Monday, November 2, 2009

Why is FAST Enterprise Search Important Part 1



The first thing that many will ask before beginning a major Enterprise Search initiative with a product like FAST is why is an Enterprise Search important? Secondly, what is an Enterprise Search project? My approach is to not understand these questions this from a sales perspective but from a technology management and consultant perspective.

Why is Enterprise Search important?

Users have to work mass amounts of data that is either stored internally or externally. Search can mean lots of things to different industries however the goal is simple; it is to display the right information to the right person at the right time without distraction. At the same time we must have a flexible and configurable search platform that will surface the most relevant information to the business user from where it is stored.

Information Workers have to search and then utilize data. How do they do this? They typically have to log into an application and perform a search. Or when they enter an application, there may be some data contextually rolled up to them based upon who they are. There is a demand by business users to make search easier. We have heard many times "how can I search my enterprise data in the same way I Google something on the internet". Users want the ability to go to a single place, run a search query and receive results from across the entire enterprise. This is very different than performing a public internet search or a search function contained within the scope of a single application. Public internet searching has its own complexities however it typically is indexing content on websites. Enterprise Search becomes complex because the data being indexed can come in numerous formats (document file, database, mainframe, etc). From the user perspective this complexity must be transparent. They must be given a single result set that will allow them to research problem, complete task or even initiate a business process.

Organizations are challenged with providing comprehensive search solutions that can access content no matter where the data resides. Public search engines have as well created demand to provide highly relevant search experiences. Relevancy is the key to success for a search solution. To have accurate relevancy it is important to know as much as we can about the user entering the query. Profile relevancy can be determined a by numbers of things. For example where the person is located, what is their job function, and what past searches have they or colleagues done. Relevancy can also be determined by the attributes associated to a piece of content. For example is the author considered to be trusted, is the content itself fresh, or even is content highly recommended by other users. The search platform must have an adaptive relevancy model. It must be able to change based on business demands and subsequently learn how to provide better results utilizing factors that are incorporated into the relevancy model. An Enterprise Search platform like FAST can provide this advanced capability.

The vision of going to a single place find data is not really a new concept. We have seen a major push for data warehouses to create a single location to facilitate enterprise reporting. We have seen enterprise portals created which give users a single user interface that provides contextual data from disparate systems. We have seen SOA trying to consolidate business services and now we are seeing cloud services gaining traction in the market. The reality is that the enterprise architecture on the large will be disparate. Companies have made significant investments into many technologies at one time or another and consolidating them to a single platform is not always realistic. This is why we are constantly trying to find new solutions to work with data in a uniform manner. This is an important justification for an Enterprise Search solution such as FAST.

To restate, the goal is to have an Enterprise Search platform that can create single result set using disparate data from across the enterprise. Where a lot of organizations fall short is they do not have the tools to navigate this data. Business users are required to have deep domain knowledge of the organization, format of the data, and business processes. The domain expert must know what is good or bad based upon experience which is not transferrable making continuity of operations challenging. This is yet another reason why an Enterprise Search platform provides significant value to an organization.

Here are some examples of how organizations have used Enterprise Search.

  • Several major ecommerce sites like Best Buy and used FAST to better advertise to its customers, expose product significantly quicker to the customer, provide better navigation of search results and provide integration with OEM partners.
  • A business data brokerage firm was able to provide more relevant results, increase user satisfaction, provide data from multiple disparate locations, create better customer retention, created collaborative data rating system and allowed for communication between subject matter experts.
  • A community facilitator for the natural resource industry was able to create a B2B solution that provided dynamic drill/navigation of industry data, created automate extraction policies to mine for important data, was able to regionalize their search results, created a pay model for more high-end results, and improved their sales model by using relevancy.
  • A major computer production company used FAST to improve economies of scale for support personnel. They significantly lowered call-center cost by directing users to search first, provided customers with more up to date support information and allowed their worldwide staff of engineers to user their native languages when performing a search.
  • A global law firm used FAST to create a knowledge management solution that allowed them to reduce research personnel and created consolidated search experience. They significantly reduce ramp-up time of new lawyers, greatly improved relevant results with advanced content navigation, and provided better communication of best practices.
  • A law enforcement agency was able allow investigators to electronically research mass amounts of data across the government which they normally did not have access to. This subsequently increased productivity, shortened lengths of investigations and help them comply with government regulations.
  • Another government agency created a solution using FAST which would search public domain for information of persons who are potentially breaking laws and initiate business processes bring them to justice.

All these examples provide strong justifications for the value of an Enterprise Search solution. With FAST costs were reduced, they were able to meet regulations, they performed more efficiently, and generated more revenue for goods and services.

What is an Enterprise Search Project?

This will be discussed in my next blog What is a FAST Enterprise Search Project

1 comment:

suman said...

Thanks for the overview on the fast search