Why Can’t I Just Ask a Question?

Why don’t computers work like people think?  Why can’t I just ask a simple question when I want to search for something?

The internet revolution has changed society forever.  Even with all the advancements, computers and computer interfaces (UI) have not always been “people” friendly, and that is an understatement.

Traditionally, internal search is the worst of the bunch.  For years, corporate search experiences have been horrible.  When it comes to searching for information to get work done, users are required to speak a new language.  Imagine working in an office where everyone speaks French and you only speak English?

You are now required to understand concepts like Boolean operators and wildcards.  Do I use a “near” or an “and” operator?  You must figure out when or if you should use quotation marks.  And, hopefully you don’t misspell something!  Sadly, you could not ask a simple question and be presented with the answer.

This lack of basic simplicity leads to disengaged, unhappy information workers.  This reduces productivity and impacts employee retention.  If people like where they work, they stay.  It is really that simple.

This leads to the obvious question: Why can’t internal search specifically, and enterprise applications in general, be easy to use like the consumer applications I use in my everyday life?

Alexa are you listening?

The good news is the technology universe is in fact listening.

Serendipitously, my colleague Sean Coleman recently wrote a blog based on a Forbes article entitled, “Nine Disruptive Tech Breakthroughs In 2018”.  Two of the top trends referenced are AI/Machine Learning and Voice-Based Applications.  This makes total sense.  I see this in the market today.

Like a Google internet search experience, many industry leading enterprise search vendors have introduced Natural Language Processing (“NLP”) and Natural Language Query (“NLQ”) functionality.  Throw in bots, integration with services like Microsoft Cognitive Services and Cortana, Google Cloud, and Amazon Alexa, and you have some real powerful applications.  Search starts to work like we think.

At BA Insight, we continue to lead the way in delivering such AI-driven search solutions.  For example:

  • Imagine workers on a support team starting their day by simply typing the statement, “show me my priority one open tickets.”
  • Imagine misspelling a word and having a bot make a suggestion, “did you mean?”, with the correct spelling and relevant search results.
  • Imagine a partner at a law firm looking for an internal subject matter expert being able to talk into his/her phone, “Alexa, find me a patient law expert who speaks Mandarin.”
  • Imagine being a data scientist for a mining company and being able to ask about mineral exploration opportunities and having critical information represented geospatially.

The hype is now reality.  Because of functionality like AI, computers are acting more like the way humans think and act.  When searching, you can now easily type a question and get an answer.

I have a question I want to ask.  “Cortana, where is this year’s annual sales meeting?”