How to Turn Information Sprawl Into a Competitive Asset with Business Search
By InfoFinder Search Technologies
Disclaimer: This is a guest post by one of Moose Logic’s vendor partners. While Moose Logic does promote and sell this partner’s products, the opinions expressed here are those of the post’s author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or positions of Moose Logic.
Ever lose something on your network? It could be a file, contact name, email, phone number, report, or proposal. You name it. Every organization has experienced an explosion of different types of data over the last decade. Every person has faced the frustration of searching for something on the network.
Company data sits everywhere: on the network, in emails, on intranets, and the information deluge only seems to worsen each year as disk storage increases in capacity and decreases in cost. Data is simply growing at a faster rate than our ability to manage it.
Is it really a problem?
Quite simply, yes. A UC Berkeley study found that workers are bombarded with an average 1.6 GB of data per day – everything from email, reports, and accounting data to text messages and blogs.
IDC further estimates that knowledge workers spend 10 hours a week searching for information, successfully finding what they need only half the time. Ineffective information access costs organizations up to $14,000 per employee each year in lost productivity.
Those are big numbers; but is it a problem at your company?
Start with yourself. You can probably remember plenty of scenarios. Remember that old proposal you wanted to retool for a new opportunity? Or how about the customer issue that required multiple painful meetings to ‘get the facts?’ Are there times when one department isn’t aware of what another is doing? How much knowledge gets lost in the system when employees change positions, change companies or when there’s a layoff?
If you’re not convinced, the next step is to ask around, or better yet, walk the floor. You may be surprised by what you find.
The good news? You’re not alone. This is an issue that impacts every organization of every size. The root of the problem is that our data grows in silos, and it’s growing at a faster rate than ever. A recent InformationWeek survey shows that most organizations are experiencing 5 – 20% annual data growth, most of it unstructured data.
What is unstructured data? You know it as emails, word documents, faxes, PDFs, web pages – all the stuff you see and work with on a daily basis – comprising 80% of most organizations’ content. Contrast that with traditional ‘structured data,’ the database applications we typically use to run operations, accounting, customer service systems, etc.
Putting Structure Around Unstructured Data
It’s not as impossible as it seems. Enterprise search solutions operate behind-the-firewall in a corporate network, giving employees a secure tool to find, use and share corporate information – irrespective of the type of data (structured or unstructured) or where it may be stored (file servers, email, application databases, etc.). An enterprise search system processes all the information in an organization once, constructs a consolidated index, and then uses this master index to service subsequent user search requests.
Enterprise search is nothing new. It has been around since the last decade, helping the largest of enterprises cope with data sprawl. Because ’behind-the-firewall’ search solutions must be carefully integrated in complex and diverse enterprise security schema, traditional enterprise search solutions more closely resembles integrator toolkits than off-the-shelf products – limiting their adoption.
Traditional enterprise search vendors require the participation of a system integrator to plan, develop, install, train and maintain highly customized and sophisticated solutions specifically tailored for each customer. Typical installation times are measured in months or quarters, rather than days or weeks; and the average cost runs $400,000 or more. As a result, traditional enterprise search solutions have focused primarily on the needs of large enterprises with limited appeal to the more modest needs of small and mid-tier businesses.
Right-Sizing Search for Small and Medium Businesses
Business Search solutions, such as InfoFinder, have been right-sized to address the time and budget needs of mid-sized and growing companies. The following chart illustrates the key differences between enterprise search and business search:
|Business Search||Enterprise Search|
|Customer||100 – 2,500 Employees||Fortune 500|
|Installation||Plug & Play||Customization Required|
|Deployment Time||Days||Months (if not quarters)|
|Price||$00,000 (Tens of thousands)||$000,000 (Hundreds of thousands)|
|Functionality||Core Search (Out of the box)||Search and more…(Lots of bells & whistles)|
An Essential Productivity Tool
Business search solutions enable employees to search and find information quickly and easily without wasting time, boosting office productivity by as much as 25%. More efficient and accurate information access also means more effective business decisions. In addition, business search can be used to:
- Improve the customer experience through faster service response times and better information quality
- Ensure information continuity during corporate restructuring, downsizing, or merger & acquisition
- Manage information risk and compliance associated with increased regulatory oversight
- Reduce e-discovery information retrieval times
Are You Ready for Business Search?
Investing in search is not a trivial task. Investments can range from $30–250k for a mid-size organization. Make sure you review these critical questions as part of your evaluation process:
- How much information do we have? Many companies are surprised to learn they have 500,000 or more documents. Have your IT team scan the network shares, email stores, databases, intranet, and SharePoint pages to count the total number of documents. If you have more than 150,000 documents, you should consider a business search solution.
- How many different places is information stored? Counting up the actual silos of information is also critical; the higher the number, the better candidate you are for search. Make sure to include all your silos, including database application and external cloud/SaaS applications like Salesforce.com.
- How do people find information now? A quick internal survey asking your end users how they find information now is a great way to understand the wasted time and potential frustration your staff faces on a daily basis.
- What does the lost time cost me? The ROI tool below can help you assess the cost impact of inadequate search capabilities. Don’t stop there; find out if it’s also costing you customers.
Building your own model can help you see how this translates to the bottom line. In this example, we’ll take an organization with 500 employees. If we assume they spend 5% of their time searching, you can easily calculate the annual payroll cost of search. Let’s take a conservative approach and say only half the folks will use it, but they’ll be 10% more efficient when searching. Even with these conservative numbers, you’ve easily paid for the system through annual productivity gains.
And organizations need productivity gains. Given the economy, business search is one of the most strategic investments you can make.