Microsoft Enterprise Search Solutions Help Enable Effective Information Management

Kevin Johnson, Co-President, Microsoft Platforms & Services Division

REDMOND, Wash., May 17, 2006 – People today are increasingly responsible for making decisions that positively impact business performance. However, in the “New World of Work,” they must deliver those results in the face of global competition, regulatory and compliance demands, “always on, always connected” technology environments and cross-organizational collaboration needs. What’s more, the information people need in order to make smart decisions is scattered across the Web, computer desktops, devices, intranets, servers and databases. This tends to result in both intense information overload (high quantity of information) and information underload (limited ability to access useful information). To help address the disconnect between that information and the people that need to act on it, Microsoft is providing new solutions that enable people to access relevant information and experts wherever and whenever they are working.

“Information workers tell us they need more than an Internet search box,” explains Kevin Johnson, co-president of the Platforms & Services Division of Microsoft. “They want simple tools that help them effectively manage information stored in multiple locations and that give them quick access to relevant data and people through actionable results, not just lists of links.”

At the 10th annual Microsoft CEO Summit here this week, company executives will describe efforts to create unified enterprise information management solutions that integrate new capabilities into the software programs people already know and use. Microsoft’s investments in new enterprise search solutions will help people create, find, use and share information. For example, new capabilities in Windows Live Search will provide a single point of entry and user interface to unify multiple search solutions. In addition, enhancements to Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 will enable people to quickly connect with other people or subject matter experts and will add options that make search capabilities available to customers that might not be able to implement a full collaboration or portal solution.

Solving Information Overload and Underload

The information explosion in the workplace has imposed new performance pressure on information workers, who now work with an overwhelming amount of data and struggle to make sense of what they find. According to IDC estimates, the expense of not finding the information needed costs an organization employing 1,000 knowledge workers is about US$5.3 million per year. Given this staggering opportunity cost as well as the basic time investment made in people searching for and analyzing information, it’s only prudent to make the information access and management process as productive as possible. (IDC, The Hidden Costs of Information Work, April 2006, Doc #201334)

While several major vendors have invested heavily in search across the Internet, computer desktops and company intranets, the search is ultimately over once the content is found. In contrast, Microsoft doesn’t view search as a standalone activity or the end goal, but rather a means to a greater purpose of finding the information a person needs to accomplish a specific task. The fact is, merely searching for and finding information isn’t useful by itself. People must be able to create, find, use and share information. More specifically:

  • Create: Give people the software tools to capture and report about their knowledge and projects.

  • Find: Improve individual and organizational productivity by quickly, seamlessly and securely connecting people to relevant information and expertise.

  • Use: Enable people to easily organize and manage information so they can effectively analyze and apply the data to create or do something new.

  • Share: Achieve greater business success by allowing people to clearly communicate and quickly share information with other people.

Microsoft’s vision for effective enterprise information management solutions addresses all these challenges through the entire information lifecycle, Johnson notes. “It solves information overload and underload by giving information workers the right tools to find information and expert sources more easily, effectively manage the data, make better decisions as a result, be more productive and achieve greater business success.”

Microsoft Windows Live Search, a Single Point of Entry

As part of the broader enterprise information management strategy, Microsoft is developing an enterprise search solution that provides a simple, secure, single point-of-entry for searches across corporate networks, desktops and the Internet. “For context, we’ve been hearing from customers that are frustrated by the inefficiency of having to use different search tools to get information from different content sources,” Johnson explains. “What they want is one central location to search and view results.”

To that end, the company will deliver a solution called Windows Live Search, which offers a single user interface (UI) to help people find and use all the information they care about from across the entire enterprise and beyond. It essentially binds together previously separate search solutions including Windows Desktop Search, Intranet search provided by Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Internet search via Windows Live Search, among others. Any information available to any of these systems can be exposed in one place, instantly showing relevant and actionable search results from all its enterprise data sources, from the desktop and from the Web.

Rich filtering and customizable control will allow people to personalize their Windows Live Search experience. For example, through a single UI, information workers will actually be able to choose when and where to search based on multiple toolbars and query refinement options. Using natural search terms, Windows Live Search can return results in whatever way makes most sense to each information worker – inline, grouped by category, etc. Powerful previews and visualizations of the data can then help people more quickly determine what action to take.

