Organizations sometimes think that enterprise search—which allows employees to use a single search bar to find information across multiple software applications—is the solution they need. It certainly sounds ideal. But in the real world, it often fails to be the efficient solution people expect it to be.
The goal of search tools is to help people find what they need, fast. Three basic things are required for that to happen:
- Find all the candidate results (Search)
- Narrow the field to those that are relevant (Filter)
- Provide context so it is easier to spot the right item (Select)
This all needs to happen in a way that only suggests results that the person has view permissions for (and makes sure those permissions are correctly set).
The power of enterprise search is that it maximizes the number of candidate results. By definition, it finds everything, everywhere—including multiple copies of the same thing saved in different places.
And by increasing the number of candidate results, and by pulling those results out of the context of the repository they are in, enterprise search faces four main challenges:
- It adds irrelevant content
- It makes it harder to understand the context of each result
- It ups the ante on people properly managing permissions
- Sometimes you don’t know what to search for
Let’s explore these challenges in more detail below…
1. Irrelevant content
When people are searching, they’re focused on finding something specific. More is not better when you want to find the right document, fast. Yet enterprise search often returns many more results than people want (or need) to see.
Ending up with a long list of candidates gets more frustrating when many of them are outdated, share similar file names, or seem to be duplicates. This is a problem that every file share faces, and one that enterprise search makes worse.
2. Search results lack file context
It’s normal to filter down your search to a promising set of candidates. Once you get to this point, the file context saves helps trim down that list to what you’re really looking for. It tells you when it was created, who created it, when it was last updated, what type of file it is, etc. Without this context, you have the frustrating experience of opening, examining, and comparing multiple files.
Enterprise search lacks this layer of detail. It gives you a list of results, but no additional information to help you decide which file is the one you’re looking for. Instead of easily finding the right file, you’re left to open each one individually and search for clues about which file is the one you’re after.
This is a classic file share problem that’s amplified by enterprise search.
3. Permission management
Managing file permissions across an organization isn’t easy. Making sure everyone has the access they need without giving them too much access to files (and maintaining these permissions as teams form and reform, and people arrive and depart) is a never-ending challenge.
Governance isn’t necessarily harder with enterprise search, but it does make it more important. When employees can view files across the entire organization with one search, the odds of them stumbling across files that aren’t meant to be seen becomes much higher. Having your CEO forget to lock down permissions on the Restructuring Plan is one thing; having universal search show this plan to everyone is another.
4. Sometimes, you don't know what to search
Universal search can be a good solution if you know exactly what you’re looking for. But what if you don’t? You’re often working off of incomplete information. You have a rough idea of the file name, and narrow your search down until you find what you’re looking for. Getting search results from every corner of the organization increases how long it takes to find the information you need.
And this becomes especially problematic when you’re trying to find out whether a certain file even exists in the first place. For example, if you want to determine if a certain policy exists. That’s a relatively straightforward task if you can browse through a policy library, but it’s not really possible via search—especially if you’re unsure what the policy might be titled.
Browsing is a good alternative to searching, and one that many employees prefer.
A different approach to finding what you need
There’s a better approach to finding what you need within your organization. Instead of searching across multiple platforms and deciphering the results to figure out which is the one you actually need (or if the file you’re looking for even exists), put all your important documents in an easy to access library.
Having a go-to place for finding reference material within your organization means that the library:
- Does not add clutter by way of drafts and working copies. Only the final documents (what employees actually want to find) are in there.
- Provides clear ownership of content topics to subject matter experts, such that it is properly maintained and kept current.
- Makes it easy to target topics to the right audience, either by department or geographical, and automatically updates permissions as people arrive or depart those groups.
- Provides a clear set of categories so that browsing by category/topic/folder becomes reliable and sustainable.
- Adds clear context, making it easy to find information via universal search.
Ideally, file shares, enterprise search, and an organized library work together to serve employees in their never ending quest for clarity.
An organization library is an integral part to helping employees on their never-ending quest for clarity. People are busy at work. They don't have time to sift through files to find what they need. Providing a go-to destination where they can quickly find the current copy of policies, guidelines, and plans help people stay focused and on track. File shares and enterprise search can be a useful tool, but without the library as a source of truth, the problems that we listed above will continue to persist and frustrate employees.