Where did search go?

September 6, 2016

Here is more data I’d like to share as I continue to work on the 2016 report. Please think about this and share your reactions. #wol

One of my first reactions is to ask “where did search go?” Both enterprise search and social search are at the bottom of the list. Why?

Responses on the chart show the % that said “available organization-wide” and “available in some parts”.

Maybe Search is just too hard to do well. So we focus instead on the fun stuff—the things that make media buzz.

As I’ll show you later, these deployment figures are just the beginning. What really matters is how they impact work practices—as individuals, as teams and across the organization.

In the meantime, here’s the chart. The full descriptions for each item follow.

digital capabilities 2016.001

  • Sharing information and knowledge directly via blogs, wikis, “internal Twitter-like tools”, or similar
  • Commenting, reacting, liking on official news, published information and content
  • Real-time communication, e.g. web conferencing, presence indicators, instant messaging, or similar
  • Sharing mediag. uploading, commenting photos, videos and audio
  • Sync and share (accessing and sharing files) anytime, anywhere from different devices
  • Co-creating content collaboratively in wikis, team spaces, enterprise social networks or in a “corporate-pedias”.
  • Internal crowd sourcing and developing ideas through online ideation/innovation technology solutions, enterprise jams, or similar
  • Finding people and expertise based on information people themselves have provided in directories, social profiles, etc.
  • Enterprise search that indexes data and documents from a wide variety of sources across the organization
  • Social search across conversations, blogs, social networks and other informal user-generated content in the organization

So, over to you. There’s lots to say about these data. How do you interpret this chart?

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Martin, Why not search you ask at the end of your comment. Because the importance is simply not recognized. Sad but true.


Could be that search becomes less relevant when the company is well connected and you have easy access to people? Just an idea…

Martin White

I could write a book in response to your request – but then again I’ve written four so perhaps another is not required!

Probably the main reason is that the technology of search is an order of magnitude more difficult than the technology of content management. Because of the technology implications search is almost always owned/financed by IT whereas all the other applications are owned by the intranet/digital workplace team. Invariably there is no joint governance, no-one on the IT team that understands computational linguistics (which is essential for search implementation) and no-one on the intranet/dwp team that understands that (for example) you cannot have high precision (a core document at the top of the results page) and also high recall (all relevant documents).

Another issue is associated with the ubiquity of SharePoint. SP2010 could be extended to be an enterprise-wide (multiple applications) search tool but that is much more difficult to achieve with SP2013, which is optimised for searching MS Office content contained in a SharePoint repository. Even searching Yammer is a bit of a nightmare. Enterprise search can be achieved with SP2013 but you need a strong search team and an add-on such as BAInsight.

Search success and satisfaction is a function of having a optimum team of skilled people supporting search. If you have more than say 5,000 employees (excluding staff in manufacturing) you probably need a team of four people (search manager/tech support/analytics/user testing and training). All too often organisations just invest in the technology. That is not the case with enterprise-wide HR, ERP and Finance applications (for example) so why not search?