Search-based applications support critical decision-making
Taxonomies have traditionally been used to organize and present content, but Guided Navigation has the advantage of being more flexible and better suited to a fast-moving business environment. “With Guided Navigation, a string of attributes such as price, availability and size could be factored together in a search,” says Paul Sonderegger, Endeca’s chief strategist, “rather than the user relying on a set of predetermined categories that might not apply as a situation changes over time.”
Search applications can also be used effectively in design engineering applications. In the telecommunications industry, for example, many factors enter into the selection of components. “The chip might need to be a certain size, and have a specific power consumption,” explains Sonderegger, “but other factors could also enter into the decision, such as inventory levels or preferred suppliers.” If the organization wants to steer engineers toward a product or supplier, the search application could present that option alongside the results. “The point is, the engineer might not have knowledge of all the options,” Sonderegger adds, “but search and navigation together can reveal options that improve a decision-making process.”
Search results can be better tailored to the task in other ways when a search application is used, rather than a general search tool. Relevance ranking, for example, should be different for a researcher exploring the acquisition of a pharmaceutical company as compared to one who is looking for potential new drug products, even if the key words used are the same. “The different perspectives of users give them a different idea about what is relevant,” says Sonderegger. “Search applications allow relevancy to be calculated differently depending on the task.”
The role of search technology will continue to grow, both to perform simple tasks such as locating a document, and for more advanced and often more critical decision making processes such as discovering trends, tracking opinions or analyzing information across data and content repositories. Those latter areas are already hotbeds of research. “We are starting to see new approaches to enterprise search,” says IDC’s Feldman. “More attention is being paid to reducing the overwhelming amount of information that people must contend with, by using an individual’s job category, relationships with other people or previous queries as filters.”
Over the next five to 10 years, Feldman predicts, computing in general and search in particular will look very different from the way they do now. Search will become ubiquitous and implicit, and will routinely unify access to both structured and unstructured information through high-end information access and management platforms. Those platforms will not only handle all types of formats effectively, but will connect to both internal and external information sources, providing more comprehensive results.
Geospatial software has been used for decades, but as global positioning system (GPS) technology has become more widely used by consumers, the value of that information has become more broadly recognized. Maps are an effective way for visualizing demographic, environmental and health information. Now, interactive mapping applications are being integrated with document collections so that users can find geographically relevant information.
MetaCarta displays documents side by side with a map (Page 17, KMWorld April 2010) that indicates the location to which the document is related. The MetaCarta Geographic Search and Referencing Platform (GSRP) is a self-contained appliance with information about more than 200 million locations, and connectors for map servers and content repositories. MetaCarta is also integrated with SharePoint and Microsoft’s Virtual Earth. As users view different parts of the map, they can see snippets of information from SharePoint content that relates to those locations.