Tune Up Your Searches

Searching for information can be a waste of time. A lot of time.

In fact, some employees spend 15% to 30% of their workday searching for information in corporate documents and other sources, says Susan Feldman, research vice president for content technologies at IDC and co-author of the report, The High Cost of Not Finding Information. Of those searches, only half are successful.

At that rate, a company with 1,000 so-called knowledge or information workers stands to waste $12 million a year, says Feldman. To address that shortcoming, there is software that categorizes and classifies documents, and provides a way to search them.

Raytheon, a defense contractor, did just that. In 2003, it found that 90% of the documents on its internal network didn’t include meta-data (information on each document’s contents).

Without that meta-data, the company’s search engine wasn’t very accurate, says Christine Connors, Raytheon’s meta-data architect: Only 24% of employees surveyed said they could consistently locate helpful information.

Raytheon created category structures, called taxonomies, for different areas of the business. For example, the company reorganized its product list into a hierarchy.

With the help of automated classification software, Connors and her team classified some 700,000 documents into those categories. Employees now give the search engine a satisfaction rating of 4.6 out of 5, says Connors. “We’re helping improve productivity,” she says, “and in a company of 80,000 employees, that adds up.”

— Todd Spangler and Anna Maria Virzi