In today’s digital age, organizations are overflowing with an ever-growing amount of information within their digital workplaces. However, it’s not just the sheer volume that poses a challenge; the complexity of this information is also on the rise. In this dynamic and fast-paced environment, ensuring that the information we rely on for decision-making is trustworthy, relevant and up to date is paramount. Failure to do so can lead to users seeking alternative methods, resulting in information siloes, shadow IT and overall chaos that quickly become significant issues.
This is where findability comes in. Findability refers to the ability to locate information quickly and effortlessly, without investing excessive time or effort. Achieving findability entails a combination of factors, including clear metadata, intuitive navigation
, and effective search functionality. By placing a high priority on findability, organizations can ensure that their digital workplaces operate efficiently, boost productivity , and provide a user-friendly experience.
It is crucial to recognize that content findability goes beyond being an IT or content management concern; it should be regarded as a strategic business priority. Failures in findability can have direct consequences on revenue, employee and customer satisfaction, and other key performance indicators critical to business success.
By prioritizing findability, organizations can transform their digital workplaces into efficient and productive environments. Improved findability not only reduces frustration and saves time for employees but also positively impacts the bottom line by facilitating informed decision-making, enhancing collaboration
, and improving customer experiences.
In new research from DWG, we explore the challenges around information and knowledge findability, and how these can be overcome by effective information management. In doing so, findability expert and report author Agnes Molnar guides DWG members to think about:
• the business and user context for findability
• the information environment
• the search environment
• technology challenges and opportunities
• key success factors.
Download a research excerpt of The Findability Playbook. Connecting people with content successfully.
Business and user context
To ensure comprehensive findability within the digital workplace, organizations must prioritize the integration of results from various content systems. This integration enables users to search across multiple content sources simultaneously, aggregating the results into a unified search interface. The primary advantage of federated enterprise search is the provision of a centralized access point for all the content users require. Additionally, enterprise search enhances usability by offering a consistent user interface and experience across all content sources.
However, to prioritize findability, organizations need to start by addressing some business challenges. To ensure comprehensive findability within the digital workplace, organizations must prioritize the integration of results from various content systems. This integration enables users to search across multiple content sources simultaneously, aggregating the results into a unified search interface. The primary advantage of federated enterprise search is the provision of a centralized access point for all the content users require. This unified approach simplifies the process of locating desired information, regardless of its storage location. Additionally, enterprise search enhances usability by offering a consistent user interface and experience across all content sources.
The first is that users often have false expectations of what a search function can deliver. Most users complain about search, but when asked, they often say: “I just want to find everything” or “I want a Google-like search in the organization”. While these expectations are understandable, meeting them is often not feasible due to various factors. These include variations in content accessibility, diverse target audiences, search engine optimization (SEO) considerations, and other contextual complexities.
The information environment
Another challenge is that data is often fragmented and siloed. This means it is spread across different departments, systems and locations, making it difficult to get a holistic view of what’s going on.
A good information architecture helps findability by providing discipline around how information is produced and managed, and establishing a clean and easy-to-use content structure, governance and guidelines. It helps to keep data organized and accessible, enabling different business units, offices, departments or teams to access the same information quickly and easily. It also helps when onboarding new employees by making it easier for them to find the information they need to do their job efficiently. A good IA makes sure that content is consistently labelled, formatted and categorized across different channels. In this way, users can find the information they need at the right time with minimal effort. It also helps ensure that everyone is utilizing the same terminology, which can reduce confusion and improve collaboration.
Good data structure, taxonomy and tagging practices help findability by providing easy ways to tag and classify information. Tagging can be manual
, or automated based on pre-defined rules or by using AI technologies. This helps to ensure that content is tagged and labelled consistently, making it easier to search for and find information quickly. In addition, a well-defined taxonomy can help with classifying information in an intuitive way and in providing users with an easy-to-understand navigation system.
In many organizations, there are often no standards or governance in place around data, or they are not used to their full potential. This means that each department or team may have its own way of storing, organizing and using data, which can lead to inconsistencies and errors. It also makes it difficult to share data across departments or to combine data from different sources. Information lifecycle management (ILM) is the process of organizing and managing information throughout its entire lifecycle, including:
- defining content governance policies and processes
- establishing content standards, metadata and taxonomy
- designing an information architecture that supports content findability
- automating content management workflows wherever possible.
The search environment
The search environment is critical to findability. It’s important to have an effective search engine that can quickly and accurately retrieve relevant information. One of the biggest challenges in content findability is dealing with irrelevant search results. This happens when the system returns content that doesn’t match the user’s query, or when the content that is returned is not relevant to what the user is looking for. This can be frustrating for users and can waste a lot of time.
Search personalization is the process of tailoring search results to individual users based on their past behaviour and preferences. Search engines use a variety of factors to determine which results to show each user, such as the user’s location, content updates, search history, job role, expertise, etc. However, providing personalized results can be a challenge because it’s not always easy to determine what content is most relevant to each individual. In addition, content changes rapidly and can be difficult to keep up with.
