Achieving enterprise search satisfaction – a new report from The Search Network

by | Nov 1, 2018 | Digital workplace, Information Management, Search

Achieving enterprise search satisfaction is a new 40 page report written with the support of my colleagues in The Search Network. In effect it is an update to Enterprise Search, which was published in 2015. Enterprise search can trace its origins back to 1951 and enterprise search applications have been on the market since the mid-1980s, so by any measure this is a mature technology and a mature industry. It is therefore surprising and concerning that surveys have indicated that employees are experiencing considerable difficulties on getting the best from search applications. When conducting interviews for an intranet project managers very quickly turn the conversation towards poor quality search. In twenty years of listening to conference presentations about enterprise search enhancement I have never yet heard a search manager describe with pride a dramatic growth in the number of queries and in search satisfaction. The reason is almost certainly that tweaking the technology has not had any significant impact on search satisfaction.

The catalyst for the report has been the research conducted by Dr.Paul Cleverley and Professor Simon Burnett which, for the first time, presents the collective impact of technology, information and literacy factors on search satisfaction. One of my objectives of this report is to show practitioners how much relevant research and insight is available to them from research papers. This report summarizes the outcomes of a personal selection of this academic research, together the lessons learned from projects I have undertaken since 2001 and discussions with a range of search managers and search consultants, and of course members of The Search Network.

In my opinion it is very important to see search as just one way, rather than the only way, in which people find information. Research published in the last 12-18 months indicates that the way in which employees search is often quite different to the use of web search applications, in particular the way in which users judge the value of results and indeed the entire results page. Computational ethnography is giving a reliable indication of how much time users spend with digital workplace applications, and in-depth surveys show that Boolean query construction is of crucial importance to professional searchers whose careers depend on achieving the highest possible levels of recall. It is also clear that the traditional view of result-by-result assessment of search results is just one element of the way in which enterprise users assess result relevance and decide on a stopping strategy.

I hope that this report will encourage academics and practitioners to work together on innovative research projects which look in detail at the adoption and use of enterprise search applications. Organizations and search vendors may well have conducted research internal research that contradicts my analysis. I would encourage the publication of this research and critiques of this report so that the global enterprise search community can benefit from all the available research and deliver the highest possible levels of search satisfaction. Anything less puts the search user and their organisation at risk.

Martin White