Intranet matters

"Findability" – from isolated search functionality to organizational capability

Published Februar 13, 2013 by Stephan Schillerwein

I’m currently re-working my slideset on „Enterprise Search and Information Architecture“ for a series of seminars that will be starting next month (for German speakers, see: Kongress Media Akademie – Seminar zur Intranet-Suche).

After shedding light into the current state of searching and finding in internal information systems like an Intranet (which is still really, really bad), I was looking for something to top the introductory chapter off. What came to my mind is that search is still not approached from the right perspective:

Findability of information has turned from a function within systems (and therefore a responsibility of a system owner or IT in general) to a core organizational capability, that has to be treated like other key elements of information management (or any other kind of asset management for that matter). So, for instance, it is not acceptable anymore for most organizations to not have roles, responsibilities, processes and requirements defined in regard to information security. Now, the same attitude needs to be displayed towards findability, as the effects of a lack of findability can lead to just as great risks and other negative consequences, as the lack of information security compliance does.

Among the adverse effects are:

  • Reduced ability to take decissions
  • Reduced quality of decissions taken
  • Reduced productivity due to time lost searching
  • Reduced productivity due to double-work (e.g. creating information that already exists, but is not findable)

Clearly, the scope and momentousness of these problems is nothing that can be put into the responsibility of a system owner, e.g. an Intranet Manager. Beside the cross-system nature of finding information, which no single system owner can cover (not even the owner of the Digital Workplace of an organization), such a perspective still leaves the business impact of findability out of scope.

Therefore, the access and thus the capability to make use of information has to be handled like companies do for other organizational assets. If your company, for instance, cannot access and make use of the money it has, it surely would pose quite a substantial problem. The capability to make use of the monetarian assets of your company therefore is a key organizational capability.
The same goes for findability – without findability, information assets are virtualy both useless and worthless.

I remember a statement by P. G. Daly summing it up quite nicely: „If no one can find the information they need when they need it, does it even matter if the information really exists?“

1 comment


  1. This statement is spot on – No one needs search, everybody needs find. If you go to a intranet search bar – if it exists?!, will you ever see an „I feel lucky button“?
    No because most search on intranets is still search in the needle in the haystack type of search.
    A capability approach is long overdue – glad to see more people missioning about it. But it will still be a hard sell when budget owners are not charged with providing findability in their services and fined a technical debt eroding their budgets until they deliver.


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