Google Enterprise Search

One of the challenges in a large distributed enterprise is “finding stuff”. Sure we call it collaboration, knowledge management, or any number of other sophisticated terms but often it boils down to just finding stuff.

To compensate the organization reacts by saving multiple copies and versions of a file in many different locations: email, shared file systems, intranets, etc. Of course this compounds the issue and drives the desire to save “my copy” to “somewhere where I can find it”.

A CIO’s role is to figure out how to make this problem go away. So we start with good solid information management concepts:

  • We need a taxonomy of our information
  • We need to understand our “golden copies”, or master repositories
  • We need the information to be very easily searched and discovered by our employees - wherever they are. This problem encompasses:
    • Time zones
    • Languages
    • Geography and the associated latency
    • Indexing/crawling many diverse data stores
  • It needs to be so simple and easy that it naturally overcomes the employee’s desire save a personal copy.
  • We must have mature data access and permissioning processes in place. Unleashing search on corporate systems where permissions aren’t managed well is a huge risk.

But even though these concepts are straightforward they are not easy. Many of us wished we could just “Google” our companies documents. Google understands this and has made enterprise search a product for some time now - it was first released in 2002! I was just taking a look at it recently and it has come a long way from where it started. Relevancy is the key however, and Google considers its relevancy calculation models to be a precious competitive differentiator and therefore keeps them opaque.

Many of us have tried to use Microsoft’s platform in the past but it was always a bit of a challenge to manage, and the results were a hodgepodge. It has also come a very long way with Microsoft’s FAST search technology and in SharePoint 2013 there is a mature approach to deploying search. This clarifies what had long been a confusing product line featuring many different kinds of search capability for SharePoint.

It is encouraging to see the progress and competition in this space. Someday soon corporate document/information search may be as simple as we are accustomed to on the web.

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