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: Getting Critical Data Out of Heads and Into Circulation">

Getting Critical Data Out of Heads and Into Circulation

When a company name makes the leap from proper noun to active verb, you know there's just a little bit of hype in the air. Google Inc. has, of course, become synonymous with "search."

Who hasn't spent a few hours online "googling" themselves (and others) to see what information comes up? Google's revolutionary technology has changed the way people think about gathering relevant information from disparate sources. And the effect is even being seen in the suddenly popular market for enterprise search tools.

"Google is the rising tide" that is lifting up all search technology companies, says Whit Andrews, a research director at Gartner Inc.

Despite its current buzz factor, however, enterprise search technology hasn't advanced all that much in the past five years, according to Laura Ramos, a vice president at Forrester Research Inc.

The major technological difference is that a company can now deploy one search solution for all its applications and databases, whereas in the past each application had its own search function.

Check out eWEEK.com's for the latest news, views and analysis on enterprise search technology.

That means that e-mails, Microsoft Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and anything else related to a specific topic can be returned in one well-executed search. But that is not exactly a quantum leap forward.

The hype factor can be easily measured by one simple comparison: While some vendors claim the market for enterprise search is around $10 billion, Ramos estimates it's only a fraction of that—roughly $700 million.

"It's all hype driven around a very public IPO and the brand that Google has built in the Internet search space," says Ramos.

All of which is contributing to some basic misunderstandings about enterprise search technology.

"The market expectation is that you can buy Google and all your problems will go away," Ramos says.

In reality, the growing challenge of organizing and properly labeling the reams of data that most companies are required to store continues unabated. Analysts estimate that over 80 percent of corporate data is "unstructured," or does not reside in an indexed, organized, easily searchable database.

And without the thoughtful indexing of this information, even the best search engine will be just as confused as are most employees.

The news isn't all bad, though. Better search capabilities, facilitated by better content management practices, can improve your company's efficiency and cut costs by helping employees find information faster.

Content management—how information is classified, where it is saved, and the rules created to help users get the most appropriate answers to their queries— is key to getting the most out of your search tool, whether you buy a new product or not.

As Ramos says, "There is a direct link between the quality of the content management and the success of enterprise search."

This article was originally published on 04-05-2005
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