working on computer with search results
Many organizations say they're committed to search. But the proof is in the search experience

It's easy for an organization to say it's committed to providing a good search experience. 

But something gets lost between the promise and the delivery, resulting in hours of wasted effort and employee dissatisfaction with search. 

The following 10 questions can assess the true commitment of an organization to its internal search experience. 

Assess Your Organization's Search Commitment

1. Is the level of investment in search on par with investment in other enterprise applications?

Investment doesn't just mean technology. Search support, search performance evaluation and training need people, not technology. 

Search is a high touch application, benefiting every employee either directly or indirectly. The overall budget for enterprise search should be similar to that for an enterprise resource planning application or project management system in terms of investment per user. Use $20 per user a year for non-IT costs as a starting point.

2. Do you know all of the search applications in use in your organization?

Almost every application includes an embedded search application. These need ongoing support and evaluation for performance, as well as training so employees know which to use to find specific information. 

You will also need to decide whether you should integrate these applications into a federated enterprise search. 

3. Are you confident that employees can find the information they need in collaboration and social network applications?

It's common for organizations to have multiple collaboration applications, but most of them provide only limited search functionality. 

If information and knowledge cannot be found, then it cannot be shared, which makes the investment case for the collaboration applications meaningless. 

4. Do you know if the level of satisfaction with search is increasing or decreasing?

All indications suggest that search satisfaction is low, and probably decreasing. Employees deal with an increasing amount of information combined with pressure to find it quickly. Tracking user and stakeholder satisfaction and changing business needs should be a continuous process.  

5. Is a member of the leadership team directly responsible for ensuring that search performance KPIs are set, measured and reported?

This role shouldn't fall to the IT Director unless the search applications only support IT. Would the HR Director be content with the IT Director deciding everything related to an HR application's development without considering the HR business strategy? 

6. Has anyone flagged the risk caused by the inability to find business-critical information?

The challenge with search is that you don't know it has failed until it's too late to do anything about it. 

Prevention is far less risky than a cure. Does the leadership team accept the risks associated with not being able to find business-critical information? 

7. Does the search application on the corporate website impress potential customers and frighten competitors?

As with an intranet, website search and information architecture need to be closely integrated. Search cannot take the place of a broken information architecture, and should not be left to the web design team to specify and test. 

8. Do employees have adequate access to external information on developments in markets, competition and technology that could impact the organization?

Using Google is not enough. Most business-critical information lies behind subscription-based services, such as LexisNexis and Thomson Reuters. Do you have enough seat licenses? 

9. Do you have a contingency plan for coping with a merger or acquisition?

The board will expect to have immediate access (100 days as a maximum) to the information and knowledge resources of the acquired company. Employees of the acquired company will rely on search to find business-critical policies and applications without having any idea of what they are called or where they are stored. 

10. Do you have a contingency plan if the current technical head of search technology left the organization?

Good search managers are in very short supply. Consultancies and search integrators pay salaries of $150,000 or more for their expertise.  

But it’s not just about offering a competitive salary — search managers have a passion for search that all too often finds no resonance with the business. 

How Does Your Search Measure Up?

If you answered "yes" to all 10 questions then you probably rank among the top 1 percent of all organizations. 

Anything less than 10 puts your organization at a significant competitive disadvantage or potentially in breach of a compliance requirement. You have your work cut out for you in the year ahead, especially if you're using the Google Search Appliance!