The word “Google” officially became a verb in 2006 when it was added to the Oxford English dictionary. This seemingly innocuous act signalled the fact that searching, or indeed googling, for information was here to stay. And for many of us now, locating information is one of the key tasks of our working day.
But here comes the rub – searching for information is easy – finding what you are actually looking for can be very difficult. To quantify this a recent survey by AIIM highlighted that 75% of users cannot find the information they need to do their job in a timely manner.
Of course often there is no corporate equivalent of google in your business, and even if you do find the information you are looking for, you then actually need to do something sensible with it once you’ve found it. All of this adds up to an entirely unsatisfactory way of working with information – but help is on the horizon.
Intelligent Federation is a new solution from Simflofy to address exactly this challenge. The solution combines the best components of search, across multiple information sources, and then provides simple, yet effective, document management capabilities – all from one single interface. Imagine a lightweight enterprise content management tool that was easy to use, worked across all of your content and was available today – that is Intelligent Federation.
In this blog we explain four key elements that form intelligent federation – and mean that the days of not being able to quickly find and make use of information could finally be over.
One of the key aspects of any organizational search is that it needs to look at multiple systems across the business. Important and relevant information is stored in network drives, email folders, content management systems, line of business applications such as Salesforce, databases – the list goes on. A typical workplace scenario sees users having to search in multiple places – only stopping once (or sometimes if) they finally find what they are looking for. Users don’t know whether to search from the application they work in, the folder system, the ECM system or just sit there and scream. Intelligent federation can end this ridiculous situation.
From a user’s perspective, federation means that they can do one search to find their stuff. They don’t care where that stuff is stored, or where it actually comes from – all they are worried about is finding it, and quickly. From the technical viewpoint though federation is a little more.
Federation is a consistent, repeatable way of connecting into multiple repositories via a standardized content services api. This method allows connectivity into numerous different systems using a common API and through a single, controlled route. The benefits of this are numerous.
- Multiple versions of the same product can be accessed in parallel allowing for both searching across versions, but also advanced analytics to identify redundant or duplicate content
- Custom code is not required to connect into new repositories – a new connector is built, and then instantly available to configure
- Developers can create applications on top of the federated content without knowledge of the underlying architecture or schema – they simply need to know how to call the API and manage the results
Federation provides a window on the information within your enterprise – but alone it just delivers more search results than before, simply because it pulls results from more source systems. Two other key aspects need to come to play to turn simple federation into intelligent federation.
Metadata sounds pretty mundane – but it is actually an incredibly powerful part of any information system. Metadata, or tagging as many now call it, is essentially data about data – for example, metadata relating to this blog might include:
- The title
- The author
- The date is was created
- Any images included in it
- When and where it has been published
- The number of views
- And more
This is an incredibly powerful way of managing information for two reasons.
Firstly, if you are using the right underlying database such as the MongoDB database that Simflofy uses for its content index, metadata is infinitely scalable and flexible. You can add more and more tags to allow different users and group to tag and subsequently find content much faster and with less effort.
Secondly, tagging allows us to get away from the limitations of filing content based on where it lives – a model that has been around since the invention of the filing cabinet. Tagging allows us to store information based on what the information is about, or what it refers to, or who is interested in it – or anything in fact.
And that capability is surfaced in the Intelligent Federation by way of “views” – a search feature that allows users to create their own views on data based on their interests or job roles. So marketing can view content that they are interested in, sales their own materials and so on. This makes searching much more focused, and ensures that users are not faced with millions of semi-related but ultimately nonsensical search results.
3. Search not browse
The third aspect of intelligent federation is a subtle but very important feature. Often federation is a word used to describe the connection into multiple systems, or repositories – but federation is more than just connectivity.
For many federation is just the virtual“mounting” of a remote datasource or drive. This browse style approach does add some benefit, but actually makes searching harder not simpler, as it by default adds a lot more potential search results. Intelligent federation however, adds the ability to not just connect content, but control what information is included in the federation.
This includes numerous ways of defining the inclusion criteria – the simplest being the addition a whole folder or folder structure, a la regular federation, but with increasing complexity and usefulness, also allowing specific search queries, context driven requirements (for example all documents relating to a particular customer), or a combination of both.
This allows system architects and business analysts to define exactly how their search capability will operate, and to design a consistent, yet flexible and incredibly powerful tool for individual users, groups, departments and whole organizations.
4. Search, Find, Use
The first three elements of intelligent search all focus on allowing users to find the content they want to work with faster, easier and ultimately more effectively. But what about once they’ve found that content – what happens then.
Perhaps the user will edit the content, or just view it, or share it with another user, or delete it. Irrespective of what the user does, all of these actions fall within the realms of so called information governance – or the way in which an organization manages and controls the way in which information is used. Without diving too deep into this topic here, this is what ECM is supposed to help organizations with – but ECM systems are often expensive, difficult to use, don’t connect content from multiple sources, and essentially don’t serve the purpose they were designed for.
What organizations need is the ability to manage information simply – to allow things like version control, audit trails and simple workflows – without imposing heavyweight, difficult to use and administer systems on their workforce. ECM had the potential to make everyone’s digital life much easier – but has fallen short. Intelligent federation aims to deliver in the places where ECM failed – in those organizations who want to manage their information better, to provide their users with effective tools to find and use information from all across the enterprise, and to do this in a simple, cost effective manner.
The end result of the combination of these four elements is intelligent federation – a simple yet incredibly powerful solution to the information management challenges faced by many organizations.
Think about how much more effective you personally could be if you could find the business information you need faster, and then be able to perform the standard tasks you want to – all from the same system. Then scale that across the whole of your organization. Intelligent federation can deliver where ECM failed, but the best way to appreciate that is to see it in action.