Can we improve corporate search?

I had an article published in Digital Energy Journal this month. Link here

Most of us expect a search engine to be a tool which delivers us results such as documents, web pages, people profiles, lessons learnt and best practices when we type something into a box. But can it do more? Oil and gas data scientist Paul Cleverley is doing a PhD to try to find out.

Development of ‘enterprise search’ technology is fairly stagnated in companies, said Paul Cleverley, speaking at the Digital Energy Journal Aberdeen conference in May, ‘Subsurface computing and competitive advantage’.

It is usually seen as a utility, not something which affects the bottom line of the company. ‘Quite often the user interface is a pretty bland search box,’ he said. This may follow the theory-in-use dominant culture of Google which drives our expectations, but are some latent needs going unmet?

Considering the benefit to the company of making it easier for people to find what they are looking for and what may be valuable, perhaps it is worth investing in a better search engine architecture and design, Mr Cleverley believes.

Company information as a whole may be under-exploited and under-explored. Where the ‘whole is greater than the sum of the parts’, using the right approach, company information may be able to surface an answer or association that is not present in any one single document. Using a common metaphor, as well as finding ‘needles in haystacks’, smashing together information haystacks and finding ‘new needles’ could be a gamechanger.

This isn’t just an oil and gas problem. Scientists and engineers are generally interested in similar concepts in any industry, he said. Some of the concepts from the research have been shared with NASA and incorporated into their communication and designs.

Better searching tools can help geoscientists be more objective – weighing up a range of different possibilities, rather than sorting for information which fits their hypothesis.

Many of us may have heard executives saying that having a geologist that knows the basin inside out is a valuable asset – but can also be a liability, if he or she is not willing to engage with an alternate point of view about how it works.

Paul Cleverley is an information scientist. He is in his 4th year of a PhD at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen…




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