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sapience*| From Searching to Finding – Improving Corporate Search at SAP

Finding the right information was “imperative” or “significant” to business goals and success, according to 78 percent of European respondents to the survey “Enterprise Search and Findability” (FindWise 2013). Despite of this urgent need for correct information, the reality of corporate search is disappointing: 63 percent of people surveyed said that information was “hard” or “very hard” to find within their companies.

Only 19 percent of the respondents stated that they were “very” or “mostly satisfied” with the existing search applications within their organizations. Why is that so?

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One problem is that corporate search is much more complex than Google and other search engines. So it’s easier to find something online than within one’s own company.

In vs. Out

“The Internet is homogeneous, meaning that search engines can easily ‘find’ what you’re looking for, because they can index all web pages easily,” Diane Berry wrote in a TSIA-blog. “In an organization, information is messy; it’s in too many systems.”

Many of these systems have their own structures and security protocols; they are in various locations and formats; and they are on-premise, in the cloud, on social media and elsewhere.

“Not only don’t we remember what we know we can find,” said Berry, senior vice president of marketing and communications for enterprise search technology provider Coveo, “we can’t even find what we know we’ve created in the past!”

In addition, companies store increasingly more data, which is driving the massive “big data” trend. IBISWorld estimates that 631 “big-data companies” will exist in 2017.

Big Data’s True Nature

In this context, the concept of big data is misleading because most “big data” products look primarily at structured content. However, structured content only comprises about 10 percent of a company’s actual data.

The remaining 90 percent of that data is comprised of unstructured content (e.g., e-mails, documents and PDFs). This reality creates a very interesting opportunity for the enterprise search industry and for SAP.

SAP employees’ satisfaction with Corporate Search was at 37 percent in 2011. Search ranked as one of the “top 10 to-be-improved” internal processes in an internal employee survey.

The Search for Search

Our search improvement initiative started small and involved listening to end user feedback to understand the true pain points surrounding our search capabilities. Its impact on employee productivity garnered senior executive support for the initiative, and it became a key area for improvement in our Knowledge Management framework.

Here are some SAP Corporate Search Key Facts:

  • SAP adds an average of about 500,000 items each month to its connected repositories
  • More than 300 enhancements increased user satisfaction (average customer satisfaction rose from 37.5 percent in Q1 2011 to 84 percent at the end of Q1 2013)
  • There were almost 68,000 unique users by mid-year 2013
  • Today’s penetration rate is more than 80 percent (68,000 users vs. 84,000 internal and external employees in June 2013)
  • SAP search queries average two words, as opposed to 4.3 on Google and Bing (SAP employees use Corporate Search in a much more generic way, but still expect exact search results)

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Today, our internal search centralizes more than 20 repositories, covering the majority of SAP’s internal and external Knowledge Management platforms. Search is integrated in our Corporate Portal but can also be accessed directly via its own central landing page. As you can see on the left, the reduced, clear design of the landing page provides a single Google- or Bing-like experience for SAP internal use.

These improvements have helped us not only to bring users back to the search platform, but also to show that we are listening and directly addressing feedback that has been given to us. If you are interested in reading in more about the changes and lessons learned, please contact me to request our Search White Paper by Trevor Carlow.

Trevor and his team as well as the colleagues from our IT department are the people behind the significant improvements we have seen on the topic of search at SAP. And they have many more great things planned.

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      Author's profile photo Stefan Funk
      Stefan Funk

      Hi Dirk,

      Thank you very much for this insightful article. Beside having an intuitive, Google-like user experience, I strongly believe that the power of search today is strongly connected with how well data is structured (tagging, key words, etc.).