Information is accumulating faster than ever. If estimates are to be believed, the total amount of data created, copied, captured and consumed worldwide is likely to reach 180+ zettabytes (1 zettabyte = 1 trillion gigabytes) by 2025. As a result, finding relevant information quickly and easily has become a challenging task for businesses and individuals alike.
This is a general problem, but it becomes much more specific and daunting in the context of organizations and modern businesses. A lot of time and money is often lost just looking for relevant documents and data. Even as search engines get more sophisticated, this problem persists. The reason? While search algorithms are improving, the way we store documents is not – and that is causing a major hindrance.
This problem can be solved by understanding and implementing the ideas of document indexing. Think of document indexing as making your document more easily accessible and searchable by adding tags, labels, and other important metadata. Such indexing is essential if we are to let sophisticated search algorithms do their job properly. To add to that, many businesses are going paperless and remote – and they use OCR and other scanning methodologies to digitize their files. In order to access these files at a later stage and in a relevant manner, document indexing becomes important again.
In this blog post, we will explore document indexing, how it works and how it can help you get the most out of your documents.
The benefits of proper indexing
Document indexing, if done properly, can help you find and access information quickly whenever you need it. As a result, your business will become more efficient and streamlined as less time will be spent searching for documents. Additionally, fewer errors and mistakes will be made, saving you money in terms of productivity and reduced legal fees. You’ll also be better equipped to collaborate with colleagues and clients due to streamlined project management.
Simply put, the overarching benefit of proper document indexing is enhanced enterprise search. As businesses are evolving in the context of the problems they tackle, the types and amounts of data held by these businesses are also evolving. In such a situation, accessing relevant information from the enterprise knowledge base becomes challenging if not for proper document indexing.
Enterprise data can be spread across different databases, in various formats, and have different dependencies. However, with proper document indexing, all of these differences can be leveled out by bringing things down to the metadata level. In doing so, businesses can accurately make use of fast and precise enterprise search, which can result in other important benefits, like:
- Saves time and money: Needless to say, without proper indexing of documents, even the most sophisticated search algorithms will find it difficult to fetch precise results in a limited time. This invariably leads to the wastage of a lot of time and, therefore, money. With proper document indexing, however, businesses can save a lot of time and money and access relevant documents faster.
- Improves the employee experience: Nobody likes searching for documents in vain. Your employees already have different tasks on their plate – things they need to focus on. Amidst that, if a simple task of “finding relevant information” was so challenging, it would negatively impact the employee experience. With proper document indexing (and a sophisticated enterprise search engine), your employees can quickly access relevant information and get along with more important tasks.
- Enables smoother remote work: With more and more teams going remote, it is becoming increasingly important for companies to ensure that all their employees can find the documents and resources they need. If remote employees struggle to find and gather relevant data, workplace productivity can nosedive. Proper document indexing ensures this does not happen, and that remote teams get access to all the data they require whenever they require it.
- Simplifies audit and compliance: With proper document indexing and smart enterprise search, you can rest assured that all the important documents in audit and compliance will be within your reach in just a few clicks. That way, finding relevant documents before the audit day will not be a task, and the entire process will be streamlined better than ever before.
Three main types of document indexing
When it comes to indexing your documents for improved search, you can go about it in more ways than one. However, not all of the ways of document indexing are suitable for all use cases. To understand that better, let’s look at the three main types of document indexing:
- Full-text indexing: This approach requires scanning through all the available documents and looking for relevant strings or keywords. As you can see, this is the most time-consuming method of indexing, albeit being thorough in its approach.
- Metadata indexing: Here, document indexing is based on metadata, which is essentially the labels and tags associated with documents. Metadata is created to understand the document better and gather additional information about them. This includes the topic they discuss, the companies they reference, their nature, and so on. As you can guess, this approach to indexing is definitely faster than full-text indexing. Here, the search engine need not scan the entire document word-by-word. Just analyzing the metadata will give information about the contents of the document, which will make the search faster and more accurate.
- Field-data indexing: Many kinds of enterprise documents follow a templated structure in terms of the fields they contain. For example, invoices raised by a business are mostly the same in terms of the fields – they’ll have a customer identifier, services offered, total amount, due date, and so on. Field-data indexing is, therefore, useful in cases where you wish to retrieve documents only based on the kind of information contained in such recurring fields. Needless to say, this is the fastest of the three types of indexing, but it should be preferred only for specific types of documents that are surely templatized in nature.
Best practices for document indexing
Clearly, document indexing is not a straightforward thing to do. You need to know your document inside out to really provide relevant metadata that can then be utilized at a later stage during the search. As a result, there are some strategies that you can adopt for performing document indexing on your enterprise documents. These strategies, or best practices, ensure that your documents are indexed in the most useful manner possible. Here are some such practices for you to keep in mind:
- Automate: Automation is no longer a buzzword. It’s a very real phenomenon that has impacted even the most legacy businesses in terms of how they operate. When it comes to document indexing, AI-based automated document management systems can automatically scan the contents of the entire file and extract relevant information in the form of metadata. Automated systems can also take care of file storage by understanding what kind of file they’re reading and where it should be placed in the enterprise database.
- Follow naming conventions: Most businesses use some sort of rational naming scheme for files. With document indexing, this becomes even more important, as your enterprise search algorithm is likely to work a lot better if some standardized conventions are followed.
- Have an intuitive interface: All of this indexing and retrieving requires a lot of back-end work. So much so that it can get really confusing for people who are not aware of how it works. To ensure that no confusion creeps in, your indexing system should be complemented with an intuitive UI that your employees can easily understand. Without that, even with indexing in place, they will not be able to get around the tool, thus defeating the purpose. With an intuitive search UI, you ensure that your document indexing is properly exploited for the best results.
Document indexing is a must in today’s information-rich environment. With time, it is only going to get even more important. The sooner businesses realize the importance of document indexing and take the necessary steps in that direction, the better it will be for them in the long run. Document indexing and enterprise search are going to be crucial as businesses evolve more, and those who give it a thought at the right time will likely outperform others in all aspects.