church organ

I have a passion for French organ music. 

And over the years, I’ve had the good fortune to play on some large cathedral organs in the UK and US. 

You can’t just turn up at a cathedral and ask to play. You must submit references and a list of music you would play as evidence that you won't make a total fool of the organist, the organ and indeed, the cathedral building. 

Many people in the workplace have some form of certification to confirm that they're capable of undertaking the work they need to do, especially if some kind of compliance element is involved. IT is a strong example of this, where the damage inexperienced technicians could wreak could bring the enterprise to a halt.

Enterprise search applications have been around for over 30 years and intranets for 20. Despite their longevity, you can run a search application or an intranet without any previous training or experience, mainly because you cannot document for your employer exactly what you did for Employer A. 

Claiming your website management skills as a good fit for an intranet manager is the equivalent of me telling a cathedral organist that I am a proficient pianist and could quickly adapt to playing five manuals rather than one!

Training for Search Managers

Miles Kehoe, search practice director at Avalon Consulting, LLC, recently commented that although companies call enterprise search "mission critical," they're more likely to have a webmaster than a searchmaster.  

And while search vendors run courses for their customers, that does not solve the problem of the expertise needed to manage the design, development and implementation of an open source search solution. A 2014 AIIM survey indicated that finding people with skills in areas such as taxonomy, metadata management and user testing was a major challenge for organizations, and the 2015 Findwise survey supported these findings.

For some time now AIIM has offered courses that lead to certification in many areas of information management. These courses are well respected because of the care that AIIM put into their design. However enterprise search is just one small element of the Enterprise Content Management module and currently does not get its own course. 

Jesse Wilkins, director, professional development at AIIM told me that AIIM is planning to relaunch its Certified Information Professional training program at the AIIM16 conference in April in New Orleans. The organization is also in the process of evaluating all of its course offerings with an eye towards improving their content and their overall value to the community.

Intranet managers can get by with only a limited technical knowledge of content management systems. But in my view, a basic technical background in search technology is essential to getting the best out of the application. The same goes for organs, which are mechanically extremely complicated. Organists need to know how to get the best from the several thousand pipes inside even a medium-sized organ.

The similarities extend to tuning. A great many variables can be tweaked on a search application to improve ranking, just as there are perhaps 100 different stop knobs to be pulled out on an organ. Trial and error approaches would take forever to find the optimum combination.

Hands-On Training

Even if you read every book there is on organs, you can still make a terrible noise without hands-on experience. I wrote my book on enterprise search as a starter for search managers, but until you have played dynamically with search applications and seen a range of interfaces and content repositories these books can only be a starting point. 

With this in mind, I’ve been working with the workshop development team of Intranet Now to create a search lab environment for a search management training course in London in April. It is interesting to see that major suppliers of IT training courses (such as Learning Tree, GlobalKnowledge and Computeach in the UK) offer no courses on any aspect of enterprise search. If there are courses somewhere in the world, please let me know about them.

The Google ESA Impact

The demand for search management skills will only increase, due to the imminent (in terms of search implementation) disappearance of the Google ESA box set

ESA customers have managed — till now — to function without investing in a search management team because so little of it could be managed. Now organizations will be faced with working through their options based on identifying business and user requirements, and then finding the resources to support the selection, installation, migration and on-going management. 

With virtually no external training courses and no ability to train people internally, skilled search team staff are going to be in short supply.