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10.02.2022 | Blog Enterprise search explained simply - the basics

Enterprise search applications may resemble familiar Internet search engines at first glance - but they differ both from a technical perspective and in terms of their intent. Sonja Bellaire, Head of Marketing at IntraFind, explains the basics of enterprise search for all those who are just starting to deal with this technology for efficient knowledge management in companies.

As with Internet search engines, enterprise search applications are operated via a search field and, after entering a specific keyword, the desired information is listed in a hit list. However, these are actually the only similarities with Google and Co. Thus, enterprise search engines and Internet search engines differ with regard to their application scenario, the connected data sources, the consideration of user rights and, for example, also the relevance algorithms.

An enterprise search engine is designed for the employees of a company or government agency. It does not search the World Wide Web, but primarily many different internal data sources, but also connected external sources such as specialized databases. In contrast to the Internet search engine, where the algorithm is essentially a black box of the search engine provider, in the case of an enterprise search engine the algorithm used to determine the order of the hits within the hit list is transparent and can be influenced.

An enterprise search engine respects the access rights

It doesn't matter whether the user already has a concrete search term in mind or the user only has a rough idea of the needed information and knows that there must already be documents for it: The users only get hits that they are authorized to see. If sales employees search for a colleague using the search field, they will usually receive only a subset of the hits that the employee in the HR department, for example, receives for the name entered. Thus, an enterprise search application meets the highest security requirements with regard to sensitive data.

Search interface configurable

Enterprise search applications can be used either stand-alone or integrated into applications. The stand-alone search, for example, can be called up via the browser and documents can be searched for via the central search field in a similar way to search engines used in private everyday life.

In principle, the search interface can be adapted to any requirement of an organization. Knowledge workers who use the enterprise search engine very frequently use numerous filters, i.e. selection criteria, to limit the hit list in a meaningful way. They benefit above all from semantic search functions, whereby alternative, topic-relevant search terms are suggested to them. The fact that the search interface can be visually adapted to the corporate design of any company is a matter of course.

Professional enterprise search applications also include accessible user interfaces. For example, they support special screen readers for reading content aloud. The search must also be easy to use when on the move: A responsive interface allows users to search for enterprise data on their smartphone or tablet as usual. Here, too, the respective user rights are preserved.

A knowledge portal for companies

An enterprise search application is not just a nice gimmick. It provides employees with work-relevant information quickly and comprehensively and is therefore a tool for increasing efficiency in the company from a business perspective.

Not only can entire documents be found with the search engine - the search engine also finds content in documents. This is particularly helpful for service employees, for example, who often have to work through pages of manuals in their daily work. They simply enter the desired keyword in the search function and the relevant pages from the manuals are listed in the hit list - the relevant text passages are highlighted in color.

In addition to stand-alone search, as already mentioned, integration into applications such as the intranet is a deployment scenario for enterprise search applications. In many companies, the intranet contains not only the organizational chart, company news and employee contact data, but also documentation, sales presentations, manuals, product data sheets or templates. Although most intranet applications are already equipped with a standard search function, its functionality is often rudimentary and only applies to content within the portal.

This preconfigured search can be replaced by an enterprise search application such as iFinder and extended with numerous functionalities, such as recognizing synonyms or a cross-lingual search. In addition, special connectors can be used to connect other data sources so that, for example, the company drive can also be searched via the intranet search without the user having to leave the intranet. The intranet - with its familiar user interface for all employees - becomes a knowledge portal for the company thanks to the integrated central, comprehensive search.

Of course, enterprise search applications nowadays go far beyond a pure full-text search and, thanks to artificial intelligence methods, can not only find data, but analyze it more deeply and link it in a meaningful way.

Enterprise search: The most important features

• Application takes place within the company
• The connection of all desired data sources is possible by means of so-called connectors
• Searches can be made in unstructured documents, but also in structured data
• Enterprise search engines must meet high security requirements
• The search can be used independently via the browser or integrated into other applications such as an existing intranet portal.
• User interfaces can be customized depending on the usage scenario (e.g., knowledge worker at the desktop PC or service employee mobile on site at a customer appointment)
• Search profiles for individual hit lists and many other personalization functions can be created
• Multilingual search queries and mixed-language hit lists are possible
• The relevance algorithm is intelligent, transparent and can be individualized

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The author

Sonja Bellaire
Head of Marketing
Sonja Bellaire has worked at IntraFind since 2009 and has extensive knowledge of the enterprise search market. As a power user of iFinder in her day-to-day work, she is excited about the ever-evolving possibilities of AI-based search and analytics. She finds the diverse scenarios in which customers from all industries use IntraFind software products particularly fascinating.
Sonja Bellaire