Why is it so easy to find virtually any information you need with a quick search online and so difficult to find what you need on internal networks? According to a new study (registration required), the problem is pervasive. 

The study, conduced by AIIM — the Association for Information and Image Management — found three out of four information professionals think it is easier to find information outside of their organizations than within. And 25 percent acknowledged their organizations lack advanced or dedicated search tools.

And that’s not all. More than 50 percent of the 415 information professionals polled describe their legal discovery procedures as “ad hoc, manual, disruptive and expensive,” said study author Doug Miles, head of the AIIM Market Intelligence Division.

“These people, and particularly the 28 percent who have no policy or process for legal discovery, could find themselves hit with litigation, or a compliance investigation at any time, and they would be in chaos — very expensive chaos!” he said.

Things are a Mess

Other highlights from the study show how ill equipped organizations are when it comes to finding information internally:

  • 71 percent think that having a strong internal search functions is vital or essential but less than 20 percent actually have systems that can cross search the repository and 58 percent show little or no sign of search maturity
  • 25 percent of those polled said they don’t have advanced or dedicated search tools. Of those that do, 45 percent said they got them through their ECM product or provider
  • Only 13 percent have five or more search tools
  • 38 percent have not tuned or optimized their search tool. This includes 8 percent who have never activated it at all
  • 65 percent agree that it’s tough for employees to get internal information if they’re using a mobile device
  • Less than 40 percent of organizations have natural language search.

In most organizations, the IT department is at the helm of search functions. But only a quarter of those polled thought that was optimal: 44 percent feel risk management, compliance or information governance would be a better owner, although there is also strong support for the concept of a Head of Knowledge Management (34 percent) or Chief Knowledge Officer (29 percent).

The good news is that 73 percent of organizations rate improving their search functions as a priority over big data/content analytics and attention on this issue is growing.

Improving Your Search Function

How can organizations get where they need to go?

Make search a priority. “Although enterprise search is difficult, 71 percent of our respondents consider search as vital or essential to their daily business,” said Miles. “The 58 percent who show little or no sign of search maturity should set a search strategy, allocate a budget, nominate an acknowledged owner and train their staff.” When focusing on boosting your search function also make sure to consider accessibility issues.

Assess your starting point. You can’t get where you want to go without knowing where you are right now. “The first thing organization should do is audit what search tools they have, how they might be consolidated or upgraded, whether they have been set up and optimized correctly, and how they can be connected across multiple repositories,” said Miles.

Ensure you’re on steady legal footing. In addition to looking at search capabilities, you’ll also want to look at whether your organization is well equipped to meet a legal challenge. “Review [your] legal discovery procedures, not just from the view of search, but also how to apply holds, and how to set up the review process. Many organizations are afraid that comprehensive search would show up sensitive but poorly secured documents. The answer is to fix the security, not hold back on search.”

Identify a leader. Any good search-improvement process needs a strong leader. “Agree where responsibility should lie — ideally it would be a Knowledge Management Steering Group set up under the Information Governance Committee, led by a Chief Knowledge Officer,” said Miles. From there you can review, consolidate and set standards for metadata and taxonomy.

Ultimately fixing your search function can help your workers improve efficiency and ensure that you are able to produce documents when needed. All the information in the world is useless unless you can find it.