The ROI of Conceptual Search


After people, information is a company’s most valuable asset. But many are asking; “what’s in that information?”, “who controls it?”, “can others access it?”, and “is it a risk to keep?”, “for how long?”. The vast majority of information in any organization is not managed, not indexed, and is rarely–if ever–accessed.

Companies exist to create and utilize information. Do you know where all your organization’s information is, what’s in it, and most importantly, can those that need it find and access it? If your employees can’t find when they need it, then the return on investment (ROI) for that information is zero. How much higher could the ROI be if your employees could actually find and share data effortlessly?

Enterprise search – The mindless regurgitation of keyword matches

Enterprise search is the organized query/retrieval of information from across an organization’s enterprise data systems. Data sources include e-mail servers, application databases, content management systems, file systems, intranet sites and many others. Legacy enterprise search systems provide users the ability to query organizational data repositories utilizing keyword-based inquiries that returns huge results sets that then have to be manually filtered by the user until they find what they were looking for (if they actually find it).

A sizeable drawback to a keyword-based search is that it will return all keyword matches even though they may be conceptually different – false positives.

What is conceptual search?

A conceptual search is used to search electronically stored information for information that is conceptually a match or similar to the information represented in a search query as opposed to a keyword search where only documents with exact keyword matches are returned. In other words, the ideas expressed in the information retrieved in response to a concept search query are relevant to the ideas contained in the text of the query regardless of shared terms or language.

Cost savings – Concept versus keyword search

Employees are rarely capable of constructing keyword and Boolean searches that return the data they are looking for immediately. Because of this fact, time is wasted in actually finding what they were looking for. IDC has estimated that using a higher quality enterprise search capability can save up to 53.4% of time spent searching for data. Many have argued conceptual search can save even more time because conceptual search more closely models how humans think and therefor will return more meaningful results quicker.

Alan Greenspan, a past Chairman of the Federal Reserve, once stated “You’re entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts”. Return on Investment calculations are only as good as the reliability of the variables used to calculate it. To calculate ROI, the benefit (return) of an investment is divided by the cost of the investment – the result is expressed as a percentage.

Enterprise Search ROI calculations require the following data points:

•           The total cost of the current enterprise search process used

•           The total cost of the new enterprise search process after the investment is in place

•           The total cost of the new enterprise search investment

The actual ROI formula looks like this:


Return on investment is an often asked for but little understood financial measure. Many equate cost savings to ROI but cost savings is only a part of the equation. ROI also includes looking at the cost of the solution that produced the savings. ROI lets you compare returns from various investment opportunities to make the best investment decision for your available dollars.

Organizations run on information. If information is easier to find and use, the organization profits from it.

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