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Exploring enterprise search post COVID-19 at KMWorld Connect 2020

At KMWorld Connect 2020 Alan Pelz-Sharpe, founder & principal analyst, Deep Analysis, and Martin White, managing director, Intranet Focus, Ltd, explored the way enterprise search is evolving to meet the needs of today's workforce with distributed and onsite work and multiple stakeholders and what to look for when assessing enterprise search products.

Pelz-Sharpe and White covered the practical realities of selecting the right tool, how to not select the wrong one, and what is necessary to manage it, since, they said, you can't set it and forget it.

Deep Analysis is an information & process management research and advisory services company. Intranet Focus Ltd provides information management consulting services.

Key challenges

Key challenges today making enterprise search a necessity include the COVID-19 pandemic. In a period of business disruption the need to make informed decisions is critical. Without high performance search, the organization could be at serious risk from competitors, unable to take advantage of emerging market opportunities, and compromise compliance and quality standards. Hybrid work situations also mean that employees don't have the opportunity for a quick word with a colleague to track down a document or point of information. In addition, equally important in times of disruption is to make sure that work isnot being duplicated in silos. 

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According to Pelz-Sharpe and White, the choice of enterprise software serach vendors and implementers has never been broader than it is today.

There is a world of difference between web search and enterprise search and enterprise search is whole different challenge. Enterprise search is at the heart of the enterprise, providing access to everything known internally and externally by the enterprise and will be very different in the context one firm versus another. "One size does not fit all," they emphasized.

Choosing the right tools

Critical to any selection of a search tool is understanding what the users need. In general, people are not satisfied with the search tools they are using, said Pelz-Sharpe and White.

Common enterprise search myths given as reasons for the need for search are that:

  • AI ensures perfect enterprise search
  • Recent content is always the most relevant
  • Organizations know why and how employees use search

Currently there are around 50 vendors in the enterprise search space and the number is growing.

According to Pelz-Sharpe and White, is important, they said that you:

  • Understand that Microsoft 365 is perceived as being free which is barrier for other vendors to overcome since organizations may think they don't need a dedicated enterprise search tool. Microsoft 365 is regarded as good enough by CIOs who have no idea of what good search looks like.
  • Don't jump on the first vendor you find. It is a big marketplace and different vendors offer different advantages.
  • If content is poor, search satisfaction will be compromised.
  • Cloud platform vendors offer search modules or tools, which in the right hands can be valuable.
  • Don't dismiss open source tools out of hand. A lot of very sophisticated technology is available.
  • AI and machine learning will not replace search but can improve aspects of how search works. If using AI and machine learning, always keep a human in the loop because humans have to teach the system. AI and machine learning are augmenting human intelligence not replacing it.
  • Be very careful about quadrants because when choosing an enterprise search tool it comes down to what works for you, not everything it can offer.
  • A lot of people have to have input and be served: LoB managers, IT, procurement, systems integrator, search support team, users, etc.
  • A best practice is to have a virtual search team with a broad skills base.

Replays of KMWorld Connect webinars will be made available for on-demand viewing on or about November 24.

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