AI-Powered Intelligent Search: Find the Data You Need With Contextual Understanding

By Salima Mangalji, Edmond Leung

Published on March 20, 2024

AI Driven Intelligent Search


In today's data-driven world, being able to quickly and accurately find the correct information is crucial. The importance of data discovery is further compounded by a common challenge: limited access to trusted data, often spread across disparate tools. According to our recent State of Data Culture Maturity Research Report, hurdles such as data discovery, organizational silos, and a deficiency in analytical skills hinder users from fully leveraging their data. Organizations that use Alation can solve these issues by democratizing data access through intuitive search and discovery features, enabling users to find and trust data for more informed decision-making.

At Alation, we recently announced our artificial intelligence (AI) layer, ALLIE AI. As part of this release, we have added AI capabilities to our search engine to expand on our natural language search functionality, launching Intelligent Search. Intelligent Search redefines traditional keyword-focused search by combining behavioral, semantic, and keyword ranking capabilities for a more intuitive search experience.

For example, if you are an analyst searching for the phrase "European data protection law" within Alation, you may not receive search results matching the exact search phrase if there are no keyword matches in your data. However, because semantic search understands the meaning of the phrase, you’ll see relevant results that are close in meaning to your search phrase, such as "General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)." This empowers users to quickly locate information even if they do not know the specific terminology used in data assets across the data intelligence platform.

Whether you're a data analyst looking for specific datasets or a business leader seeking strategic insights, Intelligent Search makes it easier than ever to drive speed and efficiency, facilitating a strong data culture within the organization.

An example of Alation’s Intelligent Search interpreting the context of the inputted terms “European data protection law.”

An example of Alation’s Intelligent Search interpreting the context of the inputted terms “European data protection law.”

Intelligent Search transforms the data discovery experience by

Understanding Intuitive Queries: 

Alation's Intelligent Search accepts and understands the meaning of queries in natural language, meaning users do not need to recall specific product naming conventions or remember technical jargon to find information. Teams can self-serve the trusted data needed by term meaning rather than trying to find the exact keywords or the person who owns the data. 

Improving Time-To-Value: 

Users are able to efficiently find contextual information in seconds without needing to spend time selecting multiple filters to narrow search results or repeating attempts to fine-tune search questions. This results in a shorter time to locate the most relevant information and improved productivity for teams to use such data to solve complex data-driven business problems.

Improving Data Culture Maturity: 

Organizations with mature data search and discovery see a strong return on their data investment by promoting self-service data analytics, which frees analysts and data scientists to focus on value-added activities instead of answering data questions. Intelligent Search promotes data literacy, accessibility, and cross-functional collaboration within an organization, all of which contribute to a more mature data culture.

How does semantic search work?

Traditional keyword-based search methods rely on matching exact terms and often fail to provide accurate results due to their inherent limitations. Alation's Intelligent Search is a semantic search that utilizes an AI-trained sentence transformer, which converts all information documents into vectors. This creates a data representation of the documents. When a user asks a search question, the sentence transformer also converts the question into a vector. 

Semantic search uses ML-based algorithms to match the vectors to find the closest documents in meaning to the search question and return the search results in descending order of relevance for an intuitive search experience. This ultimately improves the user experience by interpreting user queries in a manner that goes beyond mere keyword matching. It discerns context, semantics, and relationships between terms, allowing users to ask questions as they normally would in conversation.


Intelligent Search in the Alation Data Intelligence Platform is more than a helpful tool; it is a core capability highlighting the importance of accessible data for everyone. Data search and discovery is one of the four core tenets of Alation's proven Data Culture Maturity Model, which work in tandem to strengthen data culture and maturity within organizations.

Alation’s core Search and Discovery functionalities simplify data discovery, making insights accessible and actionable to empower all users to leverage data confidently. By streamlining the user experience, offering advantages over traditional keyword search, and contributing to improved data maturity, Intelligent Search is an innovative capability for users looking to find the right data they need to make better business decisions.

Learn more by taking our Data Culture Maturity Model Assessment or book a demo.

  • Introduction
  • Intelligent Search transforms the data discovery experience by
  • How does semantic search work?
  • Conclusion
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