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The ultimate guide to enterprise workplace search

Looking for information in the workplace is a frustrating treasure hunt. But enterprise workplace search gets you what you want, right when you need it
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A pile of duplicate files. 

The persistent question that nags almost everyone: Has this document been created before? 

And the endless hunt for a link to use, reference, share or pass forward. 

Each one of us comes face to face with the same struggles every day at the workplace. Especially when we’re in a pointless hurry and are unable to locate a file. The one file that promises to ease our pain and catapult us into hours of hypercharged productivity. It can be quite frustrating. 

The solutions until now

There are multiple SaaS products that aim to create a “wiki for the workplace.” You have Notion, Coda, Confluence, intranet, and whatnot. 

Decent attempt. But do they succeed? Unfortunately, the answer is a categorical no. 

These solutions, though commonly used, fall a great deal short of creating a central repository of everything that’s important. For every team. 

And that’s because creating and storing files, whether on the desktop or on the cloud, is long passé. 

We work in a workplace fraught with links. That’s how we spend most of our time — hopping from one URL to another. From the daily standup call on Zoom and going through the task list on Linear to reviewing a Google doc and checking my inbox—all my work happens in URLs. And I am pretty sure, so does yours. 

This is how modern workplaces work. They rely on multiple SaaS applications that have us jumping around. No one makes sure all the links are collated and neatly stacked in one accessible place. Well given how many links each worker uses every day, it almost feels like an impossible task for someone to accomplish manually. 

Google—but for the workplace?

There is Google for everything we want to search. But surprisingly, little has been done to create a Google for the workplace. 

Every time I want to search for a file, like a feature roadmap, I go through my Google Drive, my workplace in Notion, my email chains or Slack threads, and all my bookmarks. This works if I vaguely remember the file name and am sure about when it was created, and by whom. 

This process consumes my time, and effort, makes me lose track of my thoughts and has me going through hoops for what I need. 

Clearly, not the ideal solution.

And what about the times I want to search for something where all the unknowns are exactly that? Well…

It is bewildering that searching for information inside an organization is far more difficult for employees than typing a query into Google is for everyone. 

On average, modern organizations use close to 300 cloud applications. With data scattered across so many pieces of software, productivity gets blunted sifting through those locating the right document or answer to a question.

What is enterprise search?

Enterprise search is how employees can search instantly across the company’s knowledge base with a single search query. It allows them to retrieve information when they want it, right where they need it. 

This information can be retrieved from all types of data sources, whether structured or unstructured. The technology identifies and enables the indexing, searching, and displaying of specific content to authorized users across the enterprise.

Benefits of enterprise search

Every organization has TBs of data stored with it—processes, technical documentation, personnel files, etc. and it is important to make sure that this information, collected for years at an end, is used to its full potential towards the growth of the firm. 

1. Sound knowledge management 

Knowledge management is the way information is organized and accessed within an organization. Any knowledge that exists within the organization, if not used to its potential, is completely worthless. 

Sound knowledge management ensures that information is always accessible to those who need it so that maximum value can be derived from it for the organization’s benefit. 

Enterprise search helps people in an organization find the information they need to perform their job well. It gives them access to the resources, information, and files they need to develop, grow, or improve a company. 

Recommended reading: A complete guide to knowledge management

2. Supercharged productivity

McKinsey, in its study, revealed that on average, an employee spends close to 9 hours every week finding information within an organization. 

That translates to 30% of the time getting wasted searching for information that should be easily accessible. We spend 800ms to 1.5s in googling everything under the sky, but it’s unfortunate that we have to spend so much time just trying to do our jobs. 

Put it another way, a business that has hired 5 employees will only get the benefit out of 4 as the fifth one would be off searching for answers, not contributing any value. 

Conclusion: An enterprise employing 1000 employees wastes $48,000 per week, i.e. $2.5 million in a year, due to the friction in accessing and retrieving information. 

Enterprise search reduces the time it takes employees to look for the necessary information to less than a second. 

As a consequence, employees are left with more time that they can spend doing high-value tasks or work that matters. Without losing context all the while.

3. Increases inclusivity in a hybrid workplace

It is easy to call out team members next to you in case there’s information that needs finding from you. You can scream out or go around the room requesting people to share links. 

However, in a hybrid workspace waiting on some employees to check your message requesting the right file may end up leaving you waiting for hours. 

Plus dissociation from the workplace knowledge base might alienate remote employees who in the absence of grapevine might feel completely left out.

Enterprise search helps fast-track remote onboarding and lets everyone feel included in what’s brimming in the organization with valuable insights.

4. Caters to multiple use cases

Enterprise search makes sure data and information are readily available as and when required. 

It lends itself to multiple use cases such as:

  1. Employee directory: It doubles up as an employee directory where every team member’s information is just a query away
  2. Faster support: It acts as a source of fast resolution of customer grievances with information right at the support team’s fingertips
  3. Digital workplace: It enables teams to be more productive and collaborate effectively using enterprise search as part of an overall digital workplace experience

5. Helps establish single sources of truth

Admin procedures, company rules, organization charts, product roadmaps, compensation benefits, etc. are important documents that need to be readily accessible for everyone at all times.

They should not get lost in the cacophony and should always be up-to-date. 

Enterprise search helps create a single source of truth for each such resource to make this possible. With information at everyone’s disposal, it is impossible to sit on a mound of duplicate files.

6. Facilitates collaboration & communication

When information becomes easier to find, collaboration & communication becomes seamless. 

It’s natural that the propensity to document, share, and contribute to knowledge increases when information is accessible to everyone. 

How does enterprise search work?

Enterprise search works on the content stored in the organization. As an org grows, data becomes more pervasive. It is this data that trains the system to analyze, classify, and structure information easily. 

A modern enterprise search software connects with multiple SaaS applications and tools used within the org and analyzes the wording of a search query—for example, it understands that “Q1 objectives” or “Q1 OKRs” are asking the same thing—and shows all the results that correspond to it, whether they are located in Github, Confluence, Google Docs, Slack or another of the many applications that a company uses. The results are personalized based on the user’s job. Using deep learning, these software tools can differentiate personas, such as a developer from a marketer, and tailor recommendations based on the team that a user interacts with most frequently.

Here are the steps that are involved in returning a result for a search query: 

  • Exploration: The enterprise search engine software crawls all data sources, gathering information from across the multiple applications an organization uses
  • Indexing: After the data has been recovered, the enterprise search platform performs analysis by tracking relationships between the data and the user’s profile and team interactions
  • Search: On the front end, employees request information in their native languages. The enterprise search platform then offers answers—taking the form of content and pieces of content—that appears to be the most relevant to the query. Different people may get different answers that relate to their work and search histories
  • Enrichment: NLP and machine learning are used to make sure the results improve as more and more searches take place within the organization
How to select an enterprise search software

Here are the things to consider before selecting an enterprise search tool for your organization: 

  1. Data sources: How many applications and tools can the software crawl to give you exhaustive information from the workplace
  2. Privacy & security: This is of paramount importance as you would not want the information to leak outside the enterprise. Additionally, the information should be visible to members who have the right access permissions.The platform you opt for must be configured to comply with corporate privacy policies, SOC2 and GDPR
  3. Intelligence or predictive AI: With self-learning algorithms embedded in various enterprise search tools, go for one that constantly learns and delivers improved results based on the usage. The tool that gives you the most personalized results so the search delivers actual value to everyone consistently will be the winner in the long run
  4. User experience: The search, if not fast, will be ineffective. The design should be intuitive, easy to grasp, fast, and the setup time plus effort should be as minimal as possible

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