Improving customer experiences, automating workflows and modernizing applications are three key areas where CIOs can demonstrate business outcomes and return on investment (ROI) from digital transformation. But mapping out a transformational plan requires the organization’s subject matter experts (SMEs) to define how operations and technologies work today.
And therein lies a stifling pain point that slows down and derails transformation programs. Even when employees have documented how things work, searching for the most relevant information is complex and tedious. Research from Enterprise Search: The Unsung Hero reports that 96 percent face business challenges with enterprise search and 54 percent state that business stakeholders lack domain expertise as a top impediment.
It’s a significant hurdle because, over time, how things work becomes tribal knowledge. CIOs then need six-sigma experts with anthropological skills to unravel end-to-end workflows. Even with investment to map this out, what’s often lost is why and what problems drove steps in the workflow, which ones may be irrelevant today, or which operations require modification to support new business objectives.
Tribal knowledge is a ticking time bomb in a fast-moving world
Here are some examples of tribal knowledge:
Data integrations with undocumented and custom code for handling exceptions and data cleansing
Insurance claims processing with complex business rules that no one recalls the logic behind them
E-commerce customer support issues solved differently depending on the rep and other factors
These examples highlight areas where transforming organizations often run experiments, change operations frequently and personalize based on the user persona. Tribal knowledge is an impediment that’s now a significant organizational risk because of shorter job tenures and the possibility of economically-driven layoffs.
AI search experiences help address knowledge gaps
To address tribal knowledge risks, forward-looking CIOs invest in AI search platforms and develop search centers of excellence.
AI search is a paradigm shift compared to the purpose-built legacy search index engines deployed across enterprises. From Enterprise Search: The Unsung Hero, 99 percent of respondents report technical challenges with legacy search, including integrating multiple systems (68%), data volume and cleansing (59%) and managing unstructured data (55%).
AI search is a force-multiplying digital transformation investment that can deliver multiple business impacts. For example,
Cost efficiencies and growth by automating data flows from SaaS tools and using search analytics, recommendation engines and other AI to increase customer satisfaction
Customer and employee experiences by centralizing one knowledge repository, then using low-code and pro-code tools to embed experiences in CRMs, customer support tools and customer-facing applications
Innovation and security by enabling rapid experimentation but also supporting easy-to-use security features to lock down sensitive information.
The research suggests that CIOs should be able to find business partners in an AI search investment. Hybrid work is driving the need, and 77 percent report an increase in the importance of enterprise search over the last twelve months and 72 percent report creating and maturing a search center of excellence.
Intelligence, knowledge and collaboration are hybrid work priorities
In the first wave of digital transformation, CIOs significantly invested in increasing organizational speed and agility, including cloud migrations, robotic process automations and DevOps practices. Chief data officers led their organization to become data-driven but focused their investments on structured data sources, self-service BI tools and SaaS integrations.
AI search can address a significant missing gap by centralizing unstructured information, simplifying with natural language query capabilities and taking the complexities out of tuning search results for relevancy.
How AI search experiences drive smarter digital transformations
Here’s a typical example that illustrates search complexities.
An enterprise used Solr on its customer portal, but M&A completed over the next few years added not one but three other search implementations. Over the next few years, many business SMEs left the enterprise for other opportunities and the developers went into support mode to maintain the platforms.
Meanwhile, sales, marketing and operational teams added multiple SaaS tools to support their workflows, which all have siloed user interfaces and independent data stores. Now, when new employees join the organization, they are forced to use multiple tools to find information relative to their job.
AI search fixes the integration problems by making it seamless to connect, extract and reindex based on the latest data. They have built-in natural language capabilities to enrich the data and result ranking requires minimal tuning because machine learning algorithms train regularly on real-time user personas and search analytics. Experiences are personalized and embedded in the primary employee workflow tools using low-code and developers use pro-code capabilities to customize experiences in customer-facing applications.
Most importantly, the development is decentralized, with multidisciplinary agile teams of business stakeholders, data SMEs, user experience specialists and developers. A search center of excellence provides standards, best practices and learning opportunities.
Tribal knowledge just became open, accessible, personalized and accessible – attributes needed for organizations that believe transformation is ongoing and must be an organizational core competency.
Isaac Sacolick, President of StarCIO, guides companies through smarter, faster, innovative and safer digital transformation programs that deliver business results. He is the author of the Amazon bestseller, Driving Digital and his new book, Digital Trailblazer. Isaac is an industry speaker and blogger at Social, Agile and Transformation. StarCIO offers three agile planning courses for stakeholders, teammates and certified StarCIO Agile Planners.