Consultants need to be optimistic. We need to stay positive in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles and can't afford to ask ourselves questions about a project's chance at success. 

Remaining optimistic is a challenge when you are in the enterprise search business.

For some years now I have predicted the imminent recognition of search's value. The annual Findwise Search and Findability Survey has indicated an increasing level of commitment in the last few years to having a search strategy and using search analytics to prioritize action. 

But recent events — in projects and with developments in search adoption and implementation — are putting a dent in my usual level of optimism.

Where are the Search Managers?

A client is looking for a global search manager and a specialist in search performance evaluation. Of the 80 or so intranet manager LinkedIn profiles I've viewed, only six made any reference to their role in search management. All of their other intranet tasks were set out in great detail. 

A year ago I wrote a column on the lack of public discussion of intranets' search performance. Did these managers forget to add search to their profiles, or is search left to IT? I suspect it is the latter.

The good news for anyone with search expertise is that the demand significantly exceeds supply. Based on my data and data from CB Resourcing, a specialist recruitment company in London, an experienced global search manager can probably command a salary above $145,000 (£100,000) and a search analyst might need over $100,000 (£70,000) to entice them to move.  

Anyone planning to enhance their search performance should start looking now for the management team. Do not wait until the software is installed and tested because it may well take you six months to get someone on board, assuming you are willing to throw the corporate salary scales out the window. 

My recent experience suggests that senior managers responsible for search recognize the importance of a search team, but they cannot find candidates — and the overall cost of the team greatly exceeds the software costs. 

Search Is a ‘Wicked Problem’

Search is a ‘wicked problem.’  The many interdependent variables make finding solutions to problems complex. 

The search business totally ignores this complexity. Look at any search vendor. All it sells are solutions to what it presents as simple problems. 

You have silos? No problem! We can search across all silos and join everything up. 

Really? Show me some search screens and performance stats. Good, reasonably honest, case studies are nowhere to be found on search vendor sites, or even search integrators. You'll find good summaries, but no sense of time scale, the challenges that were overcome and the commitment by the client to supporting search going forward. 

From my work in program development for both the Enterprise Search Summit in the US and the Enterprise Search Europe events I can say this: persuading search managers to give presentations was a nightmare. The usual excuse offered was that search was a ‘work in progress,’ which in my book translates to no investment in work and therefore no progress. 

Searching for SharePoint Search

In the recent euphoria following the Future of SharePoint event, no one seems to have asked about search functionality enhancements. Jeff Teper’s blog post makes no reference to search. He writes about how it will be so much easier to “create, share, collaborate on and manage documents,” but nothing about searching for them.  

In the real world enterprises do not just run on SharePoint and cross-platform federated search remains very poorly supported. 

And as for the quality of search analytics …

Real World Search

If you can’t find information, then in effect it does not exist. 

Your search application may return 85,340 results for a query, but if the most relevant information was not indexed, or your security permissions inadvertently prevented the information from being displayed — can you trust your search application? 

I’m hoping against reasonable hope that the Findwise Search and Findability Survey 2016 will give me fresh grounds for optimism this year. Your completion of this year's survey might make all the difference. Join me in October for the results.