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IT executives now are applying a more sophisticated, enterprise version of search functionality to corporate Web sites and intranets to improve the search experience for e-commerce customers, business partners and employees. Beyond that, enterprise search tools are being aimed at internal databases, even databases residing on mainframes, for specialized functions such as data analytics, knowledge management and business-process management .
Christian Book Distributors (CBD) wanted to improve the search and browse functionality on its e-commerce sites, most notably ChristianBook.com , according to Mark Pepin, assistant vice president for the Peabody, Mass., company. CBD chose Endeca's ProFind for the task. "We really liked the technology that drove Endeca," Pepin says. "It was very similar to the technology we built our site on."
After they implemented the product, it wasn't long before Pepin and his team started to see how Endeca also could help CBD reduce the time it took to roll out marketing campaigns. "We saw it was also a great data-mining tool, which made it a good fit for direct-marketed, targeted e-mails to our customer base," he says.
Before using ProFind, it took several hours to run a traditional database query. "With Endeca's ability to slice and dice our data, we could load up all of our separate customer information - purchase history, author history, product categories - on a separate platform. We were then able to quickly segment the list. We could go and mine customers, clicking on anybody who had purchased a particular author in the past, and it would literally bring back information in seconds," Pepin says.
The ability to process a company's structured and unstructured data, stored in a variety of formats, is what separates enterprise search tools from more public Web search engines, according to analysts. Structured data exists in database tables, usually associated with a company's ERP, CRM or custom database systems. Unstructured data can take the form of e-mails, Microsoft Office-type files, Adobe PDFs and a host of other current or legacy file types scattered throughout a typical corporation.
|Questions to ask when beginning a search project|
Public Web search engines primarily support HTML file formats, and possibly a few standard office formats (Microsoft Word, Adobe Acrobat PDFs). Enterprise search products often provide gateways that let the products search and retrieve content from a range of file formats, even legacy files on mainframes.