Without question, search is the Achilles heel of knowledge work. It is almost universally acknowledged that 50% of all searches fail. The dirty little secret in search – and one that we uncovered through research we conducted in 2007 – is that 50% of the searches that knowledge workers believe to have been successful also fail in some manner (i.e. outdated information, second-best information, or content that is just outright incorrect).
Obviously, failed search is a major issue and large contributor to information overload. Part of the problem is not the search technology per se, but the selection of the source that provides the results. If a search only looks through unstructured data, it ignores the valuable information that exists as structured data. Search tools need to look at all information sources in order to return not only complete results, but to rank results for disparate data sources accordingly.
For reasons that are inexplicable to this writer, many companies have not chosen to deploy search tools that examine every nook and cranny of a company’s information assets. A few smart companies are deploying search tools that do look in every knowledge repository. Exercising due diligence in searching can avoid failures that result from searching in a partial source set.
BA-Insight is a company that is attempting to even the odds through Longitude, its search enhancement for Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft Search Server, as well as connectors to ERM, CRM, and EMC platforms. The premise is simple; by expanding the sources through which a search is conducted, as well as improving the user interface, search results will have more value, be found in less time, and be easier to utilize once found.
Longitude search product enhances SharePoint Server and Microsoft Search Server by presenting results in page previews, eliminating the need to download the document. The preview is presented in a split screen, with the search results on one half, and the preview panel on the other. When a document is selected, the preview opens to the relevant page, not just the beginning of the document. This saves time in two ways; one, the time it would take to open what might be an undesirable document, and two, the time it would take to find the relevant text in the document by scrolling though it manually. Longitude also supports collaborative work by making functionality such as e-mailing documents, editing, and adding tags and bookmarks, available from within the preview panel.
Longitude supports federated search through multiple repositories of both unstructured and structured data via connectors for Lotus Notes, Documentum, Exchange, Microsoft Dynamics DRM, and Symantec Enterprise Vault among others. Content is assigned to metadata automatically as users search and find content, and search is guided through Parametric Navigation that takes the metadata into account to search using complex queries.
Knowledge workers spend on average 15% of the day searching. We know that 75% of those searches fail when we account for the two types of failure previously mentioned. Clearly the odds of finding what one is looking for are against the searcher. Most tools in a company don’t search in enough places, and because of technology sprawl, knowledge workers are just as likely to have stored critical information in a vat that is not touched by the search system as one that is. Tools such as Longitude go a long way towards evening the odds for the knowledge worker.
Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.