In accordance to sources, the birth of the intranet fell on a 1994 – 1996, that was true prehistory from an IT systems point of view. Intranet history is bound up with the development of Internet – the global network. The idea of WWW, proposed in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee and others, which aim was to enable the connection and access to many various sources, became the prototype for the first internal networks. The goal of intranet invention was to increase employees productivity through the easier access to documents, their faster circulation and more effective communication. Although, access to information was always a crucial matter, in fact, intranet offered lots more functionalities, i.e.: e-mail, group work support, audio-video communication, texts or personal data searching.
Overload of information
Over the course of the years, the content placed on WWW servers had becoming more important than other intranet components. First, managing of more and more complicated software and required hardware led to development of new specializations. Second, paradoxically the easiness of information printing became a source of serious problems. There was too much information, documents were partly outdated, duplicated, without homogeneous structure or hierarchy. Difficulties in content management and lack of people responsible for this process led to situation, when final user was not able to reach desired piece of information or this had been requiring too much effort.
Google to the rescue
As early as in 1998 the Gartner company made a document which described this state of Internet as a “Wild West”. In case of Internet, this problem was being solved by Yahoo or Google, which became a global leader on information searching. In internal networks it had to be improved by rules of information publishing and by CMS and Enterprise Search software. In many organizations the struggle for easier access to information is still actual, in the others – it has just began.
And the Search approached
It was search engine which impacted the most on intranet perception. From one side, search engine is directly responsible for realization of basic assumptions of knowledge management in the company. From the other, it is the main source of complaints and frustration among internal networks users. There are many reasons of this status quo: wrong or unreadable searching results, lack of documents, security problems and poor access to some resources. What are the consequences of such situation? First and foremost, they can be observed in high work costs (duplication of tasks, diminution in quality, waste of time, less efficient cooperation) as well as in lost chances for business. It must not be forgotten that search engine problems often overshadow using of intranet as a whole.
How to measure efficiency?
In 2002 Nielsen Norman Group consultants estimated that productivity difference between employees using the best and the worst corporate network is about 43%. On the other hand, annual report of Enterprise Search and Findability Survey shows that in situation, when almost 60% of companies underline the high importance of information searching for their business, nearly as 45% of employees have problem with finding the information.
Leaving aside comfort and level of employees satisfaction, the natural effect of implementation and improvement of Enterprise Search solutions is financial benefit. Contrary to popular belief, investments profits and savings from reaching the information faster are completely countable. Preparing such calculations is not pretty easy. The first step is: to estimate time, which is spent by employees on searching for information, to calculate what percentage of quests end in a fiasco and how long does it take to perform a task without necessary materials. It should be pointed out that findings of such companies as IDC or AIIM shows that office workers set aside at least 15-35% of their working hours for searching necessary information.
Problems with searching are rarely connected with technical issues. Search engines, currently present on our market, are mature products, regardless of technologies type (commercial/open-source). Usually, it is always a matter of default installation and leaving the system in untouched state just after taking it “out of the box”. Each search engine is different because it deals with various documents collections. Another thing is that users expectations and business requirements are changing continually. In conclusion, ensuring good quality searching is an unremitting process.
Knowledge workers main tool?
Intranet has become a comprehensive tool used for companies goals accomplishment. It supports employees commitment and effectiveness, internal communication and knowledge sharing. However, its main task is to find information, which is often hide in stack of documents or dispersed among various data sources. Equipped with search engine, intranet has become invaluable working tool practically in all sectors, especially in specific departments as customer service or administration.
So, how is your company’s access to information?
This text makes an introduction to series of articles dedicated to intranet searching. Subsequent articles are intended to deal with: search engine function in organization, benefit from using Enterprise Search, requirements of searching information system, the most frequent errors and obstacles of implementations and systems architecture.