Who wins the search battle will come home with a lot of prizes and big wins in the enterprise. Search may even prove to be a differentiation for companies that are choosing collaboration platforms.
There are a number of enterprise search vendors who are delivering search technologies. Companies like Open Text offer a bridge between Enterprise 2.0 and Enterprise Content Management to make "2.0 content is both manageable and secure." Many of the enterprise search vendors are well-established. For our purposes, we are looking at enterprise search from a collaborative perspective. It's clear that Google has a leg up but the home-grown nature of services like Box.net make them attractive alternatives. Microsoft Sharepoint has made some improvements to its search, which are worth noting.
Google Search Appliance is a cornerstone of the company's strategy to reach into the enterprise market. It fits closely with Google Documents and Google Sites, its collaborative environments. The Google Enterprise group has launched what it calls a "self-learning scorer," (SLC) which analyzes employee clicks and behavior patterns to better the results that the user receives. Queries that get clicked will jump in the search rankings.
In Google, people will often click on what they discover on the first page of the search rankings. Google calls this "trust bias." SLC uses a regression model to filter out trust bias to better understand the behavior patterns of the user. Google claims the improvement can work across any number of documents in the enterprise. What this does is create a self-improvement system, using analytics to improve the results.
The impacts of this kind off development can be heard throughout the enterprise as business users discover a whole new community of tools that provide search functionality on top of their core offering.
Box.net uses a mix of open-source technologies to broaden the capabilities of their collaborative applications. As information is added to the network, the system adds the information from the documents into a relevance algorithm.
Users upload their documents into the Box.net environment, which gives the user the advantage of working across a finite universe as oppose to the great sea of the entire enterprise.This makes search a lot easier. Results can be served up to the user that may not have necessarily been requested. For instance, a marketing manager may do a search and get results that are not directly related to the query but are relevant, nonetheless.
Microsoft has added new search functionality to Sharepoint 2010. Users may use query syntax while searching on Sharepoint. This means users may use "AND," "NOT," "OR" in searches. Microsoft has also added a"wildcard" functionality and a "faceted search."
The wildcard search allows users to add incomplete words to the end of a search string. The faceted search pops up a tab on the left column of the page, allowing users to drill down to discover the data they are looking for.
A major aspect of Microsoft Sharepoint is giving the IT administrator control over the functionality of the user environment. This is evident in Sharepoint 2010.
According to Sharepoint Chick:
Administrators can also configure the other categories that are used in the refinement panel based on managed properties and enterprise content management taxonomy nodes.
That means any time a user wants a deep search functionality, the administrator has to go in and make the refinement.
Google nor Box.net require IT intervention with their services. In Google, The SLC is continually sell-improving, eliminating the need for IT to get involved. Box.net's algorithms crawl the text of the customer's documents. Refinement is built into the product.
To be fair, Sharepoint is looking across the great universe of data in the enterprise. But will enterprise customers look to Google for help in search across Sharepoint?
From the Google blog:
We are newly providing native integration for SharePoint out of the box, making indexing of SharePoint content 10x faster. Second, we are providing connectivity to Lotus Notes through Enterprise Labs. Third, we are expanding our support for file shares and databases, so organizations can connect to any file share or database in any format.
The quest to provide full on search and analytics for the enterprise is only beginning. Smaller companies like Box.net are offering their own analytics with home-grown algorithms. In the meantime, Google is leveraging its search strength and Microsoft is offering an improved user experience.
It is clear that collaboration and search operate in the same universe. The provider that makes the bridge is our odds on favorite to bring home a roster of customers who recognize that their employees, partner and customers are creators, media makers. What they produce will morph in size as they get more comfortable as producer.
Collaboration will work best if the user can easily search what is available to them. If the search doesn't work then the chances are the collaboration platform will likely falter, too.