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Best Practices - Enterprise Search


While forward-thinking enterprises are deriving great value from enterprise search, other companies are losing both customers and insight by disdaining it.  At a minimum, companies should move to Standard Practices; large online retailers and media companies need to be at the Best Practices level.

  Worst Practices Standard Practices Best Practices
Viewpoint "We don't need it." "It helps our customers." "It lets us see into our customers' minds."
Strategy Search is not necessary -- customers can navigate to what they want Search is a shortcut that helps customers find what they want; increases cross-selling and up-selling Search is a customer-enterprise conversation; search analytics offer insight into customer desires
Process Searches are not analyzed Searches analyzed infrequently Searches analyzed daily or weekly
People Searches are not analyzed Employee analyzes searches infrequently Content expert analyzes searches regularly
Technology No search box or a search hyperlink must be clicked; no search analytics Search text box; multi-line results; rudimentary search analytics Search text box, sometimes integrated with navigation; search results are categorized

Enterprise Search: An Overview

Enterprise search is the second half of a two-part search application set. Web search engines such as Google and MSN -- as well as ads delivered within these search engines -- drive visitors to a specific Web site. Enterprise search then takes over, helping visitors find information and products on that corporate Web site.

Consequently, enterprise search differs from Web search in some ways.

  • The search universe is smaller -- an enterprise search engine must catalog thousands of products or documents, rather than billions of Web pages.
  • The information can be better “tagged” -- because companies know their product lines and information, they can add characterizing metadata that makes it easier for the underlying search engine do its work: tagging a blouse as the color “pink,” made of “cotton,” and a “size 6,” for example.
  • Visitor characteristics are sometimes known -- perhaps the customer has to sign in, or the employee must logon to use the corporate intranet. A better understanding of both the content and the user can go a long way towards making the search results relevant to the user.

Yet, both enterprise search and Web search have some things in common:

  • Search is an explicit statement of customer desire -- when customers enter a search term, they are declaring their interest -- they are looking for something specific and want to jump to it, rather than click down multiple levels to find it.
  • Search highlights a customer’s vocabulary -- when a customer looks for “notebook” on a computer retailer’s site -- and the vendor calls it only a “laptop” -- it is a hint that the vendor might want to add the extra term.

Against this technological backdrop, companies have adopted a variety of approaches to enterprise search: from making it a part of a comprehensive content management and customer analytics strategy to not using it at all.  continued...

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August 2004

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