Massood Zarrabian explains how AI is supporting enterprise search as well as what Forrester calls cognitive search and knowledge discovery.
Seemingly overnight, AI has begun to impact nearly everything we do. The same technology that has made consumer internet search more personalised, connected, and ubiquitous is also starting to reveal itself in employee-facing search solutions, supporting enterprise search.
Workers who depend on corporate search solutions often struggle to find relevant information in an ever-expanding pool of largely unstructured proprietary data. According to Gartner, these outdated enterprise solutions are dying out and being replaced with what the research firm has dubbed ‘insight engines. Insight engines augment search technology with artificial intelligence to produce better results and provide kn’owledge workers with more natural access to information. Forrester shares this outlook, referring to the same concept as ‘cognitive search and knowledge discovery,’ highlighting the use of AI technologies such as natural language processing and machine learning.
Recent advances are bringing this capability closer to reality.
Research has shown that employee engagement stays higher when there are fewer barriers to productivity, and part of that is being able to find the right company tools and data quickly and easily. When employees search for internal information, they’re often also looking for specific answers and ideas that will help them get their jobs done more efficiently. Recent advances are bringing this capability closer to reality.
In addition to Google and Microsoft AI solutions, a range of open-source platforms are emerging that may enhance or ultimately replace older proprietary search solutions, giving way to platforms that are easier to use and more sophisticated. Natural language processing, machine learning, and image processing are all integral to cognitive search, an emerging context-based approach that will transform the way employees interact with enterprise systems. And employees who already use voice search to accomplish daily tasks outside of work will soon find similar capabilities within enterprise systems. We outline below four of the key shifts that are becoming increasingly central to search.
Open, configurable search engines are beginning to replace expensive proprietary platforms. Enterprise customers can save time and reduce implementation costs by replacing closed, complex systems with tried-and-true open source technology.
The Apache Software Foundation, for example, has developed and improved open source tools like the Apache Lucene and Solr projects, which offer a significantly similar functionality with no licensing cost.
Vendors are also starting to build their enterprise search applications on top of the Elasticsearch index, an open-source distributed search and analytics engine built on Apache Lucene. While Elasticsearch lacks many enterprise features, such as relevancy tuning tools, companies and independent software vendors can nonetheless use it to build custom search engines.
Intelligent Enterprise Search
Imagine if your company’s Intranet search were as easy, personalised, and contextual as Google’s Internet search. Cognitive search will help make this a reality by giving enterprise users the ability to locate truly relevant text, image, and video files from within large volumes of both internal and external data.
One the biggest challenges facing enterprise search is the nature of much of the data. Gartner estimates that 80% of organisational data is unstructured, meaning that it doesn’t adhere to predetermined models. This results in irregularities and ambiguities that can make it difficult to find using traditional search programs. AI programs help automatically tag this unstructured information, making it much more easily discoverable.
Cognitive search also improves accuracy by considering the context of each query. By examining and learning from past searches, these types of systems can identify the person who is looking for the information and what type of content the person is expecting to find.
How AI activated voice search is changing search strategies for businesses
Improved natural language processing as well as voice, face, and object recognition technologies are making enterprise multimedia content much easier to find.
Image and video files often remain undiscoverable by traditional search, because multimedia creators frequently fail to include sufficient metadata. AI tools show promise in automating the process of tagging by writing each file’s metadata based on attributes that facial, speech and object recognition technologies can identify, thereby creating discoverable multimedia content stores.
Guy Hellier, vice president of product management at OpenText, said at a recent conference that AI tools are making significant inroads in categorising content such as video streams that have traditionally been tough to find and laborious to tag. “If you’re using more digital media in more places,” Hellier explained, “you need algorithms that are going to help you better take advantage of and describe that content — and minimize processing costs.” Since algorithms are changing rapidly and, he added, accuracy is improving every year.
As of late 2018, according to Nielsen, nearly a quarter of households already own at least one smart speaker. OC&C Strategy Consultants predicts that, by 2022, the number will jump to at least 55 percent. With so many people using voice search to shop, search for information and manage their daily lives, it won’t be long before this time-saving technology becomes far more widely used in the workplace.
Enterprise search engines equipped with advanced voice-recognition software will allow employees to search quickly for information and access the company’s productivity apps by simply speaking to a mobile device. This will allow knowledge workers seamlessly to access vital information, regardless of where they are or what they’re doing.
Companies can expect to see an increase in employee engagement, efficiency, and cost savings thanks to smarter search mechanisms, an embrace of open-source applications, and AI elevating virtually every aspect of data discovery. Though the technologies that make our everyday lives easier often take time to be implemented more robustly in large enterprise systems, more and more companies are committed to removing the roadblocks that stand between their employees and the information they need to do their jobs effectively.
Massood Zarrabian is the CEO of BA Insight