Search-based applications and business processes

The value of any new technology category is often hard to forecast as that technology is born. Certainly when powered aviation initially ‘took-off’ (pun intended), its pioneers, Félix du Temple de la Croix, the Wright brothers and others were a small group of visionaries. These few visionaries believed in the possibility or even the certainty of commercial aviation. Others were less convinced. This scenario for new technologies has repeated itself many times.

Search-based applications (SBAs), as a software technology concept, has had a similar reception. But we still have many use cases yet to be explored. At Exalead, we view SBAs as a natural evolution beyond generic search technologies. The drivers are organic, as both vendors and customers conceive innovative use cases for our technology to enhance commerce, government and our personal lives.

As we explore uses for  search-based applications, it’s important that we articulate the business value of SBAs for each anticipated use. The good news is that for each Exalead SBA deployment so far, there are specific business processes that have been enhanced. Examples of those enhancements are shorter cycle times for specific tasks, uniform deployment of process best-practices, enhanced vendor value to customers, reduced business process support/training costs and increased productivity.

Examples of business processes that have gained these advantages are cross- and up-selling by inside and outside salespeople, sales proposal optimization, sales rep activity oversight, in-store/phone/on-line customer service, pre-purchase product location, recommendation and education, social community enrichment and consultant selection/team building.

It’s very likely that in the early days of commercial air travel, there were those who questioned “who needs it?” thinking that trans-oceanic ship-based travel was sufficient and even more prudent. After all, it’s just travel from point A to point B, right? And likely lots of drinks on the observation deck.  Nevertheless, minimal time (and cost) spent traveling was and is a need for many people.  Similarly, our customers tell us that incremental improvement in sales, customer service and employee productivity are ever present needs for business that endorse the adoption of SBAs.

My point is that search-based applications are a new approach to accelerating and enhancing existing business processes. They are innovative because their architecture allows IT organizations to economically enhance these processes beyond the status quo. More thoughts on this to come.