The ability to find things on the Web using powerful search tools like Google and Bing is a tremendous time saver. Similar time saving and efficiencies can also be achieved by expediting the search for information within your company’s own systems – specifically within an enterprise application.

An enterprise application is in some ways similar to the public Internet as it connects computer data from throughout your company, uniting islands of information into a single data universe. And like the Internet, the application features some type of navigation structure to help you surf between the different screens and functions.

These tabs or hierarchy of screens are basically the equivalent of the bookmarks we used to have to navigate the Internet. To run a query on your enterprise data, you go to the correct form and run a query in the appropriate field. Just like in the early days of the Internet, to find information in your business application, you need to know where it is. This search method is probably an acceptable way for frequent users of the system to search for their purchase orders, or to search by supplier or customer information.

But it does not work that well for the occasional user of the system who is searching an application in an area with which they are not intimately familiar. That is why application vendors are coming to market with various search solutions for use within their products.

There are two distinct approaches to delivering this critical search function. Firstly, enterprise application search is a tool that is tightly integrated with an enterprise application, and delivers targeted search results from within the applications knowledge base.

The second approach is known as enterprise search and is a product marketed separately from the application. It searches data both inside and outside the application.

The primary purpose of enterprise application search is to make the information within that specific application suite easily searchable through a unified interface. Because it is integrated into the application it is designed to be used with, enterprise application search offers a number of benefits for searching application data, including reduced cost, improved security and better search results.

When used to its full potential enterprise search can save businesses time and money, but to ensure that the best solution is in place it is extremely important that businesses looking to implement or update enterprise search technology to consider the basics before they buy:

  • Know the difference: Enterprise application search and enterprise search are two very different approaches that are taken by different types of companies. Other leading technology vendors have launched their own enterprise search products. The product itself is marketed as a bolt-on search tool, separate from the application which searches data both inside and outside the application. If a company needs to index multiple sources of data including company intranets, local documents, emails, databases, etc then these bolt-on enterprise search appliances are suitable.
  • Alternatively, a company that focuses on investing in and improving its enterprise application products, such as IFS, will naturally offer a search tool for use within those applications. Enterprise application search is tightly integrated into the application it is designed to be used with, and offers a number of benefits for searching application data, such as improved cost efficiency, context and security when compared to the generic products described above.

    • Put things in context: Enterprise application search integrates search technology directly into an enterprise application, allowing users to specify whether they are searching for a company, a person, a purchase order or other types of information. Much like the way in which consumer search engines add various tools to allow for a more specific search result, enterprise application search uses contextual information including data on what tasks that user has been performing in the applications to deliver more targeted results. For example, if a system user is involved in finance-related functions, results that conform to their organisational role can be accentuated.
    • Consider security before you buy: Even if a bolt-on search tool has security features, you need to be sure that these features can be integrated with each application and data source it is to be used with. You need to carefully consider what your security requirements are and match the capabilities of the enterprise search solutions available.
    • Keep your users happy: If end users know that their enterprise search tool is there to make their jobs easier and save them time, this will ultimately make it a more complete and powerful business tool. Ask your users for feedback on a regular basis to ensure that you are using the right tools and can troubleshoot any user concerns before they become critical.
    • Allow your search to crawl as much content as possible: Ensure that all important information is available to your enterprise search application. This will improve user experience and enable your business to get the most out of enterprise search.

    While Internet search engines are working to offer more targeted search option, the ability to refine and target results of a search within an enterprise application is even more critical than it is on the Web. Both the Internet and enterprise application are vast sources of information, but while we have become accustomed to powerful Internet search tools, we are only just beginning to harness similar tools on internal systems.