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Jan 23, 2006: Question of the Year

In his most recent column, James Robertson of StepTwo asks:

Why are we wasting our time with grand enterprise projects when there are so many more immediate problems to be fixed?

Thank you, James. I ask all my enterprise IA seminar attendees to send me in advance their burning questions about the subject. The questions I receive are generally quite good but belie organizational goals that are far too ambitious and unrealistic.

For a fraction of the millions spent on huge enterprise projects (most of which goes into purchasing a vendor's proprietary software and its consultants' time), enterprises could add best bets capability to their current search engine, and create guides to help users find appropriate resources to help them accomplish their five or ten most common tasks. The results would probably compare favorably with, say, those of an expensive enterprise portal implementation. And such small steps are the best way to help an enterprise along to a more gradual--and pragmatic--evolution that includes a good measure of institutional learning.

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Comment: Deb Seys (Jan 26, 2006)

Here's an answer - it's the same reason that internal company websites often get completely rewritten every year or so, big projects to "make it all right again" rather than implementing small incremental improvements. It's because there is (still) little acknowledgement and support inside the enterprise for sustaining activities to do w/IA and UX or sometimes any sustaining activities at all.

Sorry to say it's easier to get funding for a big clean-up project (when it gets painful enough) than to staff an ongoing position whose responsibility is to maintain and make incremental improvements based on experience, knowledge and reasonable expectations.

Heave big sigh here....

Comment: Lou (Jan 26, 2006)

I'm with you.

"Redesign" is a dirty word that should be banned from the UX lexicon for many, many reasons...

Comment: Chris Kiess (Jan 27, 2006)

I have first-hand experience with this problem. I am an MLS student with Indiana University and interned for a large company (which I cannot name) last summer that wanted to improve their search capabilities and their portal. What I could not get them to understand was that the small changes added together could synergistically improve their information retrieval capabilities. They were looking for that ONE big solution rather than seeing the complexity of the problem would require several solutions one of which was my recommendation of implementing a best bets system. The primary problem as I see it is that society has come to have overly high expectations from technology which stems from a misunderstanding of the technology and how it works. The search engine/portal has not replaced the human yet and people fail to understand that. When people do not understand this, they naturally assume a new piece of software is the solution to their problems and is superior to human intervention.

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