When I were there, I looked at their infrastructure and their business processes, and tried to assess the maturity level of their knowledge management program. The results were appalling. They did not have a knowledge management program. They did not have enterprise content and collaboration management system. They did not have internal search. Their external search engine despite of having two searches was redundant. They did not understand the significance of search for their employees as well as business with respect to productivity and knowledge access. The researcher procured information from various knowledge databases and repositories through a library services. There were not processes in place to measure the effectiveness and efficiency of these library services. The researchers and scientist were so dependent on Google and Yahoo's for information related to their work.
This is not the only story of, how organizations can go wrong in understanding the user needs and implementing ineffective search solutions. I have browsed through so many organization's websites that have great products and services but lack in providing effective search solutions for their users. I do and do not blame them. There is so much work done on external search engines like Google, Yahoo that the expectation of end users have gone up for all kind of searches. When they browse organization search sites, they expect similar user experience and relevance as they get on external web search engines. I do not mean to say that there aren't enterprise search engines who provide similar relevance and experience as external search engines. There are search products from Fast, Verity and Autonomy that leaders in enterprise search.
If I need to suggest a tool that would solve the research organization's search problem, first I would try to understand their business and user needs. Then I would list the features that I need in my product. Lets drill down on the requirements:
1. Ability to search all my repositories including websites, file systems, databases, enterprise applications like SharePoint, Documentum etc. They researcher will be able to access of information including past work done as well knowledge acquired from various sources.
2. Ability to search on external Corporate and academic libraries, journals, feeds etc. It is also called federated search. They do not need to go to various search engines to get information.
3. Ability to classify my documents and content in easy to browse categories. This would help me drill down on the information based on categories rather than pages with 10 results. No one actually browse beyond couple of pages on search.
4. Web administrative interface with advance linguistic capabilities including metadata, synonyms, antonyms, relative weighting for text fields and stemming.
5. Ability to perform secure searches.
6. Ability to scale and perform.
The rest of requirements are generic like relevance, supporting formats, summary extraction, metadata indexing and crawling configuration. If I have a tool that provides solution to all the requirements, certainly it is a candidate for my approval.
When I did the research, I found Vivísimo Velocity Search Engine as one of most powerful enterprise search that satisfy my set of requirements and a great relevance algorithm as compared to Google/Yahoo. There were other who did come close but not close enough. They were either not able to satisfy all requirements or not packaged as single solution.
Vivísimo, a difficult word to pronounce, provides innovative search solution that not only provides same search relevance as compared to the external web search engines but also provides similar user experience. You can access their public web search at http://vivisimo.com/ to get a glimpse. Their clustering solution is also popularly known as Clusty.
Integral components of the Vivísimo Velocity Search Platform:
- Velocity Search Engine
- Velocity Content Integrator
- Velocity Clustering Engine
The external web search of Vivísimo looks impressive and I just hope the enterprise search is as promising as their web search. I think anyone looking for enterprise search engine should take a look at their offering.
I have done lot of research of federated search and clustering technology which are commercial as well open source. I will write on these technologies in coming posts.