Enterprise Search – how to triage problems quickly and prescribe the right medicine

Practical methodology focuses on quick wins, user feedback, and frequent iteration to deal with enterprise search challenges

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For many users, enterprise search still isn’t what they need it to be, said Helen Lippell, Strategic Metadata Manager at the Press Association, speaking at the recent Search Solutions conference in London. In response to this challenge, Lippell proposed a method for triaging and fixing enterprise search problems, with the emphasis on practicality and workability.

All too often organisational users will say "search is rubbish" -- but that statement needs to be unpacked, says Lippell, and in so doing can yield useful information about the issues that need to be dealt with: "you need to start from where you are," explains Lippell.

The situation is often made more challenging by complex questions of ownership  – the search 'owner' within the organisation could be IT, comms, editorial, library services or another department altogether. Similarly, you need to determine who owns organisational data (and where it is); who owns technology, and who, if anyone, is accountable for search.

As a starting point, it is important to set realistic expectations, and to support user journeys as they engage with organisational search. Lippell recommends five key steps:

Firstly, work to understand user needs. And for maximum impact, focus on delivering a "big hit" that will really be noticed by users.

Secondly, you need to sort out your content, starting with a content audit and dealing with 'ROT' – redundant, outdated or trivial content. You also need to look at metadata, with good page titles and descriptions being the minimum to aim for.

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