No matter how small your organization or domain, you are going to need tools to find content sooner than you think. Starting with a small amount of content you should already be thinking about what its purpose is, why you would need to find it again and under what circumstances. Trying to retrofit a search strategy and structure to a mountain of disconnected content, is not only very difficult but it is costly. Waiting means that human intelligence, which could have been applied to organizing content well as the supply grew, must be applied later to get it under control. Adding meaningful context around old but valuable content is a very laborious intellectual process.

Growing an organization successfully means tending to not only the products you are creating and selling. It is also about creating an environment in which your growing work force is well supported with a knowledge framework that keeps them centered and confident that content they need to do their jobs can be found quickly, efficiently and accurately.

I am frequently asked by other consultants if I can give advice on how to organize personal files and records. This is hard to answer because my own methods fall short of where I want to be. But in any new project or venture, I try to get a good sense of how content needs to be organized. I do create metadata using a controlled list of terminology. I also have a couple of search tools that I leverage to produce readings for clients on a special topic, or to put my hands on a specific document, article or Web site. Early stage companies need to think about how to safeguard the results of their work and how it will be made accessible to workers on a reliable basis. There are inexpensive search tools that are great for managing small domains.

Invest in tools, invest in someone to manage the tools, and plan to continue to invest in the resulting infrastructure of people and tools as the organization’s content and needs grow. Content management and search are overhead expenditures you must make early to prepare for growth and sustainability.

That reminds me, I keeping wondering how many enterprise search vendors use the technologies they build and sell to support their rapidly growing enterprises. That’s a great question to ask your potential search vendor as you decide what tools to procure for your enterprise. Get them to tell you how they use their tools and the benefits they see in their own enterprise. If they aren’t at least using their own search technology in their customer relationship management and technical support knowledge-base operations, think carefully about what that might mean concerning ease of deployment and utilization.