Since ancient times, information technology has developed from carvings in rock and wood to cell phones and Facebook. Still, the basic purpose remains the same; to facilitate communication between people separated by space and time. Therefore one can measure the successfulness of any information tool by two axes: how easy it is to create information and how easy it is to consume it. Being a Findability expert, I spend a large part of my life focusing on the latter. Therefore it troubles me that so many organizations wait so long when they are introducing new content management systems before looking at search. If I had a nickel for every time I heard “we are currently busy with building our new intranet/web page/collaboration tool and will look at search when the project is finished” I would definitely have had a few quarters by now.
I like to say that I am in the information marketing business. What I mean by that is that Findability is all about marketing information so that the consumers, your employees, can find the piece of information they need. And just as an industrialist would not construct a factory before doing a marketing plan, you should not build a new information repository without thinking about how the content created in that repository will reach its target audience. When marketing information, search is one of your most important channels.
While a enterprise search solution can definitely smooth out imperfections in information structure and quality using intelligent algorithms, spending a little time thinking about how you can make it easier for a search engine to deliver relevant results presented in a user friendly way can really make it shine. Some questions you can ask yourself are:
- How can we make tagging so convenient that we have good metadata for presenting and filtering results using facets? Many search solutions have automated tagging functionality to take load off users.
- How can we use search as an integration platform to pull in content from other sources instead of making costly one-time integrations?
- How will the new information repository fit into an existing search solution, for example are we changing the metadata model and how should the documents be ranked compared to other sources?
- Should we migrate content from an old system to the new one or just freeze information creation in the old one and have a search box that let’s the user find information from both?
- Can we use search to avoid creating duplicate information by encouraging users to make searches before typing new content or even doing implicit searches while the user is typing?
So does a piece of content that no one ever reads exist? Well in terms of bits on a disk in a data center, yes, but in terms of business value definitely no. Designing your information repository for Findability will have great returns in improved efficiency and user satisfaction.