Iain Fletcher 2
Iain Fletcher

Member Article

Key benefits of enterprise search

Iain Fletcher, VP of marketing at Search Technologies outlines the key benefits of enterprise search.

For considerably more than a decade, vendors have been suggesting that enterprise search systems will save time and money. The following article will consider this, by reviewing the findings of the main enterprise search surveys from the last ten years.

First however, we should recognise that the phrase ‘enterprise search’ covers a range of system types beyond the classical meaning of a facility to search multiple data sources within an organisation from a single point. Indeed, many of the most successful search applications (in terms of measurable ROI) are built to address specific business issues.

For example:

  • Search systems supporting eCommerce, which are able to show revenue increases directly attributable to better search
  • Search systems supporting customer interaction. In the case of call centre support staff, they are able to find the information to satisfy the customer more quickly and handle more calls each day, so fewer staff are needed to support a given workload
  • “Self-help’ customer portals: search engines can make it much easier for customers to find what they need for themselves, saving money by avoiding the need for call centre contact

Search is also an important part of many compliance applications, helping to minimise the risk of large fines (or even imprisonment), although the savings are less easily measured.

In R&D, there is a common argument for better search systems based around cost avoidance. A CIO at a FMCG company was once heard to say (paraphrasing Lord Leverhulme’s famous advertising dictum) that he was sure 30% of his R&D budget was wasted on repeating research that had already been done. The problem was that he didn’t know which 30%. A great search system helps to address this frustration.

Looking at enterprise search benefits more generally, there are a number of general high-level conclusions which may be drawn from these major enterprise search surveys:

  • A lot of time is wasted looking for information. On average, this equates to 10% of salary costs
  • 10% of knowledge workers spend more than twenty hours a week (more than half of their time) looking for information

At face value therefore, even if a search system saved just half of this time the level of return looks compelling .

A study by the Aberdeen Group in 2009 compared the performance of the 20 per cent ‘top performing’ companies - those who had done a great job of implementing enterprise search - with the other 80 per cent, in terms of the time they saved. The results show a stark difference. In other words, the savings made by top performers were markedly greater than the rest.

Anecdotally, in the past, many executives have failed to be impressed by such surveys because of the difficulty in realising these savings in hard cash terms.

The author’s personal experience over 20 years in the enterprise search industry strongly confirms the following summary:

  • Solid ROI and business benefits can be realised from enterprise search – both in terms of time saved and productivity improvement
  • However, not all companies achieve this and it is the effectiveness with which enterprise search is implemented that is the key differentiator

The majority of organisations still used enterprise search poorly. This is amply illustrated by a recent survey by MindMetre, in which a poll of more than 2,000 directors and managers found that more than half of their users cannot find the information they seek within an acceptable amount of time.

Failure to implement enterprise search effectively erodes ROI. This is a question of approach and process, rather than technology. The next article will consider the most important factors to consider when implementing enterprise search.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Iain Fletcher .

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