If your company doesn’t have an enterprise search engine platform yet, it’s time to get moving. This type of software is just too important for any company to try surviving without it for very long. Making this kind of mistake could come back to haunt you a number of ways. Still, you can’t just go out and buy an enterprise search platform and hope for the best. Instead, before you invest in one, be sure you look for the following.
Understanding an Enterprise Search Engine Platform
Before we look at the various features you need to be aware of before purchasing this kind of software, let’s spend a second to make sure you fully understand what this kind of platform does.
First, to clarify, we are not talking about search engines like Google or Bing. These search engines are designed for the World Wide Web and they are best left in this environment. A lot of companies like yours have tried pivoting these search engines a bit, focusing them on their internal records and hoping for the best. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work. Web search engines lack the features necessary for looking deep into records, drawing out details and establish relevant connections.
Secondly, we’re not talking about open source enterprise search engines. These have become a bit more popular over the past year or so, mostly because they’re completely free. However, you’ve probably heard that expression about getting what you pay for. You can’t make the mistake of thinking this type of software is going to be worth your while despite the fact that it’s completely free.
There are a number of examples for why it will fall short. For one, though, you can’t expect consistent updates. People may mess around with the code and try to make better versions of it, but that’s hardly something you can rely on. Also, there will be no support for you if you run into problems or just want help with training. Again, you can go through forums if you like and try finding someone to help you, but is that really how you want to spend your company’s time?
The types of search engines we’re talking about in this article are made from professional developers. They are made specifically for scouring the digital environment of a company to look for everything from customer identification information to product specs to order histories and more.
High-Quality Text Analytics
At the end of the day, a search engine has a pretty simple job, at least on paper. It looks at text, deciphers it and then finds relevant files. Again, that sounds simple enough, but everyone knows there’s a lot more to it than that.
Even this ability to “read” text is highly involved. Spend a lot of time looking into how any enterprise search platform you’re considering does this. There are a number of ways this important task can be carried out and you want the best of all of them at your disposal.
Let’s look at five of them, starting with entity extraction. This refers to your software’s ability to find terms in your search query and identify them. Your search engine should then be able to match those terms to predefined categories like people’s names, locations, organizations, etc. The one you use will most likely be able to start categorizing the terms your company uses most often.
Then there’s reference resolution, which means that your search engine has to understand how pronouns relate to people’s names. Otherwise, a lot of sentences in magazine articles, newspapers and legal documents will leave your search engine “confused.”
Sentiment analysis is another important ability. Our language comes with emotional tones and you want a search engine that can pick up on positive, negative and even neutral connotations.
With a faceted search, you’ll have the ability to narrow your results progressively through a process that drills down to the precise data you want. This top-down approach ensures your engine looks at the most data possible without providing you bloated, irrelevant results.
Finally, there is clustering. Modern search engines have to find connections between documents without having “tags” or other signals to help it. Instead, the engine has to be able to read through the text, establish connections and then present them as “clusters” of information.
As you can probably tell, a lot goes into the modern search engine carrying out its duty. Again, it seems simple enough, but behind the scenes, the code is very complicated, yet designed to work flawlessly.
Much of this is thanks to its pipeline architecture. The best enterprise search platforms are organized so that one search feature fires off after the next in a choreographed method that allows you to get the most from each element without suffering from these functions stepping all over each other.
This kind of streamlined architecture is vital to the performance of a high-quality search engine. However, the cream of the crop will let you take it a step further. Instead of just having a design that delivers the best search results for the widest array of companies, you can actually customize how yours runs.
Developers know that a legal firm and a car manufacturer are going to demand very different types of information. Both of them trying to run the same types of searches most likely won’t leave either very happy. The way around this challenge is to give users the control to make changes that give them exactly what they need.
This is why you may sometimes hear the best search engine platforms referred to as being “plug and play.” It’s a nod to the fact that you can plug in what you want and get going on a search.
Support for Open Standards
Although enterprise search platforms are great, you probably rely on some other types of technology too. Most companies have all kinds of programs they could barely make it through the day without.
A lot of this technology creates its own data too. This is why you need to make sure you go with a search engine program that has an easy time integrating with your current setup. It needs to support any technology you use or you’ll find yourself getting search results that leave out important information.
If you’re worried about the likelihood that a specific type of technology you rely on may not work well with the search engine software you’re considering, just ask the manufacturer. Sometimes, they list popular software types their engines play well with, but if you don’t see yours, it’s best to check just to be sure.
No matter what kind of platform you’re investing in, if it can’t scale, it’s not worth your money. You don’t know what the future is going to bring, but it’s a safe bet that your company is going to change in size in one direction or the other and this will probably happen multiple times. When it does occur, any software you have that doesn’t scale is going to be a hindrance.
Hopefully, you need to hire more employees down the line to keep up with the demands of your market and overall success. Of course, this will mean making sure your budget can support all the overhead this will entail. If you have an enterprise search program that can scale up effortlessly, this will be one last thing to worry about.
Of course, you have to prepare for the worst too. If you ever have to lay off employees, having a scalable program will come as a huge relief. It can help save your company money at a time when this is essential, yet won’t hurt the performance you’ve come to expect.
Last, but not least is security. Every time you add a digital asset to your repertoire, you need to make sure it’s going to be able to fend off malicious parties. Given what your search engine software is designed to do, this is especially important. If someone from the outside were able to hack into it, they would also be able access all of your company’s information too. Furthermore, you would have handed them a great search engine for getting through as much of that data as possible in the shortest period of time. They could break in, run a quick search, find what they wanted and get out before you know it.
Although this may seem like a fairly extensive list of things to look for in your search engine platform, the good news is that there are a number of platforms out there to choose from. If you’d like help making sense of which platform would fit your needs the best, look into what your competitors use. Doing the same type of thing you do, in the same field means they probably have similar needs. While this isn’t always going to mean they have made the right choice, do some research and you’ll have a much easier time finding the search engine for your company.
Author bio: Mike Miranda writes about enterprise software and covers products offered by software companies like www.rocketsoftware.com about topics such as Terminal Emulation, Legacy Modernization, Enterprise Search, Big Data and Enterprise Mobility.