The Broken Promises of Federated Search

Some time ago, people looking for answers to solve business problems realized that the information they sought resided in different places. It could have been in a file system, on an intranet, on the web, or in a proprietary database associated with a specific line-of-business application. What could be done to make sure employees and customers had a way to search once and get answers back from any source? The initial answer was federated search, which, on behalf of the user, submits the query to multiple repositories, and returns results back in a list, sometimes consolidated, often not. 

While that approach may have satisfied users 20 years ago, it is no longer sufficient for today’s knowledge workers, whose expectations have been raised by the likes of Google, Amazon, Netflix, and others. These experiences offer a natural interface and personalized results. Sadly, however, federated search still persists within the walls of organizations and in the self-service search experiences organizations provide to their customers on their website or support portal. 

What’s the harm of federated search, you may ask? We posit that this approach to delivering answers actually harms productivity and satisfaction because it: 

  1. Makes determining relevancy across the sources impossible. 
  2. Delivers a sea of blue links you have to manually sift through, instead of an answer.  
  3. Lacks the ability to correlate entities and topics from different data sources and provide a consolidated answer. 
  4. Forces the user experience to the lowest common denominator—the least responsive and effective system dictates the overall experience.
  5. Impairs usability by forcing the user to multitask.
  6. Lacks the ability to gain insight from user behavior across all sources. 
  7. Can’t improve over time. 

There is a better way - unified, Intelligent Search - which:   

  1. Creates a unified index that understands the relationships across all sources and types of information and understands the relevancy of any given piece of information for a specific question. 
  2. Marries content insight with user intent to deliver a relevant answer, not a list of links. 
  3. Leverages text analytics to incorporate unstructured data with structured data no matter where the data came from. 
  4. Learns from users’ interactions with content, regardless of its source, to deliver increasingly more precise answers over time.  
  5. Provides a consistent user experience with a richer set of features.

So, all search is not created equal, and the resultant user experiences aren’t, as well.  If you want to do better by your employees and customers, and ensure they receive answers in response to their questions or issues, choose unified Intelligent Search. Attivio will show you how – contact us

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