Search and you often don't find ... and here's why

Employees often can't find the data they need to do their jobs effectively, a new survey reveals.

Some call it "findability" -- the art or science of making content in an organization "findable."

And many big businesses haven't figured how to do that yet.

Their employees often can't locate the information they need to do their jobs effectively, a new survey reveals.

The crux of the matter isn't that Search technologies are mediocre, but that many businesses don't have an effective content "findability" strategy, concludes the study from AIIM, a non-profit organization based in the US.

AIIM provides education, research, and best practices to help organizations find, control, and optimize their information.

Employees from more than 500 businesses who were polled for this study said enterprise search just didn't offer them the same positive results as using consumer search applications, such as Google or Yahoo.

About eight in 10 respondents say their experience with such Web sites has created greater demand for enterprise-grade "findability."

But it isn't hot Search apps alone that will do the trick.

That's a misconception a lot of organizations have, says Carl Frappaolo, vice-president, market intelligence at AIIM. "They think search is a function of an application and not something that someone needs to own and deliver," Frappaolo notes.

Though half the workers surveyed said their enterprise search experience was inferior to what they got from consumer-facing Web sites, the vendors of enterprise search apps were given good approval ratings.

Most vendors had few dissatisfied users -- Google only had eight per cent for example. IBM Dogear and Verity (recently acquired by Autonomy) had none.

Even the lowest-rated enterprise search tool, dTSearch, left only one-fifth of users dissatisfied.

"People don't seem to be pointing to the search tools as the underlying problem here," he says. "Enterprise search hasn't failed. Enterprise findability has failed. "

Web search experience has employees expecting instant results when they want to find information, says Laurent Simoneau, president of Coveo Solutions. But the challenges faced by enterprise search are much different.

The search must sift through multiple forms of documents such as e-mails, PDF files, and legacy system data.

Then there's the huge volume of information.

"A large bank in Canada would have about 10 billion e-mails to index, for example," he says. By comparison, he said, Google indexes about 20 to 30 billion documents.

But a bank can't use a million servers, as Google might to complete its search query. So enterprises must pick and choose what information is indexed and becomes findable in a search.

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