Enterprise search – a collaborative opportunity

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Search is so ingrained into how we find public information, the reality is that without it – the internet would not be the information utility it is today. Search of one form or another is built into just about every  software or digital product we utilise today. Within large enterprises, Enterprise Search is often pitched as a tool to empower staff and drive productivity. However when it comes to effective use of this capability in large enterprises and across disparate information repositories, the potential value is often not realised. Much of this lost value is driven by the need to ensure the integrity of access controls , however this often means opportunities for colleagues to discover, connect and collaborate are lost. So what’s the right answer?

In large enterprises a myriad of tools and information repositories exist , whether this is network shares , Sharepoint and similar products, Corporate Intranet and web content repositories. An Enterprise Search tool has the ability to crawl and index these content repositories , however often when deployed, access controls mean results are not presented to those without appropriate permissions or information is excluded from the search index completely. This means staff see a limited subset of the content available but more importantly ; miss the opportunity to discover, connect with and collaborate with colleagues who may well be working on the same or similar areas.

This is where meta data , if indexed and presented by an Enterprise Search tool in a meaningful way, has the opportunity unlock the value from content that staff do not have access to. When performing a search on a topic , because I don’t have access rights to the content , doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have the information that a colleague wrote a document that matches that criteria and provide an opportunity to connect and collaborate. This is my challenge to a number of Enterprise Search solution providers – respect access controls but provide the opportunity for staff to discover, connect and collaborate.

One caveat here , this does require an organisation to be disciplined about information classification, labelling in artefacts and curating and protecting carefully information that is truly sensitive. However the vast majority of digital content created internally by staff can typically be shared across organisational boundaries within a company and we need to ensure that as we implement tools like Enterprise Search, we are looking at creative solutions to drive collaboration through those technologies.

This is an “in progress” exploration currently and I am engaged with a number of enterprise search providers to see how this approach can be put into place, so will keep you posted on how we go!

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