Some of you may recall an article I wrote in April, Federated search in the enterprise. That article speaks to how information is organized in a fundamentally different way in the enterprise than in the internet-at-large and how federated search vendors wanting to enter the enterprise search market need to think differently about how to craft solutions. A recent study adds a new wrinkle to providing search to the enterprise - their data is frequently not searchable.

AIIM recently published an article, Enterprise Search Frustrates and Disappoints Users. If the title weren’t depressing enough, check out the subtitle: “69% of respondents report that less than half of enterprise information is searchable online.” This article, and the associated study, is about enterprise search. What’s the relevance of the article to federated search?

The article speaks to a very fundamental assumption that many (most?) of us make in the federated search industry - the relevant content all exists “somewhere,” in an electronic form. If we can only find the sources, build connectors to search them, and work out the licensing issues, then we’d have access to all of the relevant content. Regarding the enterprise, I believe many of us make the same assumption - enterprise search is a lot like federated search, the relevant content all exists “somewhere,” in an electronic form. If we can only … The AIIM article gives us all some hard reality checks about enterprise search, and about what barriers federated search vendors will have to face to enter that market.

The numbers from the AIIM survey are bleak.

  • 49% of survey respondents “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that it is a difficult and time consuming process to find the information they need to do their job.
  • 69% of respondents believe that only 50% or less of their organization’s information is searchable online
  • 49% of respondents have “No Formal Goal” for enterprise Findability within their organizations, and a large subset of the overall research population state that when it comes to the “Criticality of Findability to their Organization’s Business Goals and Success”, 38% have no idea (“Don’t Know”) what the importance of Findability is in comparison to a mere 10% who claim Findability is “Imperative” to their organization.

The third bullet speaks to the fact that management within organizations has commonly not considered, or doesn’t understand, what it takes to make their business documents searchable, either by indexing content, organizing it for navigational search, or making it searchable in other ways. And, of course, there’s the issue of dealing with content that is not in digital format. Also, making content searchable may just not be a priority for many organizations, even though staff is hungry for searchability.

In the federated search world we take it for granted that useful content exists in large chunks (databases) and that the content is well structured and that there’s a search engine to serve up content from each of these databases. The problems we face in federated search have more to deal with building connectors to access sources, aggregating results, deduplication, and relevance ranking. The AIIM article says it quite aptly:

“Findability has been a common source of frustration in the enterprise for decades,” states AIIM Vice President Carl Frappaolo. “As information has become more and more digital, from it’s creation through to management, the pain of finding enterprise information has moved from the piles of paper on the desktop and in storage cabinets, to the digital landfill of file servers, e-mail inboxes, digital desktops, and content management systems. Despite the advances made in search on the internet, enterprise search leaves most users frustrated.”

Federated search vendors wanting to enter into the enterprise search market (which I think has huge potential) may want to get their hands on the AIIM paper when it’s available:

The companion research paper, the AIIM Market IQ on Findability , will be published in July 2008, and is anticipated to be over 70 pages long, with over 50 charts/figures.

Additionally, federated search vendors are not going to be able to ignore organizational issues. Federated search in the enterprise isn’t purely a technology play.

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This entry was posted on Monday, July 7th, 2008 at 11:02 am and is filed under viewpoints. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or TrackBack URI from your own site.

2 Responses so far to "You can’t find it if it’s not findable"

  1. 1 Andreas Ringdal
    July 7th, 2008 at 10:12 pm  

    Findability is the respoinsibility of those who create the system containing the data. Making it possible to find documents / making them searchable is the responsiblity for the Enterprise search vendor.

    In my opinion, federated search is about gathering available search results into one system and Enterprise search is about finding the unfindable.
    A complete Enterprise Search Solution contains both a search engine that indexes the unfindable sources, and federated search that gathers all search entry points.


  2. 2 Angel Maldonado
    July 16th, 2008 at 4:09 am  

    I agree Findability refers to how easy is to make a piece of information findable, but this is neither the responsibility of those who create the system containing the data or those who create the data, such concept of “responsibility” should extend to the systems used to retrieve the data.

    Making it possible to find information involves a number of “responsibilities”, but trust the only responsibility of any software vendor is to make money. Secondly to offer useful software and within this context the more it helps to find information the better.

    Is not about responsibilities, is all about objectives. Achieving a high degree of Findability is a practical objective where methodology has a lot more to say than technology.

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