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Return on Information
Adding Value to Your ROI

This article is part of the Best Practices White Paper Search/Information Access [May 2009]
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According to IDC, enterprise content is growing at 80% per year. At this rate, the volume of data stored in many organizations may measurably reach the point of "too much information"—in other words, where levels of information actually interfere with productivity rather than contribute to it.

Enterprises are working hard, and investing significantly, to address this issue. One particular area is the investment in enterprise content management (ECM) systems. ECM systems have mushroomed in popularity; in fact, according to Forrester, worldwide license revenue for the ECM category was projected to have reached $3.9 billion in 2008.

However, even with increases in purchases and content, many companies are recognizing that ECM systems alone do not fully address the productivity challenge. A few facts:

  • Findability. While ECM systems focus on the "upload" of information by being a central repository, they traditionally don’t focus on "findability." For this reason, 70% of enterprise users deem it "significant" or "imperative" that findability products integrate into their ECM platforms (AIIM).
  • Customer experience. Per Forrester Research, "We often hear reports from our clients who have chosen an ECM suite vendor that they have difficulty tackling customer experience needs."
  • Distributed information. Even with the best intentions, many companies struggle to keep information solely in the ECM system. Companies often also have file shares, portals, SharePoint and other repositories.
  • ROI. For larger companies, ECM systems can cost $2 million to $5 million to implement, factoring in hardware, software licenses and deployment costs. With costs of this scale, achieving ROI in the short term—or even over time—can be difficult.

These challenges, however, can be measurably reduced with the introduction of enterprise search and the increases it brings to "findability." As enterprises look to address the above points and round out their content strategies, they are realizing that findability solutions are often the missing link in a content strategy. In addition to improving the bottom line, findability can deliver another payoff: the ability to leverage the value of internal content and data, or "return on information."

To achieve a true return on information, enterprises need to look closer at two areas: findability of enterprise content and findability of website content.

Return on Enterprise Content
Within the enterprise, the problem of "too much information" is staggering. According to an IDC study, "The Hidden Costs of Information Work," knowledge workers spend 9.5 hours each week searching for information, and another 8.3 hours per week gathering information for documents. Further, another three hours per week is spent in recreating content that already exists within the enterprise, implying that it wasn’t shared or found adequately. This adds up to more than 20 hours each week, which means that more than 50% of a knowledge worker’s time can be spent on non-productive tasks which could effectively be addressed with enterprise search.

To address this issue and increase worker productivity, companies are increasingly looking to enterprise search solutions. However, not all enterprise search solutions are equal. Key requirements of a high-quality enterprise search system include:

  • Usability. Search will only become the de facto enterprise standard if it provides a compelling user experience. Many ECM systems offer built-in search, but the search function is rarely used, due to poor usability and relevancy.
  • Relevancy. Users only save time if the "right" result is at the top of the result set.
  • Comprehensiveness. To achieve true findability across the enterprise, a search solution should search everything within the ECM system and everything outside of it, regardless of data source or format.
  • Security. A search solution must integrate with single sign-on and any other security mechanism to provide seamless user authentication and display appropriate results.
  • Ease of administration. If a search solution isn’t easy to administer, especially in this economy with resource constraints, then it will almost certainly lose its "freshness" over time. This will result in lower usage, and ultimately, a lower ROI.

Assuming all of the above criteria are met, high-quality search can provide a high ROI within the company. Take the following example: a mid-market high-tech company, employing 1,000 workers, of whom 70% are knowledge workers. If these 700 workers can simply reduce their time searching by 10%, and reduce their time recreating existing content by 50% (both conservative assumptions with a high-quality search solution), that would imply a time savings per employee of 2.3 hours per week. Assuming a fully loaded average salary of $60,000 per knowledge worker, that’s an annual savings of $2.4 million to the company.

In addition to increased knowledge worker productivity, effective enterprise search presents additional ROI benefits:

  • Faster time to market. For any product development organization, effective knowledge sharing and collaboration can lead to a faster pace of development. This accelerated development can allow reduction in the time to market by as much as 5%, which can allow both cost savings and increased revenues.
  • Improved responsiveness to customers. Many internal organizations, such as call centers, or claims processing units, depend on rapid access to information to allow them to service customer needs. With an effective search solution, a call center agent can provide the right answer to the customer faster. This increases customer satisfaction and can reduce overall customer support costs.
  • Increase services revenue. Many high-tech organizations have professional services units in which professionals are completing similar projects at geographically disparate client sites. By improving access to information, project teams can leverage each others’ work better, and complete their projects faster. Over time, this can increase the billable hours per professional, and slightly increase overall services revenue for the organization.

Return on Website Content
While website content at most enterprises may not be growing as fast as internal content, effective findability is an even more important paradigm on the website. Consider this: visitors spend an average of eight seconds before deciding whether or not to remain on a website (MarketingSherpa). Of course, several factors influence website engagement. Usability, design and layout of the website are influential factors. However, with an effective website search solution, visitors can locate the right products, find the information they need to make purchase decisions and convert into customers.

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