Companies looking to adopt a data-driven approach to business face several challenges when attempting to bring that vision to reality. Letting data drive an organisation’s path forward may seem like a simple idea, as many businesses already have some sort of central shared server or database containing important business data in a single location. However, what about all the PDFs, email attachments, marketing materials, and other forms of unstructured data? Very often, this is spread across many different machines and locations, making data discovery difficult. Read on to find out how enterprise search can help organisations tame this unstructured data, allowing employees to spend less time searching and work more efficiently.
What is data discovery?
Data discovery refers to the process of finding and retrieving relevant data. It is often a multi-stage process that involves combing many different file types and data formats that most closely match what an employee is looking for. This can be as simple as a keyword matcher or as advanced as AI-powered search that allows for features such as semantic associations and context-driven personalised search results.
For many companies, not all data is in one centralised location. This means that searching for certain files can take longer than others due to the difficulty in retrieving them. It may mean that internal search tools do not cover all available data sources so that some company data remains harder to find than others. Due to this, over time plenty of data simply goes untouched and unused. The cost of creating that data and the underutilization of it is rarely documented by many businesses, but it represents some fundamental inefficiencies in how organisations store and retrieve their data.
Bringing structure to chaos
Data discovery is particularly difficult for unstructured data. This data may come in many different formats, some of which may be easier to index than others. For example, it’s relatively simple to implement search solutions for text-based documents, but it’s more difficult to search for video content. This makes some data harder to find than others and can require employees to spend more time searching for certain types of data over others.
Enterprise search solutions aim to tame the chaos of unstructured heterogeneous data sets and provide a single unified entry point for data access. This single point of entry provides even both technical and non-technical staff with the ability to extract information from various data sources and formats with ease. This ‘self-service’ data discovery enables employees of all technical skill levels to find valuable information quicker and from a wider scope of sources, which makes them more efficient at finding the data they need to do their work, thereby helping to boost productivity.
Under the hood
Enterprise search systems can be thought of as an internal search engine for an organisation. They function in largely the same way as well-known public search engines and many enterprise search projects leverage modern machine-learning powered search tools, such as analyzing and understanding search intent and personalising search results depending on the user and current search context.
In order to achieve this, enterprise search solutions must first spend time gathering, analyzing and understanding an organisation’s data. This analysis provides insights into the data, such as links and relationships between documents. These data analysis tools can often lead to discovering relationships in existing data sets that organisations were unaware of! For example, a company that tracks customer complaints, eCommerce product sales and employee attendance records in separate, isolated databases may discover new relationships between these disparate data sets when united, such as a rise in customer complaints and decreased sales volume when there is an increase in employee absences.
Having all of this information in a single source and providing advanced search tools that let even non-technical staff perform advanced data analysis and comparison with ease is a very powerful tool for organisations, particularly data-driven organisations that like to let data drive company policies and direction.
Enterprise search solutions help organisations to optimise data discovery and can provide valuable insights into organisational data that may otherwise go unnoticed. By bringing all organisational data together into a single, searchable repository, employees can find the information they need to do their job quicker and more efficiently. Heterogeneous data sets can be brought together to provide maximum data coverage for employees while searching, and it helps ensure that no data goes missing or gets left behind, no matter the file format, language, or storage location. Employees can work more productively when searching for any type of business data is as simple as searching on the web.