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Finding value using Search

If it’s 10 times more expensive to find a new customer than to better serve an existing one, then it must cost at least that much to recreate a document instead of searching - and finding - an existing one. Search technologies have revoluntionised how we locate and use information.

How many of us have wanted to know the answer to something have resorted to typing the question into a web search engine to get what we need? Forget using our brain - searching’s so much easier.

While ‘Google’ has become a verb due to its pre-eminence in internet web searching, the ability to search for information within an organisation is often overlooked, even though the ability to search represents an obvious way of increasing productivity and making better use of existing resources.

Search technologies have been around for years, but adoption is still relatively limited - organisations that implement portal and collaboration solutions typically implement the packaged search tools that come with their core solution, but beyond that, there appear to be few organisations that go to the extent of implementing a specialised search solution. And this is when virtually all of us use a web search engine every day.

The business case is easy: While the adoption of search tools is lower than it should be, those tools can deliver myriad ways of locating and navigating through the volumes of information that exist, enabling reuse of information, empowering users and increasing productivity, or even to help the legal discovery process. Any organisation that can improve how its users locate, use and reuse information must also achieve an advantage over organisations that don’t allow this.

That said, search engine adoption rates are due to increase. Not only are we likely to see an increased adoption for reasons of efficiency and effectiveness, there are a myriad of products which are designed to solve the challenge of locating information and data - and Microsoft is in the middle of this activity.

Over the past few years, Microsoft has invested significantly in search. At a consumer level, Bing is Microsoft’s foray into global web search and is growing market share against the incumbent providers - an area where it has publically stated it wants traction and market share. At an enterprise level, Microsoft has grown its range of search products that are designed to search across multiple information repositories and data sources. Whether you’re looking to search across the data contained in a SharePoint solution, across an enterprise, or provide large-scale search services to thousands of simultaneous users, Microsoft has a search solution to fit the requirement.

Currently Microsoft’s search solutions comprise three core offerings: SharePoint Search, allowing search within and across SharePoint, websites and email and traditional file stores; Search Server Express, a free solution; and finally, at the high end, there are the Microsoft FAST offerings - designed for high-volume, large-scale requirements where there are thousands of simultaneous users, but also applicable for many innovative search uses.

More than text

When we think of search, many of us probably think of typing a keyword into a text box and getting a list of textual responses in return - after all, that is the typical way in which search engines are used. These days, search engines can not only access and make sense of a plethora of types of data, they can also enable different ways of navigating this information. Spatial search in particular has started to gain traction within the enterprise. Not only are online mapping services useful for obtaining directions, they also provide a real world method of displaying and accessing information. Want to know how many customers are located in a particular suburb? Display a map with their addresses plotted on it. The visualisation of data over a map enables us to navigate and think of data in new ways.

For a solutions provider such as Intergen, we see a growing need for search based on a number of key drivers: the need to increase productivity and react faster to customer and market needs; the ability to locate and reuse information, saving hours of productive time; and the ability to empower users - at all levels - to access and utilise data in new and interesting ways, allowing more informed decisions to be made. As an organisation dependent on the access and sharing of knowledge, we expect to increase our investments in these areas ourselves, and we also expect to see similar interest amongst other organisations looking to better use their resources.

This article was originally published in Intergen’s SMARTS magazine, issue 21.

Posted by: Tim Howell, Marketing Manager | 01 December 2009

Tags: Bing, Microsoft FAST, Search, Search Server Express

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