Reaching Findability #6

Findability is surprisingly complex due to the large number of measures needed to be understood and undertaken. I believe that one of the principal challenges lies within the pedagogical domain. This is my sixth and last post in a series of simple tips for reaching Findability.

Understand your business case!

Many decisions are based on gut-feeling rather than solid business cases. Improving Findability is often a good investment! Being able to back that statement up with numbers makes it easier to move forward with the decision.

For some applications of search, it is relatively easy to show the benefits in numbers. Improving Findability on a web page can increase conversion rates and online sales, or decrease the need for customer support to mention a few examples.

It is however, more difficult to put numbers on internal applications of search. Finding information quicker and easier obviously saves time, but is time always worth money? I believe the first and foremost benefit may be that decisions can be made based on better information.

If finding relevant information is made quick and easy enough, the will for actually spending time using for decision-making will increase. Search can give you a better overview of what information is available, provide you with information you didn’t know existed or previously didn’t have access to. And it can serve information you might be interested in because of your position and context.

A solid business case for working with search is more or less difficult to find. That does not however, remove the need for working on it. One benefit is keeping focus on what really matters to your organization. Another is convincing others that new ways of working with information, as a strategic asset, matters. Fortunately, there are good methods to find, express and measure the benefits of Findability to make your business case solid!

For some inspiration and insight into the general state of findability you can download and read the report from our global survey, Enterprise Search & Findability Survey 2013.

If you are interested in more details about how to achieve Findability you can also download and read our whitepaper “Best practices for search”!

Reaching Findability #5

Findability is surprisingly complex due to the large number of measures needed to be understood and undertaken. I believe that one of the principal challenges lies within the pedagogical domain. This is my fifth post in a series of simple tips for reaching Findability.

Effect driven development!

Most projects are undertaken to achieve operational improvements in an organization. An often relied upon truth is that IT driven, or what I’d like to call “feature driven”, projects are more likely to fail than projects with a clear focus on business benefits. Many pitfalls can be avoided by using a structured approach while making business benefits the centre of attention.

An excellent tool to keep focus on satisfying real business needs, rather than developing features only few will use, is Effect Mapping developed by InUse AB. The basic idea in this method is defining what actual business effects should result from a project, as well as identifying target groups contributing to these effects and their specific needs. It is all visualized in a so-called Effect Map.

The Effect Map is a great tool for communicating goals and means needed to achieve them. It can be used throughout an entire project to manage changing requirements, keep the business in focus and prioritize what really matters; all while new knowledge is gained.

Development of an Effect Map takes place during a series of workshops, providing valuable insights to any project. It is especially helpful in Findability projects, as they span many different parts of any business, from managing information and the organization to technical solutions.

A good strategy used in conjunction with an Effect Map and long-term goals provides you with a great starting point for succeeding with your Findability. You can read more about different approaches to building the business case in this blog post!

Reaching Findability #4 – Build for the long term!

Findability is surprisingly complex due to the large number of measures needed to be understood and undertaken. I believe that one of the principal challenges lies within the pedagogical domain. This is my fourth post in a series of simple tips for reaching Findability.

Build for the long term!

A platform for Findability takes time to build. It is partly about technology development but equally about organisational maturity.

Mechanisms for managing both information and search technology need to be established and adopted. The biggest effect though, is realized when people start thinking about information differently. When they start wanting to share and find information more easily, and desire the possibility to do so.

As with any change project, it helps to not make too many changes at the same time. It is often easier to establish a long-term goal and take small steps along the way. To reach the goal of Findability, the first step is to define a Findability strategy. While information is refined and the technical platform is developed step-by-step, the organization is allowed time to mature.

Choose your technical search platform carefully, and think long-term based on the specific requirements of your business. Give priority to supporting the processes and target groups due to receive the most tangible benefits from finding information easier and more quickly. One valuable method for defining goals, target group needs and means by which to fulfill them is Effect Mapping, developed by InUse AB, which can be used early on in the transformation to gain and communicate important insights

The technical architecture, as with the information structure, must be well thought out when laying the foundation of the platform. Start out with a first application, perhaps an intranet or public web search. The extent and influence of the search platform can then be gradually built out by adding new information sources and components in accordance with the long-term plan. With the right priorities, business value is created every step of the way. New ideas can be tested and problems mitigated before the consequences become difficult to handle.

