Study: Companies Need Better Enterprise Search

While vendors such as Google and Microsoft have offered companies search appliances, a new study contends that IT organizations have not utilized them. Instead, employees have been forced to use different search engines spread out across disparate applications.

A survey of 500 businesses concluded that 69 percent of companies have less than half of their data discoverable by enterprise search tools. Such tools can help end-users find files, data and other content in enterprise systems, applications, and document repositories.

The survey, conducted by the non-profit industry group Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), also found that 49 percent of organizations have "no formal goal" for enterprise search.

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The majority of survey respondents (65 percent) were from companies with 1,000 or more employees. Fifteen percent had between 500-1,000 employees, and the rest were from smaller companies.

"There is higher satisfaction [for users] on the Internet than on the intranet for search," says Carl Frappaolo, vice president of AIIM. "Users end up saying, 'why can't we have Google in-house?'"

While Google does offer an enterprise search appliance, as does Microsoft, Frappaolo says adoption of these tools has been sluggish because many applications already have search engines that people use in various departments.

For instance, the study notes, the search bar that looks through e-mail systems runs independently of the search bar that runs in a document management system.

End users have suffered. About half (49 percent) of the survey respondents "agreed" or "strongly agreed" that it is difficult and time consuming to find the information they need to do their job.

The amount of information that's searchable by any application was also low. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said that one-quarter or less of their organization's information was searchable. Only 10 percent said they could search between 76 and 100 percent of their organization's information.

While enterprise search tools are still maturing, Frappaolo faults IT organizations for not taking a bigger leadership role in realizing that users need a unified search offering.

If IT leaders are looking at the issue, they are not telling their colleagues, the AIIM survey found: 49 percent of respondents said they had "no formal goal" for enterprise search, and 38 percent "have no idea" how important search is to their organizations.

Only 10 percent called search (often phrased as "findability" in the study) as imperative to their company.

"Most organizations are using four or more search tools," Frappaolo says. "We're not seeing the light go on where people say, 'we need something that searches the whole organization.'"

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