Forward-looking IT and search leaders are embracing new cloud options and recasting the search capability as a strategic resource.
- Cloud-based content escapes most enterprise search capabilities, and cloud-based search options and tools are being underutilized by most IT and search leaders.
- IT and search leaders struggle to find tools to cope with the data variety explosion in cloud, mobile and social information repositories.
- Indexed or queried data resources don’t stay current, and search loses its effectiveness over time when IT leaders don’t make the regular staff and financial investments that search requires.
- Evaluate and adopt cloud search options to create hybrid capability spanning cloud and on-premises sources.
- Treat data variety as a feature leveraged by search, not a bug that limits it.
- Organize a sustainable search and insight capability, including regular budgeting and human resource planning, to keep pace with business needs.
Evaluate and Adopt Cloud Search Options
Organizations are increasingly shifting both content and content management to the cloud. The time is ripe for cloud-based search. During the past two years, Gartner analysts have had about 700 conversations with clients about enterprise search. Barely 10% (80 in all) focused on cloud or SaaS search options.
But these forward-looking IT leaders have realized that the same reasons for cloud-based sales or CRM applications apply equally well to search in terms of:
- Ease of use for line-of-business employees who will manage or use the application
- Greater scalability and flexibility
- Improved maintenance and easier and faster upgrading
Our discussions find IT leaders considering two dimensions of the cloud in regard to search:
- Organizations are increasingly using cloud-based data and applications, and need search to cost-effectively encompass these.
- Cloud-based search management and administrative features are increasingly present in new options from search vendors.
Rarely do clients choose a cloud-only search platform; the most common model is a hybrid, which spans on-premises and cloud repositories and tools.
Searching cloud repositories is increasingly important for organizations as they shift to the cloud for applications (such as Salesforce or Google for Work) and for storage. Especially during the migration process and thereafter, organizations seek experiences that minimize disruption for workers, including the ability to perform a single search that locates documents in either place.
IT leaders now have more vendor options to choose from. Search vendors typically offer a cloud architectural foundation to their product. Many have versions that run on cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure.
There are challenges with these cloud options, some of them unexpected. One client noted that the architecture had proven costly, because many vendors base their pricing model at least in part on the amount of content indexed or stored in the cloud. Capacity charges can be unpredictable if organizations do not set flexible caps to accommodate search spikes.
Hybrid search models have their own challenges. Cloud and on-premises repositories have to be aligned to allow indexing to take place in both to support index efficiencies, improve user convenience and control costs. Such an approach creates, as one enterprise put it, the need to manage “lots of moving parts,” which are hard to unify into a comprehensible user experience.
But the payoffs are real, according to IT and search leaders. “The search engine allowed our organization to reference in one place the knowledge created by our organization over the last three years, and disseminated to over 15 different websites and databases,” said one organization’s search leader.
Organizations that continue to use search solely on-premises indicate that they do so for reasons of policy, security and control. These search managers say they want to manage every aspect of a search installation.
Yet even these organizations thought that their choice may have been more expensive than a cloud or SaaS option. They also said that on-premises search software was difficult to support. “There is a good amount of complexity involved in building, scaling and operating on-premises vendor software,” one reference said.
Cross-repository searching dovetails with the potential for exploiting the familiarity and intuitiveness of the search box and result set. The benefit here is in going beyond the traditional information search by adding intelligence behind the content repositories. Doing so enables the search capability to infer what it is that people really are searching for. A related benefit is in creating a more engaging user experience that complements more contextual, and hence useful and actionable, search results.
At the next upgrade or selection of enterprise search, consider cloud as a delivery option, and factor in indexing of cloud content such as cloud content management, cloud office and cloud-resident business applications.