A good example of an organization with target group focused development is Municipality of Norrköping. You can watch an entertaining presentation of how they do it here!

Reaching Findability #3

Findability is surprisingly complex due to the large number of measures needed to be understood and undertaken. I believe that one of the principal challenges lies within the pedagogical domain. This is my third post in a series of simple tips for reaching Findability.

Link your information assets!

Often, the information needed to efficiently perform a certain task is spread out in different locations. Just imagine the amount of applications, web pages and windows you need to open on an average workday! These systems all have their own interfaces and sets of content and rules, which often leads to cognitive stress on the individuals using them. A lower overall efficiency than one might expect follows.

A search platform is one way of simplifying everyday work for these individuals, by making information in several systems available from one single location. And in one interface, that acts the same regardless of what information I am looking for.  This can be achieved by linking several data sources using a search platform, effectively creating an Enterprise Search solution. The benefit for certain processes and individuals can be dramatic.

The foundation for an Enterprise Search solution is a well-planned architecture and control of the most important and strategic information assets. One of the success factors is planning big but starting out small. While the long-term goal might be a common search platform, the first project could very well aim for connecting only one or a few data sources. That way, the platform is realized in small, manageable steps, all leading toward the same goal. With the right prioritizations, business value is created every step of the way. New ideas can be tested and problems mitigated before the consequences become difficult to handle.

What types of systems and data sources can be linked together in your Enterprise Search platform? All that we have come across in some hundreds of projects; intranets, web sites, ERPs, document management systems, file shares and databases. To mention a few.

Reaching Findability #2

Findability is surprisingly complex due to the large number of measures needed to be understood and undertaken. I believe that one of the principal challenges lies within the pedagogical domain. This is my second post in a series of simple tips for reaching Findability. You can also sign up here for a subscription to a free email course on this topic!

Take control of the technology!

The right search technology is an important foundation for making your information findable. There is a plethora of good search products on the market, all of them with different properties and strengths. The right products are those that fulfill your needs at the lowest cost. Therefore, to make the right choice, you must have a good understanding of your requirements.

A good search engine is specialized in figuring out what you’re actually intending to find, even if you only type a single word with ambiguous meaning. The search engine can make the difference when the exact term or spelling is not obvious, or a word is simply misspelled. It can also increase the relevance of search hits by only displaying results in languages you understand, and prioritizing results that are relevant in your current context.

With the right search platform in place, making a correct set-up and configuration is vital. While the initial installation may seem simple, taking advantage of the more powerful functions is complex and requires deep knowledge of search and information management.

If you lack access to a search platform, think again! Maybe your organization is using SharePoint, which in many versions contain a powerful search engine. Maybe you are using a search engine on the web site, which can also be used for other purposes or vice versa. Sometimes it pays off to investigate what technologies are already employed by the organization and look for new applications.

Feel free to contact me if you wish to discuss this further, anders.nilsson@findwise.com or sign up here to get our free email course.

Reaching Findability

Findability is not rocket science, but remain complex due to the large number of measures needed to be understood and undertaken. I’ve been giving this a lot of thought and believe one of the principal challenges lies within the pedagogical domain. Therefore I’ve compiled a number of simple tips for reaching Findability which I will share in a series of blog posts. You can also sign up here for a subscription to a free email course on this topic!

Take control of your information!

A strong incentive to improve Findability is to make information available to people who don’t have prior knowledge of where it resides or what it looks like. That doesn’t make management of the actual information less important. It’s just the other way round!

To gain control of your information, you must understand what and where it is. What do we know about it, what is the quality of it and how can a search engine expose it to the users? Often existing metadata, the surrounding structure and the actual content can tell us much that can be used to make it findable. Remember that important information can reside in many places. Look in the intranet, mailboxes, file servers as well as databases and proprietary systems to mention but a few.

When your most important information has been identified you need to build an information model that outlines the important concepts and terms, and how they fit together. This enables a structured way of working with the information, as well as technical solutions that simplifies finding, discovering and navigating it.

Bear in mind that it can be difficult to cover all the information at once. To avoid being overwhelmed start with some of the most important information, the stuff which really makes a difference in streamlining a process. Preferably, use a method for identifying and prioritizing business effects as a starting point to ensure your efforts are wisely spent.

Feel free to contact me if you wish to discuss this further, anders.nilsson@findwise.com or sign up here to get our free email course.