A few weeks ago I was quoted in an interesting blog entry on Information World Review (http://blog.iwr.co.uk/2008/08/google-stakes-i.html) talking about enterprise search and, particularly how Google is, once again, putting pressure on the industry. I think it’s worth expanding on a couple of things, particularly what I mean by enterprise search going beyond “what’s behind the firewall”.

As Phil Muncaster quite rightly points out, for many, searching documents behind the firewall is exactly what enterprise search means, but I don’t think that’s the whole story. In our experience, larger organizations need to store, retrieve and track digital information that exists in many different containers such as e-mail servers, desktops, intranet sites but also, crucially, on their Web sites and e-commerce sites which fall outside the corporate firewall.

For most organizations, Enterprise Search Software as most people know it today can’t provide access to all the information it needs within a single search – that’s because the content exists in numerous locations and formats. When this is coupled with factors such as technical limitations, cost and bureaucracy, it prevents all these various enterprise silos being unified under one index. Certain ideas such as ‘federated search’ are being explored in parts of the industry but, in my view, you are better off having a few different products that each perform a function well, rather than trying to manage everything under one cumbersome, expensive project.

When using an enterprise search function behind the firewall, employees will expect complexity and even accept that they may need training in order to use it.  When people are using a public search function however, even to search for information connected to the organization they work for, they expect it to be simple to use like Google.