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July 12, 2024
March 4, 2024
XX min read

What Is Enterprise Search? Definition, Benefits, and Examples

How many workplace apps does your business use? If it’s anything like the average company, the answer is over 200!

That’s more than 200 applications in which useful information can be siloed, lost, and left beyond the reach of team members who might need it.

While most of the apps your company uses presumably add a lot of value and increase productivity in some ways, they also could be reducing productivity too–silently.

With so many apps to navigate, it’s harder than ever for employees to find the information they need to do their jobs. They often don’t know which apps store what information. And even when they do, they struggle to find the specific information they’re looking for.

It’s an issue that’s quietly dragging down the efficiency of teams everywhere. And it’s an issue that a growing number of companies are solving with enterprise search software.

This is a rapidly evolving software category that gives employees the ability to search across their internal data, files, and applications to access the information they need more easily.

Read on to learn what enterprise search is, how it works, and what features to look for when considering an enterprise search platform in 2024.

Enterprise Search Definition

Enterprise search is a type of workplace software that employees use to search across their company’s internal data, documentation, and applications and quickly find the information they’re looking for.

It is sometimes nicknamed ‘Google for work’ or ‘ChatGPT for work’ because it offers a similar user experience to those products. And it’s sometimes referred to as cognitive search or an insights engine.

There are a few different types of enterprise search, including unified search, federated search, and enterprise search. These types of enterprise search are broadly similar but have subtle yet important differences. Let’s take a look at each one in more detail.

What is federated search?

Federated search is a type of technology that allows users to search across multiple content sources, data repositories, and software applications from a single user interface. With federated search, each digital location is indexed separately and results are usually provided as a list of sources.

A key benefit of federated search is its ability to give users a single point of access to a vast range of data. One drawback however is that results are not organized by relevance, meaning users may get some unuseful or duplicative results.

What is unified search?

Unified search is a technology with which users can search across a wide range of data sources, content repositories, and information silos from a single application. It differs from federated search because instead of indexing each content source separately, it creates one unified index. This means that the results provided by unified search software are organized by relevance, automatically deduplicated, and generally more useful than those provided by a federated search tool.

An upside of unified search is the relevance of the search results it can provide to a user. A downside is the fact that, in some cases, unified search platforms can only connect to a limited number of sources, meaning their reach is limited.

What is enterprise search?

Enterprise search is a category of technology that gives users the ability to search across vast repositories of data–including documents, knowledge bases, and files–from one search bar. This type of enterprise search leverages artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing to generate unique answers to each query, sourced from the data it has access to.

It is emerging as the most effective type of enterprise search because of its ability to provide instant answers to users’ questions. However, if an enterprise search product doesn’t have a reliable mechanism for ensuring the accuracy of the answers it generates, users may find that results are sometimes untrustworthy.

How does enterprise search work?

The value of enterprise search lies in its simplicity. But there’s a lot of complex technology at work in the background to create a simple experience for users–from connecting sources to indexing data to generating results. Let’s take a look at how enterprise search works.

  • Connecting: When a company purchases enterprise search software, the first thing it needs to do is set up “connectors.” Simply put, it has to give the enterprise search platform access to the apps it wants employees to be able to search across. Some enterprise search platforms come with built-in connectors. These are often the most popular applications in various software categories like file storage systems and CRM tools. Sources that aren’t natively built into an enterprise search product can usually be connected via APIs.
  • Crawling: When an enterprise search tool has a number of connectors set up, it can then crawl those sources. In other words, it can scan and extract data from them. Some of the data it indexes might be structured data, which is organized in a way that allows it to be easily searched and may include things like excel files. Other data may be unstructured data, which isn’t organized by design and may include things like documents, chat messages, and video transcripts.
  • Indexing: Once an enterprise search product has crawled a company’s sources and extracted data, it then indexes that data. In short, it organizes the data into relational databases, otherwise known as “indexes.” The indexing process is what ultimately makes the data findable by the enterprise search engine.
  • Querying: This is the part of the enterprise search process that users are most familiar with. When a user types a question into a search bar, the enterprise search engine will match that query to the relevant data that’s been indexed to provide a result.


What are the benefits of enterprise search?

More and more companies of all sizes are turning to enterprise search software to overcome app overload, break down silos, and give their employees a simple yet powerful way to access information. And many are seeing instant, impressive results. Here are some of the benefits of enterprise search software.

