Search at the foundation of the enterprise

Executive summary

Businesses are being overwhelmed with electronic records. Enterprise search offers a promising way to deal with the growth of electronically stored information (ESI). However, not all search technologies are well adapted to serve as the search backbone for an enterprise. While keyword searching may help find some documents, more sophisticated search technologies are called for to assimilate and organize content across the enterprise.

Chasing paper away

For decades, businesses have been shifting their work processes — and the records that document those processes — from paper to electronic form. ARMA International, a records management association, estimates that more than 90% of all business records created today are electronic.

Concurrently with this shift from paper, the volume of records created is increasing as well. Where 10 or 15 years ago many records were themselves formal "documents" managed in a formal and discrete repository (for example, in a document management system), nowadays, informal records are the norm, and they are multiplying in both kind and number.

The search for search

In the midst of this digital inundation, another revolution is taking place. Enterprise search technology has finally come of age, and businesses of all sizes are considering how and where to deploy it. Typically, such consideration is in the context of "knowledge management" initiatives.

There is, however, a much more fundamental reason to implement search technology. It promises to become the principal means — and perhaps the only means — by which we can hope to gain control of the rapidly growing body of electronic information that underlies our day-to-day business. And that reality, in turn, dictates the type of search technology that should be acquired. Many enterprise search technologies can help find documents. Some are better than others. But relatively few are positioned to serve as the backbone of an entire enterprise's information flow, be it formal and isolated or informal and dispersed.

Unfortunately, the recent change to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure with respect to ESI — a change that for the most part merely codifies existing practices — has plunged many law firms and companies into a reactive rather than strategic mode of thought. Suddenly, there exists the perceived immediate necessity to have some level of control over ESI allowing companies to engage in discovery conferences and respond to discovery requests as mandated by the Federal Rules.

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