Enterprise Search continues to go through transformations to improve its usefulness for all employees, since information is common currency for practically everyone in every organization.

To be able to agilely collect and reconcile information across disparate repositories and formats, unified search platforms will have to combine multiple search capabilities from enterprise and internet search technologies, as well as BI search and other kinds of analytics. And for it to work well, people need to be able to make use of these layers of disparate search technologies through a single point of access.

It is critical that all employees have the ability to find and analyze information and data across the enterprise. Search is not a separate technology or program, it must integrate with business processes and corporate initiatives as vital infrastructure. Search for all employees aligns with communication, connectedness and collaboration -- bringing us into Social constructs.

Social Search Tuning for Enterprise Search

Many attributes of Social Search can help Enterprise Search work better, but Social Search alone isn’t enough to replace Enterprise Search. Too many capabilities are needed to deliver what employees need from comprehensive search inside the firewall. But Social can serve to fine-tune or filter search by leveraging additional information about the Searcher, as a valuable enhancement.

Social also aligns well with one of the key success factors for Enterprise Search: Context. Many have advocated role-based context as a particularly powerful filter for effective search results. Contextual factors are usually the over-arching driver for a particular search by a particular person. As such, search needs to engender the right user experience to return the best results.

Enterprise search can tap into employee profiles, internal networks, other work-related interactions, and systems usage to personalize search and extend context in order to return the most relevant results. Beyond the usual "systems of record," social networks and activities provide a great deal of contextual information, especially in terms of topics. The composite of all of these attributes can indicate each person’s professional purview and work focus, which can better connect that person to the right information.

Social helps Enterprise Search through:

  • Social Networks -- people who know stuff, connections to other people who know stuff
  • Social Artifacts -- opinions about information, expressed through ratings / rankings, reviews / comments, tagging

Social Learning

Concepts from Harold Jarche for Network Learning provide lessons for the social aspects of enterprise search, both through inter-dependent connections and collaboration, and through independent pathways via technology (tools) and the information itself:

One way to look at network learning is as a continuous process of seeking, sensing and sharing.

  • Seeking is finding things out and keeping up to date. Building a network of colleagues is helpful in this regard -- it not only allows us to “pull” information, but also have it “pushed” to us by trusted sources.
  • Sensing is how we personalize information and use it. Sensing includes reflection and putting into practice what we have learned. Often it requires experimentation, as we learn best by doing.
  • Sharing includes exchanging resources, ideas and experiences with our networks and collaborating with our colleagues.

Also of importance is the serendipitous or accidental acquisition of information or knowledge, very much an affect of social interactions.

Social Networks: Information Acquisition

Software vendor IBM Vivismo (the Velocity Information Optimization Platform) provides an interesting story from 2009 describing how the U.S. Air Force has used social capabilities to improve enterprise search. The USAF information system is called Air Force Knowledge Now (AFKN) and has been around for several years in various iterations.