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Even as some search engines are being used to dehumanize knowledge management, others are reintroducing the human element.
The truth is, people are always going to be the best sources for some types of information.
And with that in mind, search software vendors are increasingly adding expertise location services to their offerings, thus allowing employees to go straight to the source for a particular query.
At ABN AMRO, the Amsterdam-based financial services giant, for example, employees who submit queries to the company's search engine are given not just relevant documents, but instant access to the authors of the content.
"People often want to find someone to talk to rather than read a document," says David Kemp, development and communications director of the wholesale client legal department at ABN AMRO.
The company's search software, provided by Autonomy Corp., creates a virtual online community around specific topicsemployees can find out not only who the experts are, but also who else is looking for similar information.
Using search queries themselves to do deeper data analysis will also be a future enhancement, says Forrester's Ramos.
She envisions analyzing search queries to find content gaps, determine how users are looking at data, and tailor content to specific users.
This is already happening at Capital One Financial Corp., where enterprise search is used to help call-center reps answer questions more rapidly. To make sure that employees have all the information they need, managers look at the list of search queries regularly to see how many were unfulfilled.
If they discover a group of similar queries with no answers, they know it's time to create new content that addresses the issue.
Like all data tools, enterprise search will forever be at the mercy of the quality of the data. "There's no magic in enterprise search," says Busch of Taxonomy Strategies. "Do people expect to buy an ERP and plug it in and magically have control over their entire company? Of course not. Common sense tells us that enterprise apps require care and feeding, and there's no exception here."