By Greg Lush
My day started in the normal manner — start my computer, go get a cup of coffee, come back to the Windows 3.1 boot screen, enter my credentials and make a lap around the office spreading my morning cheer. The final leg of my journey would be to connect to our local file server and begin my work. However, today was special, I have been asked to explore the Internet. Some of our competitors had been using the Internet for a few years but my organization was, let's say, conservative. Waiting for me was a nice U.S. Robotics modem, a phone line, connected to my computer exclusively. As the modem attempted to connect the Internet to my PC it seemed as if it was teasing me with its odd melody. The suspense was over when I finally connected and greeted with a single rectangle and a "search" button. Now, this was quite an accomplishment. I thought to myself; "can't wait to show everyone else, if I could just locate the file and folder structure, browsing the internet would be a cinch." Yet, the comfortable structure I was accustomed to for so many years was nowhere to be found. Could it be that this new Internet wanted me to just type what I was looking for? What happens if I don't really know what it is that I want? Suddenly my excitement captured earlier turned into anxiety. Is it possible this damn computer and Internet were going to make me feel inferior?
Ridiculous is the thought going through my brain as I typed the first paragraph. Not the story above, as that happened everyday across the world years ago. Instead that organizations still suffer with the challenge employees face between scrolling and searching. Somehow, and I have yet to understand the conditions which cause this phenomenon, when folks walk through their organization’s doors, they seem to mysteriously forget how to search. For me, when helping companies expand their digital enterprises, I will often group users into two buckets, each having their own approach regarding transformation, they are scrollers and searchers.
- Scrollers: It stands to reason that workers which are accustomed to finding files on a file server or local hard drive are comfortable with scrolling. The company configures a logical folder structure and teaches their employees how to access, upload and lightly search this file management environment. Prior to the cloud, and robust search tools, this made sense; however, this practice today is like a person using an abacus instead of a calculator. Not to mention that the logic of any file structure is only understood 100% by the file/folder creator, everyone else is compromised. We are not suggesting that all folders and cloud libraries be eliminated, and one big-ass file bucket be used instead. However, you should challenge yourself and your organization with one of two quick questions:
- Five times "why" | popularized by every child between the ages of four and seven. Examine your file structure and ask why five times over. Each time you cannot answer why, trim the structure.
- Four by four | challenge your team to think about their file structures, for any given discipline, as only four on the initial layer and no more than four deep. This exercise will force you to look at things differently.
- Searchers: For those comfortable in these modern times, search may already be a subconscious activity: need something, open an internet browser, and enter what you need. However, for many, searching content is an overwhelming ask. Within an enterprise, creating a predictable behavior from search, and getting folks comfortable is key. You may consider a couple activities to help folks get proficient in searching the enterprise:
- Load it up | get as much information as possible in your cloud platform BEFORE you begin promoting the power of internal search. You will not be given many chances to win over your audience, each time they come up empty handed will be strikes against your efforts.
- Consistency | although some would argue that modern search engines can search every piece of data, file name, description, and all the file's contents, you should still have a plan. For instance, if you organize your digital collateral starting with the customer and then work into any related information, the searcher will be relieved as in their mind if they find the customer, they may have the chance to scroll through related content.
To succeed in recalling digital collateral in the enterprise you must get your associates comfortable with search. The transformation is a deliberate activity, well-planned and sequenced. In my recent experience, especially with cloud platforms, they can be overwhelming for the user and I like to start with:
- Comfort before full commitment | let's say that you are moving from a shared file server or local file storage culture to the cloud. Ten days prior to your cutover suggest ten minutes a day for ten days prescription, like someone taking antibiotics. At the conclusion of the ten-day period, set the shared drives to a "read-only" mode, focusing on getting as much of the information as possible into the cloud platform.
- Immersion training | get your hands on a demo environment loaded with content and teach searching techniques within that test data set. The key is to have folks find what they are looking for immediately, show the search function (predict successful searches PRIOR to attendees arriving) and have the attendees search with success.
Invest the time in search, it may seem unnecessary at first blush seeing as we all search for content, continuously. Yet, each minute spent with internal employees raising their comfort levels will pay off exponentially in adoption and efficiency.