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New Equation for Findability

This article is part of the Best Practices White Paper Enterprise Search [May 2008]
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Are you looking for new ways for your website to stay competitive, ensure cost-effective growth, launch new business opportunities and grow profitably? Would it surprise you to know that all the information necessary to accomplish these things are readily available today? Unfortunately this information is not only spread across the World Wide Web but buried in multiple repositories within your enterprise under incompatible formats and inconsistent schemas. The answers are out there, but the classic approach to searching requires you to know precisely what you are looking for, where to look and how to ask for it. This challenge is further exacerbated by the need to have IT take man-years worth of development effort to generate reports, build information hubs and establish data warehouses or restructure enterprise content management repositories.

The key to traversing this information quagmire and speed through your information access development challenges is found in the new equation for business success:

Content Analytics + Visualization= Findability

It may be a blatant statement of the obvious, but if you could just find the answers you would have them... Answers to questions like: What are other people saying about my product or service? What are my competitors doing? What new government or industry regulations are being enacted that will affect my business? What local, national or global market dynamics are changing that can have a positive or negative impact on my customers? What information assets do I have available? What combination of those assets, whether from inside or outside of my corporate firewall, will create a new market breakthrough? What brilliant new idea has that group in the lunch room been toying around with for the last three months?

How do you achieve findability? It is certainly easier said than done. Chances are today your challenges are a matter of knowing where to look, what to ask for, who to ask, when to ask and how to ask. The answers may be out there but sometimes it’s a matter of knowing the right question to ask in order to get the answer. True findability requires an interaction between you and the available information corpus. True findability requires a visualization schema that facilitates exploration, discovery, participation and collaboration. True findability requires a flexible means of pulling out the relevant concepts and entities (content analytics) from your content in a transparent and robust manner and then exposing that content in intuitive and highly functional visualizations.

Findability typically manifests itself in the form of a search or information access project. However, the information access challenge is not just about findability; different audience requirements must also be dealt with:

  • For consumers and end users, it’s about findability. A highly functional and useful source of rich information is where people will consistently return for answers to questions or the desire to browse new subject areas. This translates to page views per visit and return rate and can be directly measured as part of the value brought to your organization.
  • For contributors, (enthusiasts and editors) it’s about editorial control. High productivity power tools for tagging, annotating and playlisting content and data are necessary to organize and curate information. This also facilitates the emergence of participation, e.g., the enablement of the social Web which drives collaboration efforts and more compelling content.
  • For publishers, it’s about increasing eyeballs thru contextualized content. A source of consumer-generated metadata that can increase the value of core content and data offerings drives user visits and stickiness.
  • For advertisers, it’s about precise placement of advertising. Delivering higher yield ads based on navigation rather than keywords.

Today, business success is increasingly defined by how quickly you can get the right information to your audience, not only channeled among your own operations but also connected beyond your site and syndicated throughout the Web. Information flows from everywhere, all of the time and in increasing amounts; you have to channel the flow or risk losing your audience, customers and/or market relevance. In order to succeed at this, you need to better understand the types of audiences you serve.

Digital Natives versus Immigrants
Students in kindergarten through college today represent the first generation of the truly digital age and therefore have been labeled "digital natives." They have relied almost exclusively on their personal computer and the Internet as their primary information source, instant messaging and texting for communications, blogs for creative outlet, wikis and social sites (like Myspace and Facebook) for meeting and staying in touch with friends and people of common interests. These digital natives also have used cell phones, digital music players, video games and digital cameras as their primary tools for education, group collaboration, social interaction, entertainment and personal productivity.

Everyone not born into this generation has been thrust into this brave new world of digital communications by virtue of their desire or their job, represent the group known as "digital immigrants."

The importance of the distinction is this: As digital immigrants learn to adapt to their environment, they always retain, to some degree, their "accent," that is, their former nondigital ways. The "digital immigrant accent" can be seen in such things as reading a manual first rather than turning to the Internet or collaborate with a coworker via IM or a wiki to solve a problem. Additional examples include: printing out an email (or even this whitepaper) to read; a phone call to notify someone of an email; an email trail instead of an IM for casual conversation; asking someone to come see a Web page in your office instead of forwarding a URL; requiring a daily meeting or weekly status report rather than using a wiki or collaboration tool.

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