Strategic Librarian

Using strategy to develop the law firm library.

Findability vs Searching

I can see a summary of the searches that have been done that lead the searchers to Strategic Librarian.  It’s interesting to see the words and ideas that people use while searching.  For example, “how to write a business case” leads searchers to the post I did on writing business cases.  I was baffled recently when I found the search string “to do both make”.  While baffled and wondering what post of mine led that searcher to this blog, I realize that search is a bit of an art form that many haven’t mastered. 

I often refer back to Roy Tennant’s quote,  “Librarians like to search, everyone else wants to find.”  Since I do think this is true, I was interested to read Mark Hall’s recent On the Mark post Finding, not searching is what really counts.  Thank you to Janice LaChance, SLA CEO, for pointing out this posting in her blog, Executive Connections.

Hall reports on the research being conducted by Carl Frappaolo, vice president of market intelligence for AIIM.  In summarizing a recent survey, Frappaolo reported that:

HIs survey, taken in May among 528 respondents, … indicates 52% of business users acknowledge that the enterprise search process has gotten easier over the past two years, but half of them (49%) still find it difficult and time-consuming.

He also notes that “49% of any given company’s employees were clueless on advanced search techniques, like Booleans or even multi-term queries.” 

Frappaolo contends that “IT is “throwing a lot of good search tools at siloed content” and that the main problem is that “nobody owns the strategy for findability.” 

Search is tough to get right in most organizations.  Besides there being no owner of strategy, other roadblocks exist:

  • Most members of an organization, do not understand how search works, they just know that many times, it doesn’t
  • Leadership, who need to understand more detail to define and approve search projects and expenses, don’t think there is a problem and don’t have the time or interest to learn
  • IT thinks putting a search strategy in place is a simple task – index, search, find
  • Content owners don’t think to share with one another or don’t understand the value of their information to others
  • Members of an organization may be working on the same issue, idea, project, etc and not know it

Knowledge management practitioners are in a unique position to help solve these problems, if they get the support, as their work crosses boundaries and silos in the organization.   Having done a knowledge audit, they can draw connections that would have otherwise remained unknown.  With this knowledge they can define the search/find strategy needed and then work with IT toward a successful solution that works for everyone.

Several past surveys by various firms support the need to improve search/find.  In 2005, Outsell, Inc. reported:

Today’s professionals spend most of their time (53 percent) seeking out information. Four years ago, knowledge workers were able to spend 58 percent of their time analyzing and applying what they had found. Collectively, the time spent gathering and looking for information translates to an estimated. 5.4 billion lost hours per year for US corporations.

With these kinds of statistics, you would think corporate leadership would be very interested in finding a solution to improve efficiencies.

I am most likely “preaching to the choir” as most of you already know what I am talking about.  How do we get leadership and IT to understand that there is a way to quit focusing on searching and start focusing on finding?  While not the solution, I think we need to start by giving up our own love affair with Search and start learning more about Find.  Does anyone have next steps? 

An article with a different take on search: Foraging for Information with Search Search Insider, July 10, 2008