Innovative applications of search and information retrieval technologies are now allowing business users to garner more meaningful knowledge from the growing mass of unstructured information available to them. Increasingly, these business applications are demanding capabilities akin to those provided by Business Intelligence (BI), a point not lost on text analytics or BI vendors. As more business applications emerge that demand seamless delivery and analysis of information that is structured and unstructured, expect the mainstream BI market to respond in force, initially through partnerships and, ultimately, through mergers, acquisitions, and new product releases.
No matter what companies do to stem it, the surge of information available in their organisations continues to mount. People in every business area need critical information to make the best business decisions, but with their email and voicemail boxes constantly full, they struggle just keeping their heads above water. A company's ability to effectively filter, deliver and use information can be a fierce competitive weapon. As well, compliance is a fact of today's business life regardless of company size. It affects the way everyone communicates and consumes information across an endless range of types and purposes. Enterprises feel the heat like never before and are looking to the software industry for the answer.
Search technology is being challenged to deliver on this vision, so much so that it is hard to recognise it as just search anymore. More accurately, information retrieval technology is being used not only to find documents, data, numbers, and such, but to guide customers toward answers to frequently asked questions, identify and dispose of junk, detect indiscretion and misbehaviour, and collect and analyse a mass of heretofore neglected information available to enterprises. To call it "search" is like calling a Rolls-Royce a coffee cup holder.
New enterprise search and information retrieval is about identifying trends, elevating problems, and sensing opportunities for competitive gain. That sounds a lot like the promise of BI.
Search and intelligence
Until recently, any convergence of search and analytics was embodied in the search engine's ability to monitor its own performance. Beyond that, search analytics are used to assess and refine the effectiveness of a site's content, often identifying where more information is needed or identifying when users have trouble accessing information. No problem with that; all that is good.
The next crucial step forward in search and retrieval is to provide capabilities that will monitor the performance of the business, detect emerging issues and changes, and garner useful information out of previously untapped masses of unstructured or variously available sources of data. This lets companies move beyond improving customer satisfaction through better service to more strategic applications that address a broad range of business issues.
As application of search technologies expands into the realm of information delivery and analytics, the synergies with BI become incr-easingly apparent. Indeed, interest in expanding BI to the world of unstructured text has been brewing for years, and some interesting alignments have already surfaced.