Originally published on February 24, 2016

In my company’s Enterprise Social Network (ESN), someone typed just the words “value map” into the posting box of the community group for Enterprise Search, hoping that this would perform an actual search. This made me think of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer, posing as Movie Phone, asks, “Why don’t you just tell me the name of the movie you selected?”

Search engines such as Bing and Google now return actual content along with the traditional search results. For example, on the right side of the Bing search for knowledge management, the following images, information, people, and other content are provided:

Google often provides Wikipedia content before the standard search results:

Google also offers the Knowledge Panel: “When people search for a business on Google, they may see information about that business in a box that appears to the right of their search results. The information in the box, called the Knowledge Panel, can help customers discover and contact your business.”

Knowledge managers are frequently asked, “Why can’t our enterprise search be more like Google?” While it’s impossible to match the scale of the Internet inside a single enterprise, and thus Google’s PageRank algorithm won’t work the same way, it is possible to emulate other functionality of Google and Bing.

Beyond organic search results, useful content can be more intentionally provided. To do so, determine the topics of greatest importance to the organization, curate a list of relevant content which can be searched and filtered, and feed the entries as enterprise search results. These can be in the form of curated answers — best bets (thumbnails and links only), authoritatively-badged content, or quick answers (more complete content plus links) for the content deemed to be the best for each of these key topics. They can also be dynamically generated using attributes, tags, sorts, filters, human interaction, etc.

How to choose what to provide

  1. Request submissions from content providers, but be selective in what you accept — some providers will submit endless lists of best bets, and not all of these will be worthwhile
  2. Match the existing intranet high-level navigation so that for each link in the top navigation and/or bread crumbs, there is a corresponding quick answer
  3. Ask key contacts for each category what they consider important — these can be organizational leaders, thought leaders, subject matter specialists, community leaders, or knowledge managers
  4. Ask in ESN groups and communities to get the suggestions of members, and also share the proposed quick answers there to get confirmation or changes
  5. Review enterprise search logs for the most searched-for terms and the most clicked-on search results
  6. Review web analytics for the most visited pages and downloaded documents
  7. Review web sites and documents that are liked or tagged as useful by users
  8. Ask all help desks to provide the most frequent queries and replies
  9. Review queries posted in the ESN, email messages sent to distribution lists, and requests sent to official mailboxes — look for patterns of missing or hard-to-find content
  10. Review all published FAQs

What to provide in enterprise search

  1. Type-ahead search, autocomplete, incremental search, incremental find, find/filter as you type, or real-time suggestions — to save typing and match new searches to previous ones
  2. Best bets — results at the top of the results with thumbnails and links, presented in a highlighted way that differentiates them from other results
  3. Authoritative recommendations — marked with special badges that can only be assigned authoritative sources
  4. Quick answers — self-contained content which offers enough information to possibly avoid the need to click through to other sites
  5. Options to feed the search to the most relevant ESN group or to a help desk to get answers from real people
  6. Synonyms — closest matches from a curated thesaurus
  7. Closest matches from the intranet’s A-Z index
  8. Closest matches from the organizational hierarchy
  9. Closest matches from internal and external taxonomies
  10. Closest matches from user tags
  11. Related — since you downloaded X, try Y; since you visited A, try B
  12. Sorted by attributes
  • Most visited or downloaded
  • Most liked
  • Most reused — add a “I reused this document” or “I found this useful” button, similar to a “Like” button, but more specific, to all content, and encourage users to click on this button for content they were able to reuse
  • Most tagged — allow content to be tagged with “recommended” or “good example” or “proven practice
  • Most recent

Categories for the curated list of quick answers

  1. Internal organizational structure — e.g., Finance, Human Resources
  2. Formal taxonomy: industry or internal — e.g., Global Industry Classification Standard, enterprise taxonomy
  3. Products and Services — e.g., Android, Strategy & Operations Consulting
  4. Topics — e.g., security, supply chain management
  5. Industries — e.g., electronics, pharmaceuticals
  6. Clients — e.g., GE, US Government
  7. Partners — e.g., Ford, Microsoft
  8. Locations — e.g., Latin America, Detroit
  9. Specialties and Roles — e.g., project management, information architect
  10. Demographics — e.g., new hires, retirees


  1. Search Engines and Enterprise Search
  2. Are you content with your content?
  3. Don’t automatically archive content; improve search instead
  4. Content rating is different behind the firewall than it is on the Internet
  5. Improving Findability in the Enterprise by Lee Romero
  6. Teamwork Improves Search by Lee Romero
  7. 5 ways chatbots are revolutionizing knowledge management by Matt Wade

What have you seen or used to improve enterprise search results?

Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager https://sites.google.com/site/stangarfield/

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