Why You Should Modernize Enterprise Search and Two Things That Will Make it Successful

Elastic’s recent and very specific move into the Enterprise Search market and availability of their beta product has put some serious energy into the ever-present, business productivity problem. It remains as challenging as ever despite many vendors providing core search technology now for decades.

On Elastic’s Q2 earnings call last year, Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Analyst, Kash Rangan, mentioned that their own survey found that more than 90% of current Enterprise Search respondents were still on legacy technology. They were built to address a problem that has likely worsened. Elastic’s move is smart. Now is the time to re-think how Enterprise Search can be modernized, re-focused and re-imagined in today’s cloud-first, mobile, remote working and always-on world.

After being involved in this space for two decades, I have experienced a variety of Enterprise Search’s capabilities.Through highly focused mobile search applications in tight and very specific use cases, to global-scale billion+ document mega-platforms supporting all employees, languages and multiple security models, I have taken away key learnings and opportunities.

Before we get into those, where is Enterprise Search at today and why hasn’t AI nailed it already? Whilst much has changed and core search technology is now a commodity, AI has lightened the load. This emerging function has provided advancements in areas such as intelligent extraction, relevancy modeling and intent detection. However, at its core, successful search is not solved with a single, clever piece of technology powered by AI.

In 1999, we used to hear that 80% of Enterprise Data is unstructured and growing exponentially. Throughout that time, we have moved from unstructured data being predominantly on-premise, to now being locked away in a portfolio of cloud deployments, applications and storage devices. Enterprise Search 2019 has its work cut out to stitch this together into a tool that genuinely informs employees in their day to day tasks.

What, then, is the mission statement of a successful Enterprise Search system today? At its most basic level, the function of search is to enter terms and show a list of matching results. Many stop there, putting the onus on technology to work magic in making sure these results are amazing. But it is not enough. There is no magic. Success involves thinking about what the user is actually trying to do, assisting their outcomes and working more fundamentally with technology and User Experience to put relevant information into the context of their business problem.

There are a number of ways to frame this objective. From the visionary perspective, the experience would somehow detect the context of the task at hand and automatically infer searches for information and data. This brings the experience seamlessly into the user’s workflow. Mixed Reality does this today in a limited fashion. And for most business scenarios, this advanced concept remains somewhat aspirational. But that may change, though, keep watching — Microsoft Hololens2 I'm referring to you!

A simpler way to think of this, which you can emulate, is to take a look at how Google architects their search experience. Google has evolved beyond all recognition and is constantly optimized through experimentation. One blueprint for success, which your employees will relate to, is there in plain sight.

Google gives the illusion of a single search box for everything, and is a paradigm we all understand. But Google is multiple search applications tuned for content types and uses cases at hand. Collections such as Web, images, maps, shopping and flights have been designed and optimized to help us find exactly what we need; they reduce the friction and clerical work required to engage with the results and achieve the outcomes we want. This UX approach, coupled with Google’s amazing relevancy, is a killer combination.

In 2019, there are two big take-aways to help make your reimagined Enterprise Search successful.

  1. Don’t create one Enterprise Search app which tries to do it all. Create a smaller number of focused apps for your core use cases. The communities and content may be entirely different.

  2. Have a Search Management Team in place to not just maintain the technology platform, but also keep it optimal and aligned with changing user expectations and content. The team needs a product owner for search, business stakeholders and IT.

Thus, Elastic’s approach is spot on. Through its design for rapid deployment and initial focus on Cloud Apps and content, I can only see a successful future. If you’re re-thinking Enterprise Search, your needs may be complex and you wonder what strategy to take. Our Solstice search experts have decades of experience — challenge us to re-think, modernize and build an Enterprise Search system on Elastic. Once we’ve enlightened you with the best approach, we can show you how to manage it and keep it that way. You won't need to re-think it again.