Improved employee productivity

When individual employees have their company’s collective knowledge available at their fingertips, they spend less time searching for information or double-checking, and more time doing the work they were hired to do. Enterprise search has been shown to dramatically increase employee productivity.

Greater company efficiency

If every employee is able to access trusted information quickly and by extension improve their productivity, a company’s efficiency improves too. Decisions are made faster, projects are completed on time more often, and products are shipped at a quicker rate.

Higher customer satisfaction

Enterprise search can improve a company’s CSAT and NPS scores. When customer-facing employees are able to find trusted information quickly, it means they’re able to respond to customers faster and reduce the risk of sharing incomplete or inaccurate details.

Better cross-team collaboration

For employees on different teams to collaborate effectively, they need to have an understanding of the other team’s priorities, work, and strengths. In many modern workplaces, team-specific information is siloed in whatever tools each team uses. But with enterprise search, it’s possible for employees to tap into the knowledge of the teams they aren’t on, and as a result, improve the quality of their collaboration.

Lower costs through tool consolidation

When a company has an enterprise search tool working well, they may be able to cancel subscriptions to other tools and consolidate their tech stack. Guru’s enterprise search product includes wiki and intranet capabilities, meaning that companies can get the benefits of three products in one powerful platform.

What are the most important enterprise search features?

The enterprise search category has been growing in recent years, and with the breakthrough of generative AI technology, that growth is set to accelerate. 

Not all enterprise search products are the same, though. Some prioritize certain capabilities over others, but there are some features that are essential across the board. Here’s an overview of the more important features to look for when considering enterprise search software for your company.

Connectors and integrations

The effectiveness of an enterprise search product often depends on the number of connectors it has, or the ease of adding new connectors. If a company has a lot of data in a knowledge base or CRM platform but can’t connect that to its enterprise search tool, they won’t see much benefit. Connectors and integrations are key to knitting together all of a company’s systems and giving employees access to their company’s collective knowledge, no matter where it’s stored.

Permission controls

For enterprise search software to add meaningful value to a company, it needs to have a water-tight permission control system in place. This is key to ensuring that sensitive information isn’t inadvertently shared with employees who shouldn’t have access to it. Beyond that, robust permissions controls can help to create a more personalized experience for users, sharing results that take into account an employee’s role, seniority, location, and recent activity in the platform.

Security and privacy

Given the breadth of access to data that an enterprise search tool has, it’s critical that the software complies with each company’s security policies, has necessary certifications like SOC2, and adheres to relevant data privacy regulations, like GDPR. When an enterprise search product has robust security and privacy policies in place, users can be confident that their internal data will not be shared with any third-party without their knowledge.

Data accuracy

An enterprise search tool is only as good as the data it has access to. As the saying goes:bad data in, bad data out. Therefore it’s essential that enterprise search software has a mechanism in place to assess the quality of the data it leverages to ensure that users can trust the results they get. This is a capability that Guru prides itself on, which is why we developed an AI training center to ensure that data quality is always improving.

Artificial intelligence

AI capabilities are no longer a “nice to have” in enterprise search software. They’re essential. Modern enterprise search platforms need to give employees the ability to type in a question or a query, search across all their company’s information silos, and get a personalized result in natural language. Generative AI technology plays a key role creating this type of experience and is now a fundamental feature of any enterprise search product.

Top Enterprise Search Software Platforms

In recent years the number of enterprise search products on the market has exploded, accelerated by advancements in AI technology. With its ability to give employees instant access to information that’s stored across their apps and systems, it’s uniquely capable of breaking down silos, solving app overload, and increasing employee productivity. 

In this article we explained what enterprise search is, we explored some of its benefits, and outlined key features. If you’re researching enterprise search options, read about the best enterprise search software.

Key takeaways 🔑🥡🍕

What is enterprise search?

Enterprise search is a type of workplace software that allows employees to quickly find information by searching across their company's internal data, documentation, and applications. There are a few different types of enterprise search, including unified search, federated search, and enterprise search, which are broadly similar but have subtle yet important differences.

What are the key enterprise search features?

The key features of enterprise search are: connectors and integrations, permission controls, security and privacy, data accuracy, and artificial intelligence.

What are the benefits of enterprise search?

The benefits of enterprise search include higher productivity, better company efficiency, more satisfied customers, improved workplace collaboration, and cost savings as a result of consolidating tools.

How does enterprise search work?

Written by
Alexa Krzyzanowski
Search everything, get answers anywhere with Guru.

Learn more tools and terminology re: workplace knowledge