The Importance of Metadata in Enterprise Search Solutions

by | Jun 15, 2012 | Enterprise Content Management, Enterprise Search | 1 comment

Let’s start with understanding why Metadata is important for search. Metadata provides the descriptive tags that act as a reference point for the search engines in determining what should be associated with that specific piece of content. As depicted in the image below, typical metadata descriptions in Enterprise Search Solutions can include things such as:

  • Name of Author
  • Name of Customer
  • Business Department
  • Other Descriptive Categories


Think about it from the perspective of a card catalog at the library. Say you went in to your local library and were looking for a specific children’s book written in the 1980’s, but you just couldn’t remember the name of it. Without all of the information that is provided within the card catalog, the time that you would spend looking for this book, if you ever even find it, would be astronomical.

Now, imagine that children’s book is a vitally important business document. Starting to make sense how important a well-maintained enterprise search solution is?

So, how is this applicable within an organization’s IT goals? When implementing an Enterprise Knowledge Management system of any kind, one of the major goals behind the initiative is almost always to cut cost and improve efficiency. Yet, all too often integrating a metadata strategy is overlooked in the process, leading the solution itself to not be as productive as it optimally can be.

Okay, so I’ve made the point that effective use of the enterprise search tool is important. But, just how important is it? Let’s look at these numbers:

  • Few organization claim they have 80 percent of or better success with employees finding what they need through search (That is 80 percent success rate Or, 1 in 5 searches do not find what is they were seeking)
  • A sample organization with 500 searches per day has 100 failures
  • An average knowledge worker spends 16% of their time searching (16% of a 40 hour work week is 1.25 hours spent searching)
  • 20% (spent with unsuccessful searches) of 1.25 hours a week is 15 minutes of inefficient productivity
  • At an average salary of $60,000 per year that leads to $375 per person of inefficient productivity
  • Now take that $375 per knowledge worker and multiply it by how many knowledge workers you have in an organization and the costs mount quickly
  • An organization with 4,500 knowledge workers is looking at a inefficiency cost of $1,687,500 per year.
  • Now keep in mind your knowledge workers are the most efficient at utilizing search capabilities within your system
  • Many organizations as a whole are running at 40% to 70% success rate for search


That is a lot of money and time that is wasted trying to find a document. When businesses run into this situation, often they think the problem is associated with “the system being new and employees adjusting” or “the search capabilities not being what they should” because they are thinking about the problem from the perspective of a user, not from the perspective of a search engine.

The problem, almost always, is relevancy. Just like in the library example with the unnamed children’s book, without the appropriate information being provided in an organized way, your enterprise search system does not know what to look for.

To keep this from happening, appropriate metadata strategies must be a focus early in the planning process and  incorporated into the enterprise search system.


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1 Comment

  1. Samuel

    This blog post is really helpful. In case you’re looking for an enterprise search solution, you may try 3RDi Search or Coveo.


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