My search career dates back to the mid-1970s, but it was not until I set up Intranet Focus Ltd in 1999 that I started to get seriously involved in enterprise search. Initially this was with intranet projects, where it turned out that attention had been focused completely on the information architecture with no consideration of search requirements. In 2007 I published “Making Search Work” based on my project experiences. That gained me the keynote slot in the first Enterprise Search Summit in New York in 2008. Enterprise search became my major then. My book “Enterprise Search” followed in 2011 with a second edition in 2015.
As I look at my slide deck from that 2008 keynote, I am struck by how little has changed in enterprise search satisfaction levels (far too low) and the level of appreciation (equally low) of what it takes to deliver a great search experience. I have a simple formula that will absolutely guarantee your enterprise search application makes a significant impact on both business performance and personal career development.
Search excellence = 3 + xA + yB + zC
Let me explain.
Investing in a Search Support Team
The figure 3 refers to the core search team: a Search Manager, a Search Analytics Manager and a User Support Manager. If you are offering any enterprise-wide search solution (including in an intranet) that the majority of employees will use, then you absolutely need to have this minimum team. Your search team also needs IT support, but that should be provided and funded by IT. All the evidence indicates that three factors lead to low search satisfaction: inadequate technology, poor content/metadata quality and a lack of training and support. The core team will be able to identify the extent to which the technology is the dominant issue.
Related Article: Who Needs Cognitive Search When We Lack the Resources to Make it Work?
Managing Babel in a Multi-Lingual Workplace
The core team needs the support of people with particular expertise. This is not necessarily a full time role. Role A is all about language insights. While you may assume you work in an organization where all the content is in English, the reality may surprise you! You are very likely to have employees whose first language is not English. One of my German clients had 73% of their enterprise content in English, but only 24% of employees had English as their first language. Coming up with synonyms for query expansion, assessing auto-suggestions or scanning English titles with little supporting text in the snippet were all a challenge. Role A is there to help the core team appreciate which countries or languages need specific support, and you need an A Role person for each major language. So x is the number of languages.
Related Article: Searching for Information in the Tower of Babel
B Is for Business Speak
Working for an electrical instrument company, I found that the terms used for low voltage (240/415volt) products were both very different but also very similar to those used for 33kV power line equipment. This caused many problems for search because employees assumed the application would know which product range they were working with. It was sometimes very difficult to work out the voltage from the snippet.
To add to the search problems, finding user manuals for older equipment was a significant requirement. These user manuals could only be found if the …….