Making search work – the critical success factor

Making search work – the critical success factor

by | Apr 18, 2017 | Search


Over the last few years I have been involved in many search projects where search does not seem to be delivering the value and user satisfaction that the organisation was anticipating. Without exception the core reason for this is that there is inadequate level of investment in the skills required to optimise the investment that has been made in the search application. The 2014 AIIM report on Search and Discovery and the Findwise Enterprise Findability Surveys (2012-2016) provide the statistical evidence to show the importance of having at least one full-time search manager in addition to technical support from IT.

With the permission of AIIM and Findwise I have now brought together the evidence presented in their surveys in a new report entitled Making Search Work. This was the title of the first of my four books on enterprise search which was published in 2007. The report covers quite a range of topics in 16 pages, but the focus is on highlighting the importance of working back from the tasks that are essential in managing search, such as log analysis, user surveys, training and user support and owning the search strategy and budget to arrive at the size and skills of the search team. One of the figures in the report suggests what investment in a search team should be in terms of $/employee.  It is based on some data points from recent projects. Inevitably it can be no more than an indication but hopefully it will be a starting point for a discussion with business stakeholders.

The report includes a table which sets out the range of search evaluation techniques required to ensure that a change in any one of the many ranking and user interface options does not have an unexpected negative impact on another element of search performance. To some extent all these techniques need to be applied. Search usability testing is essential for the same reason. In a search deployment everything is interconnected. The only element that a search team have little direct influence over is information quality but a few test searches will quite easily support a business case for some level of quality governance to be introduced, even if it is just guidelines on PowerPoint presentation titles!

The issues of search team investment are considered in detail in the current edition of my book Enterprise Search, based on a research report I wrote for the European Commission in 2013. My objective in writing this new report was to produce a short document that highlighted the key issues around search team investment. What is new to the report is the investment per employee curve and the table of search evaluation techniques. Earlier this year, Jeff Fried (BAInsight) and I talked at some length about these issues. You can download a podcast of quite a lively discussion from BAInsight. I hope that this report enables you to have an equally lively and productive discussion with business stakeholders whose operational performance depends on being able to find information with the minimum of effort.

Martin White