To illustrate, a sales representative trying to find information about a customer she plans to visit could gather the needed data by accessing Office SharePoint Server 2007, initiating a search and pulling business data from a Siebel application in addition to gathering data off her desktop using Windows Desktop Search. However, the same search could be performed from within Windows Live Search to produce all of the relevant desktop, e-mail, intranet and Internet results. Furthermore, when the sales representative clicks through the results, she will see they are actually displayed from that same window. Windows Live Search displays full results without navigating away or opening additional applications.

Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, People and Expertise Location

Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 will unify information management capabilities such as portals and collaboration, enterprise content management and forms, enterprise project management, and business intelligence. In addition to helping people share information, enterprise search is also a core area of investment with enhancements in relevancy, security and scalability. The upcoming release will provide powerful new information access and management tools through the Business Data Catalog, which allows people to search for structured data in line of business applications like SAP and Siebel.

One of the key technical challenges that companies face today is identifying individuals with key undocumented relationships or expertise and tapping into it. The U.S. will soon face the largest wave of exiting information workers as the baby boomers begin their retirement years. In fact, it has been estimated that in the next seven years as many as 25 million employees will exit the workforce. When they leave, the information and relationships that they’ve built over their careers leaves with them. Meanwhile, a recent Gartner report confirms that, “while human knowledge may be an organization’s most valuable asset, much of this knowledge is never shared. Harnessing critical knowledge and using it to create a common vision and objectives can move an organization closer to realizing a High Performance Workplace” (“Knowledge Management Enables the High-Performance Workplace,” Kathy Harris, 2/16/06).This illustrates how imperative to an organization’s success it is to find solutions that tap into their most vital resource, their people. Office SharePoint Server 2007 adds a new dedicated Search Center tab for searching for people. This allows customers to connect with others in new ways by grouping people search results by “social distance.” In addition, by leveraging the power of Active Directory, information workers can refine their people searches by department and job title.

A new add-on called Knowledge Network for Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, expected to be available with the 2007 Microsoft Office system later this year, will further extend people and expertise search capabilities. Knowledge Network for SharePoint Server 2007 creates an automated profile that each user reviews before publishing to a server, making it easy to identify people by their undocumented knowledge and relationships. For instance, to find someone in an organization with a specific skill, a person could enter search terms such as “C# programmer” and then refine the search by job title and department to find the appropriate levels of expertise. Information workers can even initiate a “brokered” introduction that leverages relationships across the organization to connect with other people by using the “Find People Who Know this Person” feature. The results then show the shortest path to a person by ‘social distance.’

“Knowledge Network makes people connections easy,” Johnson explains. “Being able to quickly and easily leverage the collective expertise and social relations across and entire enterprise will provide companies with a distinct competitive advantage.”

As a response to customer feedback from the 2007 Microsoft Office system beta, Microsoft will also introduce a new server offering called Microsoft Office SharePoint Server for Search 2007. A subset of the complete Office SharePoint Server 2007, SharePoint Server for Search will provide mid-market and departmental enterprise customers with core search capabilities. Depending on a customer’s needs, it can either crawl content in common data repositories – such as file shares, Web sites and servers – or be extended to search other repositories using third-party or custom-built connectors.

More Enterprise Search Technologies

Like the upcoming 2007 Microsoft Office system and Windows Vista releases, Windows Live Search is part of a wave of technologies that will help enterprises address New World of Work needs and realize more of the power of their employees. Additional examples of enterprise search solutions across Microsoft Office, Exchange Server, SQL Server and throughout Windows include:

  • Web search improvements through Windows Live Search (currently in beta)

  • Search improvements with Windows Vista (also in beta) in addition to a host of other powerful search capabilities, including using indexing technology and search algorithms to provide rapid and scalable desktop search, virtual folders, preview and navigation panes, and live icons

  • Application-centric information search in Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 and OneNote 2007 that’s based on the Windows Desktop Search core engine (beta)

  • Improved full text search services in the upcoming release of Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 will make search faster for Outlook Web Access and Outlook users in online mode, and will also enable a new class of regulatory compliance scenarios focused around e-mail (beta)

Microsoft believes enterprise information management solutions can help people make better business decisions, become more productive and achieve greater organizational success by enabling them to create, find, use and share information. While enterprise search may be just one component of the bigger information management picture, according to Johnson, “enterprise search is obviously something CEOs care about quite a bit.”

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