Enterprise search being turned inside out, upside down

The business case for enterprise search is clear, so why is adoption so relatively low? A recently-published survey by AIIM (to which 415 AIIM members responded) found 71 percent of businesses surveyed saying search is vital or essential to them, but only 18 percent of them have cross-repository search capabilities. And given these are members of AIIM, so have at least one person in the organisation who understands the value of information – that makes for troubling reading.

So why the disconnect? Enterprise search is hard for a couple of reasons. One is the need to build and maintain connectors to sources and the other is having good enough algorithms to actually deliver value to the users.

The bad news is it will probably only get more challenging for most. That’s because I believe that in the era of cloud-based storage and BYOD, an enterprise search engine that found it difficult to connect to and search all internal content sources is going to buckle under the weight of expectations if it is now expected to also integrate all those additional sources successfully.

What can be done? A couple of things, I believe. With users creating information on phones, tablets phablets and everything in between – sometimes storing it locally, sometimes in the cloud – a new approach is needed that relies on less manual intervention on the part of the search administrator and IT and more on social collaboration. Learn from people’s behaviour to proactively present information to them, rather than waiting for them to search. In the survey, 65% agreed that employees struggle to search and access information from mobile devices, compared to 13% who disagree.

Secondly, as search becomes more complex, technologies such as machine learning, automatic classification and effective visualisation will become ever more important and I believe, essential for success. Tools that ignore that will likely not succeed in the long run. Some 60% of the survey respondents said automated analytics tools are the only way to improve classification and tagging to make their content more findable.

If you agree or disagree, let me know in the comments. If you need help figuring out your enterprise search strategy – whether you’re a potential customer or vendor – get in touch, I can help.

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