Over 10 years ago, I was working for a company that did a lot of search consultancy. With search consultancy I mean, we created search solutions for customers using the Solr search engine. Being the Chief Architect for that company, I wanted to learn about search as well. I started learning about Solr, and soon, I got the hang of writing queries and mappings. I also found an excellent way of using Highcharts library together with Solr facets to do analysis and reporting on events. I’ll get back to why this is interesting later on.
I have been helping customers with their search challenges for more than 10 years now. In these years, I recognized patterns in how companies deal with their search engine. Some time ago, we got the idea to create a maturity index around search. We can plot customers on this matrix, giving them an idea of how mature they are and what should be their next steps to improve their search solution. In this blog post, I write about the journey I took and give you first insights into the maturity index.
It was around 2010. I lost many colleagues that were into search; they founded the company Elastic(search). That was the moment I started doing search for real, at least I thought. I got into everything you can do with Elasticsearch. I helped customers start with Elasticsearch, became an Elasticsearch trainer. One of the business cases that are very important to elasticsearch is log analysis. Yes, this was what I did with my Solr/Highcharts solution as well. Ok, with the coming of Kibana they did it a lot better, but the concepts were the same. Use a search engine to analyze (log) events.
When helping customers resolving their Elasticsearch challenges, I got to learn more and more about search in general. I learned about other than technical challenges. I learned about the importance of the visibility of search in the whole company. Especially for companies that earn a big part of there money through search, management should understand and support the search team. People writing the content should understand the importance to write it in such a way that the users can find it. Another important part is that people delivering the search solution must understand how actual users are using their search solution. You have to create analytics and learn to use them.
Looking back at my learning path, I see many similarities with companies that set out on creating a better search experience. Within a company, it is often a developer or someone from operations that install elasticsearch to help with basic log analysis. With Elasticsearch being present in the company, the step to using it for a next search challenge is small.
Alternatively, a developer that is appointed with the task to create a search solution often takes one of the more significant open source projects being Elasticsearch or Solr. After some time, the project delivers a search engine. It does not give the right results to the users of the search solution. The developer makes changes, but they do not help in getting better results. That is often the time we get a call for help. Other customers ask us for help before embarking on the search journey.
After helping many customers with their search solutions and reading blogs, articles, and books about search, we started seeing why projects were successful. Successful search solutions are created when people of the different disciplines work together supported by the entire company, including management. We developed a Search Maturity Index to make it visible where companies are, and what the best next steps need to be.
Search Maturity Index
The maturity index is a matrix of 5 levels of maturity over 5 categories. The best experience is achieved when all categories are in balance. We often see customers with a higher technical level than, for instance, analytics. Without the right analytics in place, you can have a solution that is to complex.
The five pillars of our maturity index are:
Organization – Someone in the organizations needs to decide upon the KPI’s and needs to take ownership of the search solution.
Content – A crucial aspect of a good search experience is good content. With lousy content, you can never create a good search experience.
Analytics – With the right analytics, you can monitor your users and your own goals and KPI’s for the search solution.
Technical – You need a well-optimized search engine to deliver the right results as fast as possible.
User Experience – Your users want a good user experience. They want a fast, intuitive experience with relevant results.
To get an idea about what fits in where in the maturity level, below is an example roadmap of features for the 5 different levels.
The first thing you have to do as a company is to decide about the maturity level you want to reach. Not every company needs to be level 5. Another thing you need to take into account, reaching the next level takes time. Of course, you can learn a lot from others. Still, you have to get your own experience, run into your challenges, and fix your problems. If you already have a search solution, or you are not sure about the level of maturity to reach, we can do a search maturity scan. After the scan, we present the maturity level and of course, our findings that led us to that maturity level. Together with you, we determine the first steps to take and how we can help you. If you want to get an idea about the scan, try our Quick Scan. After just 10 questions, you get a very high level of the maturity of your company.
Quick Scan (beta, not everything is functional yet)