Let’s Rethink SEARCH, Shall We?

The one constant in my support KM career has been working with search tools – I got involved in creating the CD-ROMs for support right from the commercial inception of that technology in the late 80’s, then in knowledge base search tools of all sorts, then on the web.  It’s something that’s been taken for granted as a core support capability, and one that’s now ubiquitous on the web.  So I’m as jaded as anyone else of PRESUMING that search is a core, if not THE core way we should be accessing knowledge.   There’s a kind of magic to it – I type in a few words and somehow the right info steps forward from a sea of stuff.  Cool!

And yet, on the whole this experience has been far from satisfying in the support & service arena.  Search success rates on average hover in the 30-40% range, there’s all manner of hoops organizations jump through to figure out how to get the right content to show up, the tools are often complex or if not have very simple capabilities.  And when you DO get this all working, there seem to be interminable IT, website design, content issues that degrade or alter search and force maintenance of some kind or another to persist a meaningful search experience. All in all it can be a real pain to field and run a search application!  (I’ve blogged earlier about issues with search and support, see “Support Search – Why It Can’t ‘Be Just Like Google“.)

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