Enterprises are collecting lots of data. Data is coming from customer interactions, supplier interactions and internal processes and testing. Data and perhaps information is being stored in systems like ERP, CRM, Data Warehouses, etc. Additional sources of information include the new sources like wikis and other social media environments. That data and information is being further stored in presentation files, spreadsheets, and documents.
This information can be a headache for IT organizations and the Enterprise as it becomes hard to find the information that is needed for a decision. Today, information can be stored in IT systems in well-ordered structures like data warehouses or an ERP system. Or it might be stored in very unstructured forms like wikis, file sharing systems or even individual PCs. Furthermore some of the information, your own information, might be locked up in systems that don’t lend themselves to search by 3rd party tools. The challenge is to find what you are looking for out of the all the information that is ‘visible’ to you. IT shops have to provide effective search capabilities to the company and the knowledge workers in the company. That search capability must be able to look into ALL the domains where knowledge is being stored. This is not a simple problem to solve.
There is a new book called Search Patterns by Morville and Callender which provides an excellent overview of the terms, ideas, challenges and solutions to the Search problem. I recommend the book.
I’ve gone through some very interesting learning in this area this past six months. At one point, we realized that the crawler for our own internal search capability hadn’t been running for a while. Furthermore, it wasn’t crawling through several domains that are becoming increasingly important to us. In the last few months, we’ve taken steps to both make the crawl process more robust and to expand the domains that are search-able. We are also heading in the direction of making Search a more prominent part of the service we provide.
Enterprise 2.0 ideas have at their foundation the need to search through unstructured data to find the key nugget or information or person to help move things forward. Search is critical and can’t be an afterthought.