Findability Blog: Wrapping up the 2010 posts

Christmas is finally here and at Findwise we are taking a few days off to spend time with family and friends.

During 2010 we’ve delivered more than 25 successful projects, arranged breakfast seminars to talk about customer solutions (based on Microsoft, IBM, Autonomy and Open source), meet-ups in a number of cities as well as networking meetings for profound Findability discussions and moving in parties for our new offices.

At our Findability blog we have been discussing technology and vendor solutions (Microsoft and FAST, Autonomy, IBM, Google and open source), researchconferences, customized solutions and how to find a balance between technology and people.

Some of our posts have resulted in discussions, both on our own blog and in other forums. Please get involved in some of the previous ongoing discussions on “Solr Processing Pipeline”,  “Search and Business Intelligence” or “If a piece of content is never read, does it exist?”  if you have thoughts to share.

Findability blog is taking a break and we will be back with new posts is January.

If you have some spare time during the vacation some of customers run their own blogs, and good reading tips within Findability are the blogs driven by Kristian Norling (VGR) and Alexandra Larsson (Swedish armed forces).

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all!

Findability by Findwise

Being the hosts of “The Search and Findability blog”, we believe it is time to define and explain what Findwise means by these terms and how they relate.

“Findability” is not a new term or concept. As stated on Wikipedia, Peter Morville is often credited for having introduced the term and it is used in different areas related to the quality of being locatable or navigable either in terms of finding information in the digital world or geographical locations.

“Search” is, at least in the world of IT, commonly associated with either Google on the web, or a search box in the corner of the company Intranet or other websites. Most people have positive experiences from searching with Google on the web but rather poor, sometimes even terrible, experiences from searching at company websites and in internal systems and applications.

Simple search box

The primary focus of Findwise is to improve the experience and benefits from using search technology in the corporate setting. By itself, we don’t believe that the term “Search” or even “Enterprise Search” fully reflects this focus as it limits the scope of search technology to being “just” the search box in the website corner, which often provides undesirable results. From experience, we know that modern search technology can be utilised in multiple ways to fulfil the needs of an organisation to make information accessible both to their employees and customers. The search box is only one way. Therefore, to support and explain our aims and focus in relation to search technology, we have defined the concept of “Findability by Findwise”.

Findability by Findwise expands the area of search and value of search technology by taking a holistic approach to the challenge of creating business value from internal and external information assets. Findability by Findwise is all about maximising the customer business value gained from search technology investments. Making sure that search technology is implemented and utilised to best support and strengthen the business processes and help the organisation to reach its business goals.

The value generated by the Findability solution could be both:

  • Internal; Improving employee efficiency and their ability to truly benefit from existing information assets and previous investments in various systems to store and structure information.
  • External; Making sure stakeholders can access the information they need in order to become or remain profitable customers.

From the statement above, it is easy to understand that to gain the desired effects and value of search technology investments, it is not enough only to focus on and master the actual technology. Or as stated in an AIIM report from 2008:

“Findability is more about a well-defined and executed strategy model than it is about technology.”

AIIM Market IQ Intelligence Quarterly Q2 2008

Therefore, a Findability solution by Findwise creates true customer business value, i.e. it makes desired information accessible to internal or external stakeholders, by;

BOTH using the full potential of search technology,
AND focusing on the four other critical dimensions of Findability:

  • Business – The use of search technology should support and leverage the existing business processes.
  • Users – The solution must be designed and tailored to fit the needs and capabilities of the users.
  • Information – The quality and structure of existing and newly produced information is an important success factor of the solution.
  • Organisation – The organisation must establish a process to govern the solution and maintain Findability for future needs.

We have chosen the symbol of a flower to illustrate the concept and dimensions of Findability by Findwise:

Findability by Findwise

In other words, the beauty and health of the Findability Flower™ can be likened to the extent to which search technology is utilised to support and leverage the organisation’s business needs and goals. That is what Findability by Findwise is all about.

Visit our website to read more about Findability by Findwise and how we work to create Findability solutions that make our customers truly benefit from state-of-the-art search technology.

Search and Accessibility

Västra Götalands regionen has introduced a new search solution that Findwise created together with Netrelations. Where both search and accessibility is important. We have also blogged about it earlier (see How to create better search – VGR leads the way). One important part of the creation of this solution was to create an interface that is accessible to everyone.

Today the web offers access to information and interaction for people around the world. But many sites today have barriers that make it difficult, and sometimes even impossible for people with different disabilities to navigate and interact with the site. It is important to design for accessibility  – so that no one is excluded because of their disabilities.

Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate, interact and contribute to the Web. But web accessibility is not only for people that use screen readers, as is often portrayed. It is also for people with just poor eyesight who need to increase the text size or for people with cognitive disabilities (or sometimes even for those without disabilities). Web accessibility can benefit people without disabilities, such as when using a slow Internet connection, using a mobile phone to access the web or when someone is having a broken arm. Even such a thing as using a web browser without javascript because of company policy can be a disability on the web and should be considered when designing websites.

So how do you build accessible websites?

One of the easiest things is to make sure that the xhtml validates. This means that the code is correct, adheres to the latest standard from W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) and that the code is semantically correct i.e. that the different parts of the website use the correct html ”tags” and in the correct context. For example that the most important heading of a page is marked up with ”h1” and that the second most important is ”h2” (among other things important when making websites accessible for people using screen readers).

