Month: September 2015

Exploratory information searching in the enterprise: A study of user satisfaction and task performance

As part of my PhD research on the socio-cognitive aspect of enterprise search, I had a paper published this week in the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology (JASIST).


No prior research has been identified that investigates the causal factors for workplace exploratory search task performance. The impact of user, task, and environmental factors on user satisfaction and task performance was investigated through a mixed methods study with 26 experienced information professionals using enterprise search in an oil and gas enterprise. Some participants found 75% of high-value items, others found none, with an average of 27%. No association was found between self-reported search expertise and task performance, with a tendency for many participants to overestimate their search expertise. Successful searchers may have more accurate mental models of both search systems and the information space. Organizations may not have effective exploratory search task performance feedback loops, a lack of learning. This may be caused by management bias towards technology, not capability, a lack of systems thinking. Furthermore, organizations may not “know” they “don’t know” their true level of search expertise, a lack of knowing. A metamodel is presented identifying the causal factors for workplace exploratory search task performance. Semistructured qualitative interviews with search staff from the defense, pharmaceutical, and aerospace sectors indicates the potential transferability of the finding that organizations may not know their search expertise levels.

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Desperately seeking information

I recently conducted a survey of 55 business professionals to identify what channels they use to seek information. The pie chart below illustrates the role of the Internet (purples), internal search tools (oranges), the importance of direct people to people interactions (green) and minimal use of traditional ‘library’ services (blue). The fact that almost a quarter of all business information seeking appears to take place on the Internet should perhaps be of significance to corporate information literacy programmes and strategies.

Information Seeking Channels Pie Chart

It is possible that the survey may underestimate the proportion of people-people interactions, as this may be below the levels of consciousness for most professionals. Conversely, the extent to which we use software tools may be overestimated, with several studies showing self report may overestimate use of social media technologies by 550% (Junco 2012). There is also evidence in the enterprise of self reported usage overestimation for enterprise search tools by over 200% (Cleverley 2014).

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