Anyone looking to implement or enhance their organization's enterprise search can quickly feel overwhelmed — both by the options available and the questions you need answered before committing to a product.

Search — like many things — has no “one size fits all” solution. For search to succeed, it needs ongoing special attention, a unique approach, and customized planning and implementation.

While no single article can solve all of your search needs, what follows is some guidance to adapt for your organization’s search needs. The four dimensions of search explored below will help you navigate the planning and implementation stages of search, and give you a practical framework to use and customize for your organization. 

four dimensions of search

Business: Your Specific Search Needs

Your organization is unique, with unique culture, content, challenges, capabilities and confines. No one — not your partners or competitors — are the same. Therefore, consider all the unique demands of your business, analyze, and plan and act accordingly. 

Application: Finding the Right Search Fit

Answering whether or not your organization needs a search application isn't always a straightforward process. So always start with a business problem that you need to solve. 

Maybe search will provide the clear solution to the problem. But in many cases, concluding that you need a search application results from a complex analytic process. 

Begin your planning by identifying the applications that have to be implemented in a search-driven way. Establish clear requirements, involve all stakeholders and identify and assign responsibilities.

And it goes without saying (though I'll say it again anyway) that the application has to fit into your business. See the previous point. 

Different business needs different applications and different applications fit into different businesses with different needs.

Business and applications are two distinct dimensions to consider.

Data: Good Search Relies on Good Content

The third dimension is your data: the content you want your users to find when using the search application. Good search relies on good content. Therefore, the following steps have to be done during the planning phase:

  • Identify the data (content) needed to fulfill the search application’s requirements
  • Do a content inventory and identify the following classes
    • Available data that's necessary
    • Available data that needs cleaning up
    • Necessary data that's unavailable

As soon as your data is available and good enough, it’s ready to get indexed. Additional data processing might be required during the indexing process, such as auto-classification, to create unified metadata in the search index.

Technology: Supporting Act for Business Goals

Technology rounds out the last dimension. Many organizations consider this the first step, but in my experience, that takes a backwards approach. You shouldn't define your search implementation project as “deploy SharePoint search” or “implement search on Elastic.”

Focus on the business goals, and the technology will follow. Technology should serve these goals, rather than the other way.

Keeping these four dimensions in mind when looking to improve or start a search program in your organization will usher your project down the road to success. These steps will provide consistent, good search experiences to your users — which will help them get their jobs done.