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Celebrate the Success Stories of Knowledge Management - 2022 KMWorld Awards

Rethinking Enterprise Search Q&A with Massood Zarrabian CEO of BA Insight, and Sean Coleman, Chief Customer Officer of BA Insight

JW: So, Sean, has the ongoing pandemic exacerbated these problems? And how is that impacting productivity?

SC: I don't think it's really exacerbated it as much as it's brought it up to the front. I think that these problems were always there. People were always having issues with finding information. If the team can't find what they're doing and can't get their job done, it doesn't necessarily matter if they can't get it done from their home or they can't get it done from an office that they're in together. The fact that you used to go to the cubicle next door and get the answer isn't great. How do you know that that answer is accurate? How do you know that it's up-to-date? How do you know that has all the right information?

JW: Massood, Google has changed search and shaped what people in the world expect from search, as you mentioned. Do you think they expect the same thing from their organizations? And then, if so, what are the expectations from a search solution?

MZ: I do feel strongly that people expect that. But I think when you work for an organization, you compromise, because at the end of it, you're a team player, an employee. And, coming back to what Sean said, one of the things that COVID and the pandemic did is make us all of a sudden work from home. And now everybody has become a stranger. People left and came. Attrition happened.

On the web, information is pretty much always tagged because the pages get tagged. Everybody has a reason to do it. If you don't tag, you're not being found. Inside the company, you don't have that thing. But if you don't tag it, then you're not going to find it. On the web, it's rare that you ask for something and you don't get results on the first page—and internally I joke about sometimes going to a second and third page after I search for something to see the poor company or organization listed at the end of the second page, because nobody would ever look at it. That truthfully exists in business.

One big difference inside an organization versus searching on the web is, to a large degree, the web has flat pages, so you find a page but inside an organization, you largely find documents. So, finding a document is just not good enough because there may be three similar documents. You don't want the user to find them, open them, or download them, and look through them. So you need to somewhat flatten those documents into pages that have the search results. You need to make it so that you take advantage of natural-language processing to bring AI to work. And, thankfully, AI has become commoditized and is available between Amazon and Microsoft and Google, there are a lot of good things out there that you can just reuse and our companies are using it.

But I think that's a broad expectation of search. People want to get it on the first page—hopefully, in the top five—and make sure they can get to the page they need in a document. And then let them take actions on that so that they can do something with it. Don't force them, if they need to change the metadata to go and log into another system and use another UI to change the metadata. If they want to upload the document, let them do it from a search interface like they can on the web.

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