expect—and get—a real answer (Source: Enterprise Search in 2025). Yet, ask most business users how they feel about their intranet search and they’ll answer that if they lose their magic list of bookmarks they’re hosed.
An effective Enterprise Search comes with a number of benefits.
- Faster Find: Speed and improved relevance of search and retrieval can save up to 30% of knowledge workers’ time. At Xenit, we build systems that return 95% (Solr) queries in 3 seconds. Obviously, environmental factors have a significant impact on performance, but our claim is possible with the help of technologies like Solr, Postgres, and Alfresco.
- Deliberate Discovery: By leveraging “more like this‘ and the links and relations in your information repository, people will discover information to reuse. When putting together a sales proposal, is there any proposal alike, in the same language, proposing the same product? Where are the frame contract templates and annexes I should reuse? Enterprise search solutions use signals about outside activity, such as user behavior, to recommend content and improve the quality of search results.
- Data Protection: The GDPR legislation has put private and personal data protection centers front in the minds of CIOs and data protection officers. ES can retrieve and list all information assets that contain personally identifiable information (PII). With the help of machine learning, information can be classified as standard or sensitive personal information. See 7-challenges-for-securing-your-documents.
- Customer self-service: Consumers that use Amazon tend to buy everything they don’t buy retail. Accordingly, ES is at the very center of Amazon’s superior customer experience. Your customer becomes empowered to do business with you, and you become extremely knowledgeable about your customer. Best in class ES uses signals (outside information) to make recommendations (discovery) as well as to improve search.
- Informed Decision Making: Having access to all of the data quickly and efficiently improves a company’s decision-making process. If people are obliged to retrieve data from multiple data sources in many tedious steps, they simply give up and recreate (incomplete, out of date, incorrect) information. ES combines all data sources to serve employees with up-to-date and relevant information. To serve relevant information, the best enterprise search solutions go a long way. Basically, they use the context of a user (time and place, previous searches, job to do) and analyze outside signals to push the most relevant information to the top of the ranking.
When a new tool or technology comes up, one of the worries that companies have is the cost of the system and of implementation, not to mention the time it will take to train their employees. By measuring information efficiency, you’ll collect the very data required to build the business case for enterprise search. We dare to state and aim to measure with our customers that :
- Most companies recoup the investment in one to two years.
- Improving information efficiency impacts between 10 and 30% of your knowledge workers’ salary mass.
In the next article, we’ll deep dive into the technological aspect of the Enterprise Search with Solr, the popular, blazing-fast, open-source platform built on Apache Lucene. Solr is the searching engine powering the Alfresco Digital Business Platform and Lucidworks Fusion.