Categorizing enterprise search intents – understanding the ‘Why’.

Categorizing enterprise search intents – understanding the ‘Why’.

by | Dec 7, 2020 | Search


A major challenge for any search application is divining what the intent was behind a query in order to improve the initial response. So long as the user feels that they are going in useful direction they will probably be willing to refine the query and to keep trying to improve the relevancy of the results. There are of course many ways in which the intent behind a query could be explored and satisfied. Facets are very useful, and so is auto-suggestion. AI and machine learning are increasingly being positioned as being able to work out intent from documents that an employee is working on or prior queries. A recent presentation (as a short video) from IBM is an illustration of one of the many approaches that are being explored. Given a question, dynamic facets are generated automatically, enabling the user to refine and narrow down their intent.

I have been looking back over some the user interviews I have undertaken over the last few years. The list below is a fairly simplistic categorization of the intents that came up in the interviews. They are all ‘real queries’ but not from the same organisation!  I am developing it as a framework for user interviews for a project next year and I though that you might find it useful. Personas and service blueprints have a role to play but I find that starting an interview with a couple of recent queries can be use.

This is certainly not a definitive list but does illustrate the range of solutions that need to be available from a search vendor working with the search support team. Some might be seen as near-duplicates but they come from different stories. 

Complaint – something has gone wrong and I need to find the current fix as it is not a complaint I have had to deal with for a couple of years

Compliance – I need to review  the documents from our current round of 9001 audits

Date range – I need to find all the proposals we submitted between 1 January 2019 and 31 March 2020.

External  – I need a table that compares forecasts on national recovery in 2021/2022

Learning – I am trying to get myself up to speed on a topic that I have not followed for several years

Monitor –  I want to find out what has been added to the index since I last carried out this search

News – I would like to see how the product launch has been managed in our major markets

People – I remember meeting Jon (or was it John?) at the London workshop last year but can’t remember which country he is working in

Period – We are coming up to the year-end and I need to find all the monthly reports on this project

Plan – I am looking at a new opportunity that up to know I have not been tracking

Problem – I’m not quite sure how to deal with this situation

Product – does the PD2030 need 3-phase power

Project – I may have an administrative role and/or an expertise contribution role

Recall – I am new to this company and I need to find as much useful information I can how this line of research developed

Role – I have a number of different roles. I am a department lead, a member of several different project teams, and I have responsibility for compliance review of all project proposals

Task – I always used to do this task so easily but the procedure seems to have changed and I’m not sure what is now different.

Team – I’m looking for information that I can table at the next team meeting to start a discussion about a Plan B.

Martin White