Go Rogue With Enterprise Search

Search is one of the most unappreciated technologies. Here are three stealthy ways to build momentum and slip it into your company.

Michael Healey, Senior Contributing Editor

March 3, 2011

4 Min Read

>> Step Two: Bring In More Users

People doing shadow IT don't broadcast their successes. Stealth is key. Keep a low profile, but add in employees and groups that catch wind of the project and think it could help them.

Revisit the list of potential starter groups. If finance wasn't included, bring it in, even if it's only a few people. You're likely paying by the user or document, so scaling up won't break the bank.

Continue to focus on a single problem. It will get you more buy-in and give you time to plan and staff up for the last step.

>> Step Three: Paint The Big Picture

If you've been successful with the initial groups, move ahead with the big strategy. Create a budget and governance plan. Make it broad, and be sure it shows the full potential of search.

Dig into the details of how you'll expand search, looking at each type of data and user group. Include every silo and every user type. It may feel like you're boiling the ocean, but it's critical not only to assess the benefit of search, but also to provide a realistic timeline and budget that forces the company to properly fund a bigger rollout.

This approach must include addressing one of the major issues: adding staff to support search.

"No matter what technology you choose, you have to manage the system, get feedback from users, and adjust the user interface and queries as needed," says Charlie Hull, managing director of Flax, a U.K. search consulting firm. That overhead is more than most people realize. "Enterprise search takes care and feeding, it doesn't just happen," Hull says.

A true enterprise search system sits in a new world between end-user applications and IT resources. It isn't a finished application like accounting and CRM that can be dropped into place and where the expertise becomes part of the line of business. Nor is it like virtualization, where IT can develop a team that correlates directly to the investment's effectiveness and you can point out exactly how the head count has helped IT.

The team you set up for search will focus on refining a system that has no direct impact on IT, yet the end users won't be able to clearly see the benefits of their efforts. This situation is similar to that of the team that manages data integration and EDI--another underappreciated and underfunded group.

Most people don't know what the EDI team does on a daily basis, but if the EDI link ever goes down, they suddenly remember that team's value. It's a bit different with the search team. The company can't live without electronic data sharing. But live without search? We already do.

Once you've created a larger road map for enterprise search, it's time to turn to the internal group of search supporters you built with your starter projects. Having a group of users on your side can do more to sell the concept than any Visio diagram, especially if those advocates are part of a department--like sales or finance--that typically gets what it wants.

Bottom line, lack of search is quietly sapping productivity, and that problem could get worse. So now that we've offered an action plan, we'll leave you with this point: The real problem with enterprise search isn't the technology or the end users; it's IT's willingness to tackle the issue.

Research: Enterprise Search

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About the Author(s)

Michael Healey

Senior Contributing Editor

Mike Healey is the president of Yeoman Technology Group, an engineering and research firm focusing on maximizing technology investments for organizations, and an InformationWeek contributor. He has more than 25 years of experience in technology integration and business development. Prior to founding Yeoman, Mike served as the CTO of national network integrator GreenPages. He joined GreenPages as part of the acquisition of TENCorp, where he served as president for 14 years. He has a BA in operations management from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and an MBA from Babson College. He is a regular contributor for InformationWeek, focusing on the business challenges related to implementing technology, focusing on the impact of Internet- and cloud-centric technology.

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