Content discovery engines also play an important role in content findability. They help users to find content in the context of their current work quickly and easily, regardless of where the content is stored. Content discovery features might include displaying related, recommended or similar content. The main challenges here include finding the right balance in the content discovery algorithm (what to recommend when), as well as improving content discovery without adding to information overload.
Search engines can also be used to power entire applications and solutions: for example, a Corporate Policy Hub, Customer Centre, Organizational Knowledge Centre and more might be search-driven. A search-driven application is one that relies on a search engine to provide the content and functionality for that application. The search engine becomes the backbone of the application and is responsible for indexing content, returning results and providing relevant information to users. For the users, it is clear that the experience is search-driven, in that they have access to aggregated, collected content in the right context.
Finding experts in the organization
People search is the process of locating a specific person within an organization. It can be used to find employees, customers or other contacts and can be performed using several methods, including directories, email addresses or enterprise user profiles. The most commonly implemented way to find someone in an organization is by using their name and contact information. Further challenges arise when the goal is to find people by other profile information, such as job role or department. We have to make sure this information is available, consistent, synchronized between various systems and also indexed in search.
Last but not least, in many cases, finding people by their expertise area, skills or former project experience is a common requirement in many organizations. For example, ‘project manager with experience in corporate liability insurance in South-East Asia’, or ‘senior consultant in financial inspection experience who speaks fluent Spanish’, or ‘self-driving object detection dataset engineer in the Seattle area’, etc. In many cases, LinkedIn is still the go-to source for people trying to find colleagues with the right experience instead of using their company’s intranet. The problem is not just that most intranets lack the necessary features , but also that the business processes and governance are not in place for managing user profiles.
Technology challenges and opportunities
Implementing an enterprise search solution is a collaboration between business stakeholders and IT. The business stakeholders have the domain knowledge and can identify the search requirements and use cases. IT has the technical knowledge and can advise on the feasibility and implementation of these requirements. Both parties must work together to ensure that the search solution meets the business requirements and is technically feasible and sustainable.
In addition, collaboration should continue after the implementation of the search solution. Business stakeholders should provide feedback on the effectiveness of the search solution, and IT should provide support and maintenance to ensure that the solution continues to meet the business requirements and remains technically feasible and sustainable.
Competition between search engine products is intense. Vendors are constantly trying to outdo each other in terms of features, speed and accuracy. As a result, the search engine landscape is always changing, with new technologies and approaches being developed all the time. It’s challenging for any organization to figure out which search engine is best suited to them, as there is no single right way to do so.
If you already have a search engine deployed in your organization, this might provide immediate value, but could also come with some constraints and boundaries. On top of this, many organizations lack the necessary tools and skills to effectively understand, manage and use their data as well as the search environment itself. This can make it difficult to collect, clean and analyse data, as well as to share data across departments or to combine data from different sources.
It can also be hard to make informed decisions about the search engine itself, and the organization might fall into the ‘search immaturity cycle’:
- A search engine is selected, purchased and deployed based on the available information.
- Content is indexed.
- Without a thorough understanding of the search engine (and users’ real needs), it’s not possible to get the most benefits from any search engine, therefore it will not be able to satisfy the users’ needs.
- Without thorough understanding, it’s close to impossible to fix these problems.
- The team might conclude that the search engine is not a good fit for the organization and start to consider a new search engine – and the whole process starts over again.
Most search engines are licensed software, which means that the vendor charges a fee for using that software. The cost of licensing can be significant, and it’s important to factor this into your overall budget when planning your findability solution. There are also various open-source search engines on the market, which are viable alternatives to licensed search engines. These are often less expensive and they provide the same level of functionality and performance. However, open-source search engines are not ‘free’: they require more technical expertise to manage and operate – and, in some cases, they may not be as well supported by the vendor.
Key success factors
After outlining all these challenges, it’s important to emphasize: it is possible to achieve search satisfaction. The main success factors are:
- content strategy that takes into account all types of content
- strategic understanding of what the users search for, and what content they need when, in the context of their everyday jobs
- effective governance and common standards
- enjoyable and efficient design and user experience that provides not only a good first impression but is also easy and convenient to use
- organizational culture, user training and adoption of the technology
- continuous improvement.
In conclusion, findability is critical to maintaining an efficient and productive digital workplace. By prioritizing findability, organizations can ensure that their digital workplaces operate efficiently, boost productivity and provide a user-friendly experience. Good information architecture, data structure and taxonomy and search environment are key components to achieving findability. Business stakeholders and IT must collaborate to ensure that the search solution meets the business requirements and is technically feasible and sustainable. By considering these key success factors, organizations can achieve search satisfaction and transform their digital workplaces into efficient and productive environments.
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Categorised in: Digital workplace, Intranets, Search & findability