What is the Role of Search in Enterprise Systems and PLM?

Going back to the early days of enterprise software, vendors developed all  they needed from very basic operational systems features. This is was the only way to implement functions of the system. Very core functionality of the system was data storage – the heart of each enterprise system. Storage was proprietary and optimized for the type and structure that data system were expected to manage. The real revolution began with the movement to database management systems (RDBMS). These provided a standard way of managing data and accessing it with SQL (Structured Query Language). For the last 20 years,  I see that this situation has remained unchanged. Enterprise software has created unpredictable huge data stacks managed by complex models and systems. During the last few years, active development of SOA related technologies have also focused on how to make enterprise software more manageable and lean.

With all the complexity of enterprise systems, I don’t see much involvement of search-related technologies within the enterprise. On the other hand, the search revolution has changed consumer internet, market, and actually, our lives (Google Map and beyond). I think that the future of search in enterprise is still unfolding. Enterprise systems are real gold-mines for search systems today. Search is really underperforming and focusing largely on the discovery of various documents  and document content.

At the same time, I’ve seen some movements within enterprise search, and search in general. Multiple “verticalization” of search is focusing on how to provide vertical domain specific searches. Examples are searches for healthcare, consumer market niches and others. “Horizontal” activities are investing into semantic searches as well as information discovery areas. A separate focus is the delivery of search appliances (of course, with a heavy investment of Google in GSA).

I think that searches need to leverage technology and capabilities developed for Web and unfold enterprise data for users. PLM might be a good starting point. Today’s PLM implementation survives from the need to consolidate different domains of activity around product development – starting from product requirements and customers, and ending  in product recycling and regulation. Search can become a good platform to make this happen. The complexity of enterprise systems and their openness is a real challenge for search technology, and, as typical in this case, leaves a  lot of space for innovation.


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