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Will machine learning revamp enterprise search software?

Poor enterprise search performance is a common pain point, but advances in machine learning could provide a more effective and intuitive alternative.

As machine learning and artificial intelligence continue to develop, users should be able to rely more on the machine to know what we're looking for and find it, delivering a much broader sense of relevant content than a traditional index search.

These advancements are in the future and easier said than done. But there is a lot of potential to build tools that will help us search across vast data and content repositories, mixing structured and unstructured data sources, finding all kinds of information and presenting in ways beyond the list of results you're likely to find from a traditional search.

I think we'll see more advanced tools with the ability to anticipate the kinds of information we'll need to help make better business decisions. For example, it can provide information to help employees determine what they should be doing on a given day, based on what's going on elsewhere in the business.

I think we're going to see tools where the machine can automatically generate results, based on what the user is working on. The information could perhaps populate onto a split screen, suggesting additional information that could potentially be helpful for the user, and then apply machine learning to the user's response.

This would likely draw on internal data sources -- and external data sources, such as the Web -- to pull together different types of information and present it in charts or graphs so that users can make sense of that information and apply it to what they're trying to do.

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What is your top wish-list item for enterprise search software, and why?
I'd love to see a dashboard that shows how well enterprise search is doing its job at connecting users with usable information. And not just something that measures user feedback on the efficacy. 
Hopefully this will be something rather better than Microsoft's ill-fated paperclip: "I see you're writing a letter... would you like help with that?" Getting machine learning input into the search problem is going to take a huge amount of training.

The key to successful enterprise search is really precision, not breadth. Precision can be improved with a range of inputs, some contextual, some intrinsic (i.e. available by analysing the available information), some behavioural (comparing what others did on previous occasions). Machine learning might ultimately provide some useful inputs, but it's not the only route to providing a better search experience.