Enterprise Search – The New User Experience For Enterprise Information Processing
Imagine you could search for, access, process and share information in your organization’s information system, much like you do when using today’s popular web search engines. Furthermore, imagine an ERP user-experience that tailors search results to reflect an enterprise model and user-preferences to optimize runtime behavior in processing data. Now onto reality, let’s take a deep dive on how S/4HANA Cloud’s Enterprise Search Solution delivers the next generation end user ERP user experience.
Definition & Use-Case
Enterprise Search is a search solution that provides unified, comprehensive, and secure real-time access to organizational data which enables users to search for structured data (business objects) and allows direct access to the associated applications and actions. What does that mean?
- Suppose you are a procurement specialist who needs to retrieve the latest documents regarding your purchase order for spare parts. Typically, the procurement specialist would navigate to the purchase order processing application, search for and identify the relevant purchase order at interest, and subsequently proceed to processing and retrieving any relevant documents/information. With SAP S/4HANA Cloud, the user could utilize the powerful search bar and interact with the tool by using natural language. In this example, suppose that the procurement specialist knows the name of the supplier that he or she is dealing with, and hence merely enters the supplier’s name in the search bar:
The search will return all objects in the system (defined in the enterprise search model) and display the results for which the end-user has authorization to access. A key advantage to this experience is that the procurement specialist obtains instant insights of all related information to the purchase order process sorted according to the user’s preferences which are easily filterable. Thereafter, by clicking on the hyperlinks the procurement specialist can directly navigate to the application for decision making, processing and actions.
Search Optimization & Functionality
Now that you have a more tangible idea on an enterprise search use-case, you might be asking what really happens behind the scenes?
First, we need to understand how search results are presented which allows for the search configuration and optimization. The search results area lists all objects which match the user’s search query. The result list is sorted by relevance, based on the following factors:
- Attribute weighting. A hit in the surname is ranked higher than a hit in the first name for example.
- Number of hits in an object (proportional to the text length and frequency of other words).
(Note: You can expand and collapse the display area of single search results to view details).
- For better performance, we recommend specifying a category before starting a search in business data. Example: when searching for a name specify the object you are searching for:
- If you cannot find the expected results, try again using *, for example *Federica*
(Note that the search is not case-sensitive)
- Enable personalized search. Using this feature, you can enable or disable the tracking of a user’s search activities. The search data is retained in the database. This data can be used for user specific ranking of search results in the Enterprise Search.
Now that we have seen how search results are displayed and some tips on searching, the next exciting avenue to explore is the enterprise search model browser. The enterprise search model browser displays all the CDS-based enterprise search models. You can navigate to each search model and view the artifacts such as CDS views, tables, fields, relationships between views. The define search behavior application allows you to display search configuration settings that are assigned to business objects, create synonyms and stopwords, assign synonyms and stopwords in lists (essentially grouping synonyms/stopwords thematically)/topic, delete synonyms and stopwords or lists, display where-used lists for configuration settings, synonyms, and stopwords.
A powerful functionality to consider is the text analysis dictionary which allows you to specify an entity (business object) and corresponding relevant database tables. For example, a user can create a customized dictionary to search for a supplier. The user can select a data source (CDS view) and choose relevant entity and variants corresponding to that entity. The created dictionary for supplier will contain one entity set from a database table.
In addition, the Fine-Tune Ranking application allows end-users to create and edit ranking factors & boosts and test their effects immediately in a simulation for a given business object. Ranking can be used to list objects higher in the search results list, for instance to optimize the end-user experience.
Enterprise Search Query Monitor & Organizational Value
We have covered how end-user’s ERP experience is fundamentally simplified by using the enterprise search bar which could be tailored to end-user preferences as well as optimized in terms of result ranking and behavior to best suite your organizations daily operations. Next, we want to cover the Enterprise Search Query & organizational value. Using the My Query application users are able to view and evaluate search activities and search terms either graphically in a bar chart or as a table. Essentially, a feature that resembles Google trends but for an organization. This feature allows administrators to understand what end-users commonly work on and utilize the corresponding search performance. Accordingly, analysis of this data could bring a greater understand of end-user behavior and provide a window of opportunity to enhance the end-user experiencing by making search results more relevant. Afterall, the value of data is a function of its timeliness, relevance and accuracy.
Tip: Use the $OWN_DATA session variable to filter on the searches you have made:
Nowadays individuals rely on search engines for daily use. Whether it be on deciding what movie to watch, making travel arrangements, or embarking on academic endeavors. Popular search engines leverage machine learning and expert recommendation systems to tailor results according to complex search models that factor in dimensions such as geography, natural text, popularity and accordingly display and rank results. As a matter of fact, the insights obtained from search data have lead to a rise in the profitability of tech firms who offer data-driven stories on economic, social, environmental and political ecosystems. Could you otherwise imagine a world where search results were not pre-structured to suite what you are truly looking for? For example, to help you picture such an example, just picture yourself trying to go the millions of search results that may contain the word ‘and’ when using a web search engine.
Simply put, humans have come to interact and rely heavily on search models and it’s translation to enterprise systems requires additional consideration based on user business profiles and operational requirements to optimize outcomes and deliver a seamless customer experience. We invite you to explore, leverage and share your journey with SAP S/4HANA Cloud Enterprise search.
Feras Al-Basha – join me on LinkedIn
Riwa Mouawad – join me on LinkedIn
Thanks for the simple and powerful article Feras and Riwa.
Useful blog, thanks for sharing!
Will these feature available also in S/4HANA (on-prem)?
Thank you for reaching out. There are already some of the Enterprise Search features made available for S/4HANA On-Premise. I invite you to observe the Fiori apps library to obtain an idea for which apps are available in on-premise. In addition you may refer to the following note for more technical information.
Hope this clarifies.
Hello, just one comment: I think the pure focus on structured data (aka business objects) is too narrow. I see very often that a fulltext search on linked documents (may they be in the DMS or GOS) would be very useful.
Is this somewhere on the roadmap?
Thank you for your comment.
Regarding your question on the roadmap. Please see some of the innovations planned for SAP S/4HANA Cloud on the product roadmap page via this link.