When Vivisimo began looking for a fresh take for the annual update to its enterprise search engine Velocity, developers decided to study the employees using it on their intranets every day. They found that workers were used to Google searches, del.icio.us tagging, and Web 2.0 interactivity they experienced in their home computing, and they weren't happy about trading in the simplicity and speed of consumer search when they went to work. "It was a user rebellion," reported Rebecca Thompson, Vivisimo's VP of marketing.
Velocity, Vivisimo's flagship product, was built on a search philosophy that distinguishes it from the enterprise search platform pack. Its engines cluster results based on keyword comprehension and built on mathematical algorithms and language patterns. Each update sticks to the cluster concept but takes advantage of burgeoning technologies to keep high-profile clients, like Procter and Gamble, the United States Department of Defense, and Eli Lilly and Co., able to tap into their massive digital assets. Recent versions 5.0, 5.1, and 5.5 respectively scaled search interfaces, made the platform compatible across a number of operating systems, and brought search capabilities to users' mobile devices. Version 6.0 gives users better control over how results are clustered and sorted, and it also adds an innovative twist with what Thompson calls "a first in the industry--collaborative functionality."
With cues from consumer sites like Amazon, Flickr, and del.icio.us, Velocity 6.0 invites users to feed information into and collaborate directly across the search interface, cutting out the middle step between discovering and sharing. "It's a web world," says Thompson, "and the enterprise software space, from a user-experience perspective, seems to be a little behind." To catch up, Velocity 6.0 adds trendy extras like tagging, rating, ranking, and commenting functions to allow users a greater degree of interaction with the assets and each other without having to leave the Velocity portal.
Velocity 6.0's rating system allows users to help fellow searchers find what they need by ranking results for certain keywords. The same idea--users helping fellow users--inspired a tagging feature, which gives seekers the option to contribute their own tags for enhanced findability beyond original metadata. Notes and comments can be added right into the search interface and, for greater on-the-fly sharing, users can deposit results into virtual folders as they're retrieved. "Normally, you'd use the enterprise search engine to find all those results, then cut and paste your links into an email and attach it to documents, taking up more and more space on the exchange server," explains Thompson. "But this created an information glut problem." In already overstuffed corporate intranets, Velocity hopes to keep search-based collaboration neatly contained within the search space. "This is the way, without ever having to leave the system, to save and share that information with colleagues," says Thompson.
Customers told Vivisimo that they wanted their search product to be less of an engine and more of a portal. Through that portal, the updated Velocity now searches and stores information from across all the multiple content management systems its clients employ, from email and individual desktops to archived repositories in remote branches. But as much as clients need to find the right digital asset, Velocity thinks they need help finding the right people for their projects. They've added a social networking function that includes self-written bios, lists of projects and recent searches, and updated contact information to alert co-workers to the possibility of collaboration before it happens. To squeeze even more value out of the search process, Velocity 6.0 introduces a big-picture feature that gives executives and leaders a way to calculate and visualize search trends across their whole team. "We provide managers the ability to see a visual map of hot topics within their groups, departments, or across an entire organization," says Thompson. "It's a visual dashboard of the tags and commentary."
If you looked at Vivisimo's visual search map over the last six months, Thomson says "it would be all about tagging, organizing, and social networking." However, Velocity 6.0 also includes tweaks to its core technology, clustering. If the initial request doesn't hit the right search spot, users can hit a button that "remixes" the results, sifting through keywords for a more relevant hit. "Right now, Velocity pulls out common themes," said Thompson. "But when you hit the button that says 'different,' it's going to remix those and pull out submerged themes."
With conflicting search experiences in and outside the firewall, the enterprise search rebellion is on. Yet, with Web 2.0-inspired features and value added onto every office search, Vivisimo wants users to know it's on their side.