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After 30 years, users finally have a new and better way to interact with search applications: Generative AI

Internet search engines have been around since the early 1990s, and over those 30 years they have remained largely the same from a user experience perspective… until recently.  The advent of generative AI has effectively created a new interface for search engines – you see it commercially on Bing and Google, and in a growing roster of search-enabled enterprise applications that sit behind an organization’s firewall.

Generative AI goes way beyond search

In the traditional search process, a user types in a query and gets a search result, scans the results list, clicks through to download interesting documents, and skims those documents to find information that is useful. Now, artificial intelligence-based machine learning is dramatically improving that traditional process.

In SinglePoint™, Northern Light’s enterprise knowledge management platform optimized for market and competitive intelligence research, the search engine itself summarizes the key points of documents contained in the search result, making it faster and easier for users to truly understand the significance of the content. Even better, with generative AI, users can ask SinglePoint a direct question rather than enter a “search query” and receive an answer (what we call an “Executive Summary”) in narrative form, with citations and links to the source documents from which the answer was derived.  And since in SinglePoint all those documents come from vetted, authoritative sources – no internet data is mixed into the content that contributes to the generative AI text – users can have confidence in the accuracy of the answers provided by the system (no “hallucinations” here!) and can easily verify them by clicking into the documents from the embedded chicklets in the summary.  And make no mistake, digging deeper should be standard operating procedure for business researchers using generative AI.  Gen AI results should be considered just the first step of a user’s research into their topic, not the last word.

The bottom line is AI-imbued search shifts the focus of the process from retrieving information to getting answers, which accelerates “time to insight.”

Browsing to content vs. searching for documents

But is search, even search enhanced by AI, always the preferred means for knowledge workers in an organization to secure the information and insights they need?  Not for many professionals, especially Millennials who came of age in the era of social media.  For them (and older senior executives, as well), the preferred approach is to cast a net to people and gather information, rather than relying on personal research. Trusted sources — friends and colleagues in their professional network — are more influential than the name on a publication’s masthead. They’re most likely to consume articles or reports that have been tagged and liked by their trusted peers. And their devices of choice are smartphones and tablets running iOS and Android.  These mobile devices are hostile to keyboard-based processes like search.  Mobile users instead enjoy “browsing” the content most relevant to their interests.

So take advantage of the advances in what used to known as “search” that today’s technology affords all users.  You’ll find that it’s an easier, more “human” user experience, enabled by a more capable machine.


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