Contextualized computing, or the intelligent analysis of individual online behavior to provide targeted content, has had a major impact on consumer search. Now it appears contextualized computing may soon have a major impact on enterprise search as well.

Contextualized Computing and the Consumer

Alistair Mitchell, CEO and cofounder of Huddle, a provider of cloud-based content management and collaboration technology, discussed what he believes to be the imminent death of enterprise search as we know in an interview with CMSWire. He began by explaining how contextualized computing works in the consumer space.

“In the retail arena, if you go into a big grocery store with a loyalty scheme, you expect to receive relevant offers,” said Mitchell. “The same is now true online.” Mitchell gave examples such as behavior-based product recommendations from and location- and price-based recommendations for hotels and car rentals consumers receive when booking a flight online.

“There is too much information for us to find ourselves,” said Mitchell. “It’s a win for the consumer and a massive win for the vendor.”

The trend toward contextualized computing is also showing up in social media, said Mitchell, such as when a Facebook user is shown photos of their friends doing things they are interested in. Consumer search is also undergoing a context-driven transformation.

“Clever search providers are also moving in this direction,” he said. “Google is more and more contextualized with location-based results and filling in queries as you are typing them.” 

Contextualized Computing and the Enterprise

Despite the benefits contextualized computing has provided consumers in their search for content and information, Mitchell said the enterprise is far behind. “There is no contextual information,” he said. “You have to do research in 50 places -- email, Web, C-drives, the cloud, even inside people’s heads.”

However, just as traditional search is dying in the consumer world, Mitchell predicts traditional search will die in the enterprise world within the next five years. Huddle has released the beta version of a contextualized enterprise search tool for iPad and iPhone that uses a patented algorithm and the abilities of content management/enterprise collaboration technology to bring contextualized computing to the enterprise.

“The content management system knows what you’re working on and sees everything else that is going on in the enterprise,” he said. Thus using contextualized computing, the Huddle tool can automatically comb through all the available data located in different parts of the enterprise and recommend specific people, documents, articles, etc. that might be of interest to the project a user is working on.

“Autonomy did something behind the firewall, but we’re not behind the firewall anymore,” said Mitchell. “We’re on mobile devices and in the cloud.”

Mitchell concluded by saying contextualized computing allows the enterprise to finally be intelligent. “Business is still pretty dumb,” he said. “We help people find content of interest.” 

Social Networks and Enterprise Search

In a recent CMSWire guest column, consultant Julie Hunt took a different viewpoint on the changes coming to enterprise search. She agrees with Mitchell that enterprise search must evolve, but sees a much larger role for social networking technology.

“It is critical that all employees have the ability to find and analyze information and data across the enterprise,” said Hunt. “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.

Hunt said social can “serve to fine-tune or filter search by leveraging additional information about the Searcher, as a valuable enhancement.” This includes tapping into employee profiles, internal networks and other work-related interactions to return relevant data. Social interactions also enable valuable “serendipitous or accidental acquisition of information or knowledge.” Hunt also advises connecting search capabilities to social activity streams and aligning data across all applications.

Integrating Multiple Repositories 

In a February 2012 article, CIO recommended that companies investigate advanced enterprise search tools to help boost employee productivity. CIO advised “having a single search engine that integrates results across multiple repositories -- also known as 'federated search' -- enables you to create reports ‘with a much greater informational value.’”

CIO also recognized the desire of employees to have a search experience at work similar to the one they get outside of work, noting that “enterprise search platforms will strive to become more Google-like by delivering highly personalized, more contextually relevant results.”