It is also important that a site can easily be navigated only by keyboard, so that people who cannot use a mouse still can access the site. Here it is important to test in which order the different elements of the web page is selected when using the keyboard to navigate through the page. One thing that is often overlooked is that a site often is inaccessible for people with cognitive disabilities because the site contains content that uses complex words, sentences or structure. By making content less complex and more structured it  will be readable for everyone.

Examples from VGR

In the search application at VGR elements in the interface that use javascript will only be shown if the user has a browser with java script enabled. This will remove any situations where elements do not do anything because java script is turned off. The interface will still be usable, but you will not get all functionality. The VGR search solution also works well with only the keyboard, and there is a handy link that takes the user directly to the results. This way the user can skip unwanted information and navigation.

How is accessibility related to findability?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/morville/4274260576/in/set-72157623208480316/

Search and Accessibility

Accessibility is important for findability because it is about making search solutions accessible and usable for everyone. The need to find information is not less important if you are blind,  if you have a broken arm or if you have dyslexia. If you cannot use a search interface you cannot find the information you need.

“what you find changes who you become” -Peter Morville

In his book Search Patterns Peter Morville visualizes this in the ”user experience honeycomb”. As can been seen in the picture accessibility is as much a part of the user experience as usability or findability is and a search solution will be less usable without any of them.

Welcome to the Enterprise Search and Findability Blog!

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.

Implement Findability in Your Customer Service Interactions

With the rapid rate of change in the global economy, the need for customer knowledge and predictive insight has never been more urgent. The competition is increasing as well as the demand for cost reduction, so whether you are a company fighting for business or a public entity serving the citizens, there is a great deal to gain by introducing Findability on your website.

Using the power of an enterprise search platform to serve your Internet site enables you to take your online service offering to the next level. Due to the “Google-effect”, users have become used to accessing information via a single search box as opposed to “surfing around” to find what they are looking for. A good search system enables your site users to start their journey through your site from the single search box. Accompanied by extreme relevance and navigational tools, users find the information they are looking for with a minimum number of clicks.
Online presence has become a must for companies with a large customer base. With consumers constantly developing a higher degree of online literacy, they expect a higher degree of online service from their vendors— including easy-to-find information and other services such as stock trading and banking facilities. You can easily offer your customers a unified view on your services and information—even if they originate from different source systems—due to the search system’s ability to act as a universal Findability layer.

An increased online service offering will also drive self-service behavior from the user side. By using Search Analytics on the query/search logs you will get a wealth of information about customer behavior. Take customer support as an example. By publishing the most requested support information on your public site, and enabling the users to easily find the information they are looking for, the need for call center support is lowered. This reduces the pressure on the basic customer service functions, allowing you to refocus resources to other value creating activities.

For many enterprises, self service is seen as the solution that can provide customers with the support they need while significantly reducing service costs.

Self-service is regarded as an opportunity to sharply lower customer support costs by deflecting calls. For example, respondents to a Fortune 1,000 survey expect to offload 23% of their call volume to Internet-based self-service (Mastering Online Customer Service, Bruce D. Temkin, Bob Chatham, Hillary Drohan, Katharine M. Gardiner, Forrester, July 2002). And there are proven cost justifications for implementing self-service: Web-based self-service interactions cost 75% less than a phone interaction.

While more traditional customer service interaction solutions tend to be based on a knowledge data base, that needs to be built and maintained, a Findability based solution is more dynamic in its nature and is based on a dynamical index created by the already existing data that resides in the corporate systems. The index can be partitioned into information buckets meeting different user needs and profiles.
So implement Findability in your customer service interactions!

A Strategic Approach to Search

The other week I attended ”From business to buttons” a yearly conference about usability and ‘designing for effect’ held in Malmö. Maria from Findwise was there to talk about ‘search driven design – or why can’t or intranet be more like Google?’, while I had the privilege to walk around talking to attendees about search.

The conference gathered people from a broad range of industries such as telecom, banking, retail etc, but what struck me the most was that no matter how different their business was, their challenges when it came to Enterprise Search where like peas in a pod. The employees just want to find the information they need to do their job in an efficient way. Preferably by typing a simple keyword and get accurate results in a Google-stylish way. Many companies have made investments in Enterprise Search platforms, hoping that this will magically increase findability.

Back at the office I got hold of a new study on Findability, made by Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM). The survey shows that out of 500 businesses 49% of survey respondents “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that it is a difficult and time consuming process to find the information they need to do their job. Furthermore the study suggests that “the fault does not lie with technology solution providers; rather, most organizations have failed to take a strategic approach to enterprise search: 49% of respondents report having “No Formal Goal” for enterprise Findability within their organizations”.

Findability survey

When looking at current Findwise customers one realizes that the success stories are all based on the same objective reason: the strategic approach, which has been focusing their business and end-users, looking at the technological investment as an enabler rather than a solution. The research paper from AIIM will be presented in a webinar on June 26:th, which I believe can be interesting. However, apart from establishing the fact that your company is facing the same challenges as everyone else, feel free to ask us how other companies have been using a strategic approach within this area; so you can use that knowledge to enhance your own solution.