The best enterprise search diagram you’ve ever seen

July 14, 2015 Updated: January 5, 2022 by
Enterprise search - Ishikawa diagram DWG

Intranet and digital workplace sages have been describing the complex nature of search for years now. But never before have all the contributing factors to good search been captured so elegantly in one visual representation. The diagram in this article is part of our new research report, Intranet Search: A holistic approach to management.

Intranet search is usually not so great

“Search sucks.”

Yes, that’s a common refrain among intranet and digital workplaces managers at DWG Member Meetings when discussing the challenges they face. Either they are disappointed with their search experience, or users complain about it (and likely both).

On the rare occasion when a digital workplace team says they actually have search working well, the rest of us in the room fall into a skeptical and jealous silence.

Why? Because it’s not just about the search engine

In a nutshell, search is poor when the content is poor. “Garbage in, garbage out” we in the industry like to say (over and over again). Better search technology alone can only result in an incremental increase in search performance.

Time and again I’ve heard digital workplace managers tell tales of users asking “Why can’t it just work like Google?”

There’s a certain angry validation we feel when providing the comprehensive answer to that question, explaining issues of content quality, SEO, needing an army of search algorithm engineers, etc. But the true sense of justice comes when we hear digital workplace managers complain “We implemented Google Search Appliance (GSA) and it didn’t solve our search problems” (to be fair, this is not the only thing I hear people say about GSA, but they do say it about virtually all search technology including GSA).

The complex ecosystem behind the search experience

A number of mostly hidden interdependent factors sit behind the search experience. Even just unpacking the idea that good search requires good content exposes issues way beyond words on the page, such as author training, information architecture, metadata and tags, content governance, etc.

The diagram below lists six elements critical to good search:

  1. Good content in CMS domain
  2. Good coverage of non-CMS domains (for search beyond just the intranet)
  3. Strong strategy & governance
  4. Good user experience
  5. Active search management
  6. Good search technology

Each of these elements contains a further set of four activities and practices required for good search. Considering all of this, it’s not surprising that we so often hear the refrain “search sucks”. Digital workplace teams constantly struggle to secure adequate resources.

As with many digital workplace challenges, simply having the needed resources can go a long way in solving big problems. But the wonderful diagram below can also play a hugely helpful role.

The enterprise search diagram you’ve been waiting for

Chris Tubb, one of DWG’s lead consultants and benchmarkers, created this Ishikawa diagram (what is that?) which brings together the many factors that contribute to good search.

Chris is the owner of the brilliant mind that led the creation of our Digital Workplace Maturity Framework and has produced many other wonderful digital workplace concepts and resources.

As a lover of visual thinking and a digital workplace geek, I look upon this diagram with a sense of deep and abiding appreciation.

View the full size diagram

Enterprise search - Ishikawa diagram DWG

From new research on fixing enterprise search

The above diagram is just a small piece of a excellent new research report by Chris Tubb titled Intranet Search: A holistic approach to management.

This new research report looks at the breadth of issues behind poor intranet search and enterprise search, and provides a rich guide to improvement.

The full report is only available to DWG members, but the executive summary is available as a free download.

Go forth and searchify

This report is just one of many that make up the DWG Research Programme, which in turn is just one pillar of DWG membership.

Our goal at DWG is to help large organizations improve their digital workplaces and to help digital workplace teams learn, improve and succeed.

We hope our new research report (and this diagram) contribute to that mission in a meaningful way.

Categorised in: Content management, Research reports, Search & findability, Strategy & governance, Usability & design

Ephraim Freed

Ephraim is a communicator, community builder, digital strategist and employee experience leader. He helps innovative, growing organizations provide meaningful experiences of work that enrich employees' lives, grow strong, positive organizational cultures, build community, drive productivity and performance, and bring employer brands to life.

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