The Enterprise Search and Findability Blog is here. As some of you already know, Findwise has been blogging at findwise.se for several years now. However, we thought it was time to separate the blog from our web site and create a forum especially dedicated to the exciting area of findability, the Enterprise Search and Findability Blog. From a Findwise perspective, findability is the art of making information easy to find by using (enterprise) search technology, this regardless of when the information is needed or where it may be stored.
Here we invite you to learn more about findability and we welcome you to give us feedback and keep a dialogue with us. We will, among other things, keep you updated on relevant research within the findability area, exciting search functionality and news about enterprise search vendors.
New Features at the Search and Findability Blog
Our new blog includes features that were not available in our previous blog. These are: rss subscription, Findwise Twitter feed and the possibility to share information via other social medias. We hope and believe our readers will appreciate these features and we are looking forward to discussing with you here at the Enterprise Search and Findability Blog.
I was on the train, on my way to Copenhagen and UX intensive a four day seminar hosted by Adaptive Path. Looking forward to this week I was also contemplating the past year and the projects we’ve been working on. I recently finished a project at a customer service organization at a large company. The objective was to see if the agents (employees) helping customers could benefit from having a search platform. Would the search engine help the users in finding the right content to help their customers?
Our point was off course that it would, but it was up to us to prove it. And we did. The usages tests showed results better than I would have dared to hope for.
All users found it to be easier to search for information than browsing for it.
Searching helped the users not only in finding information faster, but finding information they didn’t know where to find or didn’t even know existed.
All users preferred using the search functionality instead of navigation for information.
The search functionality helped new employees learn the information they needed to know in order to help the customers, hence they were productive faster.Less time was spent asking for help from colleagues and support since users found the information they needed by searching for it.
These results are all very positive, but the most overwhelming thing for me in this project was the level of engagement from the users. They really enjoyed being a part of the evaluations, bringing feedback to the project team. They felt that they were a part of the process and this made them very positive to the change this project meant.
Change is often a hard thing in development projects. Even if the change is better for the end users of the system, the change in itself can still be problematic making people hostile to the idea, even though it is improving their situation. Involving users not only helps in creating a good product, but also in creating a good spirit around the project. I have experienced this in other projects as well. By setting up reference groups for the development process we have not only managed to get good feedback to the project but have also created a buzz about what’s happening. People are volunteering for being participants in our reference groups. This buzz spreads and creates a positive feeling about the change the project is bringing. Instead of dreading the users are welcoming the change. It’s user research at its best.
So the next time you are asking yourself why you should involve users in your project and not only business stakeholders – think about how not only the end product, but the project and the process as a whole, could benefit from this.
Lately I’ve been working in a couple of projects involving big companies which has given me a lot of new experience and knowledge. One of the things I’ve realized is how important it is to have a good interaction design and how that is not always the case.
The common thing in these projects have been that the customer has already started a new IT project. As time comes to implement the search functionality, they contact us. Thus, involvement from our side is after the interaction design has been made.
Since the customers are big companies, the interaction design has been made by external consultants who usually have a long going relationship with our customer, but don’t have a great knowledge about search. When the implementation starts, we’ve discovered that the interaction design is not perfect in terms of giving the end users a great search experience. This is due to lack of knowledge about search technology and what can be made with it. Using my knowledge in the search area I can propose changes in functionality that will give a better user experience. These changes of course requires new interaction design, but since the interaction design consultants has finished their assignment, the interaction design decisions needs to be worked out by our company.
In the worst case scenario this means that the complete interaction design needs to be redone from scratch. This will not be popular for the customer which needs to pay for the same thing twice. However since we at Findwise are search experts with lots of experience from past project and dedicated people working with interaction design we know how to create a good interaction design for search.
In the end this means that the customer is happy with the end result, but hiring us to also do the interaction design would have resulted in less cost for the customer!
Looking back at the search trends that were predicted for 2007 one can conclude that many of the larger research institutes, such as Forrester and Gartner, made a great forecast.
2007 was supposed to raise the question of 2.0 for search technology within the companies (and it seems like wikis, blogs and collaborative tools was all that we heard about for some months). Further on, there was a discussion of integration with business tools, such as BI and search, to create more powerful ways to extract critical data from several sources. The fact that IBM bought Cognos and FAST Radar says something about what we can expect in the future.
During the last months there has been a discussion of more sophisticated ways to develop enterprise search. The leading niche vendors such as Autonomy, FAST and Endeca have for the last few years been evangelists for search that goes beyond spellchecking and synonyms – talking in terms of information retrieval and knowledge management. It seems like a lot of companies have evaluated search capabilities, starting with basic functions, simply to realise that search actually solves a lot of problems they haven’t even considered.
It’s not a coincidence that giants such as IBM and Microsoft have strategies that will bring their enterprise search capabilities to new levels 2008.
Yesterday I have had an exciting and challenging day. Caroline and I visited a new customer, a large global Swedish industrial enterprise, for whom Findwise is doing a prestudy of the customer’s search requirements. The guy, whom we met was very alert and challenged us in the evolution of enterprise search and if the technology is mature enough for “safe” project deployments. I have managed search projects throughout Europe since 2002 and today it became clear to me how the projects and hence the enterprise search technology has changed.
Back in the early days, connecting to different datasources and indexing a vast amount of different sources were the biggest problem. Most projects were managed with a focus on this and the users should be happy with what we delivered. Today connectors to most data sources as well as managing different formats are commodity. The projects have finally and gladly become user driven so my conclusion is, yes, the technique is definitely mature.
Thank you for an important insight and good challenging thoughts!