I’ve often been curious about why companies frequently procure enterprise applications used by their competitors, destined to be followers instead of leaders. It seems to reflect a lack of imagination but, more importantly, a lack of confidence that one could select another solution with more possibilities for enhancing the organization’s competitiveness.
Look at three popular concepts about search:

  • The search box for keyword search is dead or only marginally useful
  • Professionals spend 10 – 20% of their workday searching (and often unsuccessfully)
  • Vast amounts of critical unstructured content is un-discoverable in most enterprises leaving organizations at risk in litigation, weak in leveraging fundamental knowledge and research for innovation, poor at customer support because known solutions can’t be found, and competitive intelligence is scarce to unearth because so much of it lies hidden in desktop email in-boxes.

If we accept these propositions, doesn’t it say something about the “leaders” in the search industry that we believe and accept so little from search?

Why do most organizations not try to solve at least one of these problems by seeking solutions that will save hundreds of thousands of dollars in wasted labor, litigation costs, R&D expense, or lost customers due to poor service? Why do companies seek to procure search applications from companies that have been around for a decade or more, licensing evolutionary products, not revolutionary ones? Why would a company ignore innovative new products in favor of products that have given “search” a bad reputation? Why do organizations make hundred thousand dollar, or more, procurements without expending a few hundred dollars on documented product comparisons, and instead rely on a few widely published charts with less than a page or two on each product?

Most important, why are organizations not seeking search applications that will give them an edge by uncovering a nugget that will get a product to market faster, help marketing groups position a product better against the competition, or give support services representatives superior tools for getting information back to customers instantly with a proven solution to a query? Where is the will to apply search technology more astutely than your competitors in every area of your business? Why is search not expected to perform flawlessly and be as ubiquitous as any other software tool in your workflow? It does not have to be a poor performing stepchild but it does require its own experts to be well executed. Come to think of it, I have never seen a help wanted posting requiring expertise in search technology implementation. Hmmm…

There are well over a hundred viable search applications and hundreds of other applications that have search embedded for point solutions. You may need to acquire, implement and maintain a number of products across the enterprise to realize all the benefits search can bring but these products can work together, just as other components of a well-run enterprise do. At a time when organizations are cutting employees, appropriate search solutions may just offset the loss of expertise by uncovering at least some of the lost assets left behind.