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Enterprise Search Wish List for Office 365

Ten features that will make Office 365 truly an enterprise content platform

In my previous article about Office 365, I had listed how Office 365 and NoSQL together can be a potential enterprise platform. However, in order for it to satisfy the enterprise features of:

  • Content Management
  • Business Intelligence
  • Enterprise Reporting

Office 365  needs to satisfy more  advanced search features. Here is the wish list that could be satisfied in the initial or later releases of Office 365 to fill in the missing pieces to make it truly enterprise.

1.  Tag Searchable Attributes to Documents
Currently we can search  within the office documents like search for a particular string in a Word document, but however  the ability to tag a document, for example if a Purchase Order is stored as a Word document and  the document can be tagged with,  Vendor Name, Shipping Location Zip Code, Type of the items to be ordered etc., then the searching of documents will become more organized much more than the  full text search  feature can provide.

2.  Establish Document Hierarchies
In the real world most of the documents that we store in a Microsoft Office system follow a natural hierarchy. For example if  we consider the insurance company storing all the policy information  of its clients. One set of hierarchy would ne

  • Documents about the Family insurance coverage
  • o Documents Related to Individual members of Family
  • § Claim Records of One of the family members
  • § Medical History of one of the family members

Currently this level of intelligence is not available in the Office documents, bringing them   with the document attributes and establishing hierarchy will go a long way in organized search for the information content.

3.  Ability To Link Documents
Much like a hierarchy  in real world, documents from different sources may be linked and need to be presented together in searches.  Again considering an insurance scenario.

  • You have policy information as Word documents
  • You got accident photos or traffic violation records in the form of graphical or other type of office documents
  • Now if for a particular policy holder these documents can be linked together through common attributes such as a driving license, it will provide a lot of value in enterprise searches

4.  Advanced Searching Capabilities Within Documents / Within Tags
As the amount of information across large enterprises grows to  terabytes and higher, the quest for information cannot be easily satisfied by normal relational queries. Now with Office 365 and  NoSQL storage we already seeing that scalability is real, so the following advanced search features will make the information retrieval meaningful.

  • Spelling adjustment in searches so that similar words are chosen even if it is misspelled.
  • Did You Mean functionalities in search
  • Stemming and Thesaurus
  • Multi Lingual Searches

5.  Provide Advanced Query Language to Query Office 365 Documents
Currently  Office VBA and other Scripting  languages are handy for querying Office documents. However if Office 365 can provide support for a comprehensive Querying language like MDX or SQL or LINQ like syntax that will enable more  developer written applications.

6.  Support For Analytical Functions While Querying Office 365 Documents
OLAP (Online Analytical Processing) is a critical BI technology that enables executives to gain information insight.  With Office 365 documents going to cover bulk of enterprise data, the following functions on search results should  improve the usability of the application.

  • RANK : Assigning a sequential rank of a row within a window
  • GROUPING Capabilities like ROLLUP and CUBE
  • Correlation Analysis

7.  Embedded Spatial Engine as Part Of Office 365
Information about the location like Zipcode, Address and others would be stored through out the Office 365 documents.  There is a stronger need to  understand details like

  • Location of the customers or vendors
  • Market Area information
  • Store Location and Proximity etc...

Hence the need to integrate Spatial Servers is much stronger for making Office 365 a truly enterprise platform.

8.  Seamless Integration Between Document Types In Searches
Search features can be across  Office 365 documents like Word, Excel, Email etc.. So that we could  utilize a  Spatial  server search to get to the  purchase order word documents meant for a particular plant  in a particular  state or county, and then use the document linking features to link to the  item level information stored in excel documents.

9.  Stronger Security Needs
Any application that retrieves large amount of sensitive data needs to be highly secured. The following features should be provided  or enhanced.

  • Access Control List and Group permission of documents
  • Encryption
  • SSL-based access

10.  Stronger Performance  Needs
Several of rich enterprise search features that we talked  above requires   back ground processing on  parsing documents, extract  key words, Index key words and enable the search functions to return correct information.  So a stronger  parallel processing need across worker roles  will be the key for the success of the Office 365 platform.

Summary
As Office 365 grows as an enterprise SaaS platform,  the ten features that we listed above will help in the positioning of the product across enterprise needs. Most of these features can be provided to make Office 365 a scalable, enterprise content management and BI platform too , apart from traditional document management.

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