Is Enterprise Search the Next Killer App?
A blog I wrote recently, “Don’t Let Good Information Go to Waste”, outlined the many business advantages of better access to enterprise information, and some of the challenges in getting the right information in the right hands at the right time. Though I focused on improving customer service, this flow of information impacts virtually every process of the modern enterprise: from invoices in Finance, contracts in Legal, onboarding in Human Resources, design documents in Manufacturing and Engineering, and on and on.
Virtually everyone would agree that enterprise search is a key component of optimizing this flow of information – some would say the single most important component. In fact, a global AIIM study1 found 71 percent of the organizations polled said search is vital or essential to the productivity and effectiveness of their employees.
The Not So Good News
Yet that same study revealed the enterprise has a long way to go in achieving true enterprise search:
Only 18% have some kind of cross-repository search capabilities. For the vast majority, 82 percent, enterprise search is limited to within disparate repositories (aka silos) or only basic search tools across silos of content.
And overcoming the challenge of incorporating more content repositories for searching is not getting any easier. Besides the increasing volume of enterprise data, more and more customer information in particular resides in rising amounts of unstructured data from social media channels like Facebook, Skype, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc. flowing into and out from the organization.
The study suggests that the success of content search is hugely dependent on the degree of content management in place. To me this doesn’t go quite far enough. There are in fact an abundance of content management applications: Sharepoint, ECM systems, web content management, even content management systems born out of enterprise departmental functions such as salesforce automation, ERP financials, marketing content management, etc.
Most of these applications include some form of search mechanism specific to the way they index and store information; indeed, it is these systems that give rise to the silos of information in the first place! Some, like SharePoint, can be extended to connect to multiple content repositories. But these applications are not designed to be unified search solutions across disparate repositories, and rarely can they accommodate all company sources of information.
Laying the Foundation
How do we advance the state of enterprise search to foster more data-driven decisions, provide customers the information they want (in the format they require) and help increase employee productivity?
A good first step is a close examination of your business processes: the automatic classification, tagging of information and extraction of data that will make valuable enterprise content more findable. Enterprise IT definitely has a role to play. They must work closely with Line of Business managers and domain experts to help identify requirements, existing information gaps and, critically, how these new sources of information will help them be more productive.
Solutions will require more flexible infrastructure and new information applications that are adaptable and can scale quickly. But technology alone is not the answer. And how many businesses have that kind of expertise on staff—or the broader perspective, time and resources to look across and optimize their different information systems and processes?
The more successful enterprises are already engaging experienced partners to help them re-engineer business processes, specifically to better the flow and integration of valuable information. Partners are helping companies improve customer service by linking customer-facing information systems of engagement – such as email, scanners, multifunction products, smart phones, MS Office software and more – with enterprise systems of record – such as ERP, ECM, CRM and other line-of-business applications.
Partners with deep, cross-functional experience in business processes are also well positioned to re-engineer processes with enterprise search in mind. Leveraging a partner’s expertise in the intelligent capturing, automatic classification and better integration of information into your business processes can also help you realize productivity benefits faster, without diverting your resources from revenue-generating initiatives.
And the right partner can also help you find productivity right under your nose.
1 Miles, Doug, “AIIM Industry Watch: Search and Discovery - Exploiting Knowledge, Minimizing Risk,” AIIM, 2014.