Context is King
Intellext, a search technology company based in Chicago, already understands what its users are doing. Its software solution, Watson, watches users while they work and uses that insight to proactively find and deliver relevant and useful information. What's more, Watson is designed to find information users didn't know existed, in places they otherwise might not have looked.
"The key to driving relevance is not better search algorithms. It's understanding the user context—what the user is doing at that point in time—and leveraging that to drive access to the right information," observes Jay Budzik, Intellext's CTO. Based on the company's proprietary technology, Watson is designed from the ground up to be aware of what users are doing and understand what users find important in the information they read based on clues such as the frequency of key terms in a document. "It's everything short of thinking," Budzik says. If they require, users can also configure Watson to scour their own favorite news sources, blogs, and subscription content services as well as the company intranet and content management systems for relevant information.
Watson also enables users to discover and connect with the best and brightest minds in their companies and ecosystems, making subject matter experts immediately available to users when they need them most.
The advance of new technology that seeks to understand individual user preferences and context sends a clear message to vendors: Results are good, relevance is better, and applied knowledge—even connecting people in possession of it—is best.
Search technology may have been good enough in the 1990s, but now its capabilities appear frozen in time. It still delivers reams of results with outdated or static material that is neither accurate nor relevant. And there is also the growing concern that search may degenerate into a showcase for advertising and other distractive content.
Moving forward, personalization and discovery will be must-have features of any serious search tool. Moreover, the ability to see over the shoulders of users and suggest relevant content, as well as information they would have never thought to look for, will be showing up in a range of workflow tools. After all, even power search is powerless if it fails to deliver the right results to the right people.
Northwoods Software Inc.
Sidebar: Search and Deliver
Companies have a choice: Plug in a typical black box search appliance and leave a site's internal search results to chance, or harness new "intelligent" search technology to analyze visitors' internal site searching patterns and use this insight to provide users specifically relevant search results across all of the company's Web properties on the first click.
Enabling the latter is Northwoods Software Inc., a Wisconsin-based software engineering and Web development company. Its SmartSearch tool streamlines internal search functions, offering customers the means to track search terms and manually assign search results to commonly used search terms. Moreover, SmartSearch automatically captures and tracks search words that site visitors use to query a site and allows companies to map these keywords (and their common misspellings) to hand-picked URLs.
The solution has already been implemented on goMilwaukee (www.milwaukee.gov) a combined county-city portal. "We can understand how people search and we can manually drive traffic to the pages visitors should see," explains Randy Gschwind, City of Milwaukee CIO. The pay off is a "more responsive government and a significant reduction in the number of clicks to get to relevant information."
Northwoods believes that providing companies with insight about and control of the search process allows search to do more than just offer site visitors lists of results. According to Rick Fessenbecker, managing director of Northwoods, "Our customers can guarantee relevant search results and introduce users to new content because they—and not the algorithms—are in complete control." He says, "We provide a peek into the subconscious mind of visitors. When they type the word in the search box, they are telling you exactly what they're looking for. You can then see if the search results are coming up with the relevant information and fine-tune them to be sure you're delivering the relevant content." Everything else is guesswork.