SaaS Search Guide.
What is SaaS Search
If you Google “SaaS Search”, you’ll see a lot of results for solutions to help you add a search element to your website. This is one use case, but it’s only part of what SaaS Search can do. For companies with exponentially growing volumes of data and content, SaaS Search is less a tool to help website visitors navigate their content, and more a remedy for employees lost in the sea of information.
With the migration to the cloud and the rise of remote work and the gig economy, more data is being created and stored in more locations. SaaS Search is one way that enterprises can get their arms around their data. But what exactly is it? And how is it solving the problem? Let’s begin with a definition:
SaaS Search Definition
SaaS Search is an enterprise search solution that uses the software as a service (SaaS) model. This means that it is built, owned, and maintained by a cloud provider, with out-of-the-box functionality that is automatically updated. For this reason, and since the acronym is the same, it is sometimes also referred to as “Search as a Service”. Because it is turnkey, SaaS Search saves internal IT teams from the significant burden of building and managing their own search infrastructure.
The purpose of SaaS Search is to help employees find the exact information they need from a vast array of content, using a single search interface. It indexes and understands structured and unstructured data and content, no matter what type it is or where it lives, and applies sophisticated Natural Language Processing (NLP) to provide relevant results based on each user’s search intent.
Types of SaaS Search Solutions
There are typically two main types of SaaS Search solutions: internal and external.
Internal SaaS Search is for companies with high volumes of siloed content, helping employees get knowledge and insights from a unified, secure entry point. For example, a customer support engineer at a manufacturing firm could search for a specific part number and access everything related to that part, from any reported problems to who the experts are on that part within the company. Internal SaaS Search can include the entire universe of organizational knowledge from across various databases, applications, file types, and languages, or can be a more discrete instance for a specific department or business unit.
External SaaS Search is an external-facing application, where visitors or customers can type in a query on a company’s website. Common examples are self-service customer portals or eCommerce websites.
Why SaaS Search is Needed in the Marketplace
The short answer to this question is to be competitive, both for your customers and your employees.
The key to staving off threats from direct competitors is to efficiently build products and solutions, provide high-quality support to customers, and avoid costly mistakes and delays. SaaS search helps employees that need to be able to work faster, be more productive, and focus less on searching and more on making meaningful contributions to the business.
At the same time, every effort must be made to deliver the best customer experience possible. Businesses can’t risk taking too long to answer customer requests or providing poor customer service because the necessary information can’t be found. SaaS Search can provide answers in an instant to keep customers happy and competitors at bay.
Competition for your customers isn’t the only concern. Competition for talent is equally as fierce and with employees burning out in larger numbers than ever, businesses need to give employees the best workplace experiences possible to avoid churn. Without SaaS Search, employees are spending up to half their time looking for information or duplicating work because they can’t find what’s already been done, resulting in frustration and a lack of productivity.
Key Trends in SaaS Search
Saas Search is a growing category, driven in part by the following trends:
Application sprawl: According to a 2021 report by Productiv1, most departments in an enterprise use 40 to 60 different applications, and a separate report by the Cloud Security Alliance found that the average enterprise has more than 460 applications deployed2. Knowing which applications have the information needed and taking the time to toggle between them all is a problem that grows bigger with each new app added.
Data sprawl: The proliferation of data and information goes hand-in-hand with application sprawl. As more apps are added, there are more places to create and store information and today’s enterprises are housing a staggering amount of data. According to Statista, from 2020 to 2022 total enterprise data volume is expected to see average annual growth over the two years of more than 40% 3. Another survey of IT, data science, and data engineering professionals found that data volumes were growing by more than 60% per month, but 90% of those surveyed said making all of the data usable was a challenge.4
More silos: Despite widespread acknowledgment of the problems that silos create, they continue to be the bane of companies far and wide. Organizational silos are still creating vacuums of information and stifling cross-team collaboration. Data silos are inhibiting the ability to achieve true understanding and stunting innovation.
SaaS Search Strategy
As with any strategy, implementing a cloud-based search engine first requires you to evaluate your workspace as a whole. Catalog the various jobs and projects being done to get a full understanding of the scope of work. Then, survey employees to learn their challenges with discovering relevant knowledge. How long does it take to find what they need? Do they get most of their information from certain databases or applications? Are there times they can’t find an answer at all? Make a list of all the applications and data sources that employees use to do their jobs. How many places do they have to look for information? How user-friendly is each application? Are they missing valuable information that is stored elsewhere?
With answers to these questions, you can better understand where and how a search as a service solution can best serve your employees’ needs.
SaaS Search Benefits
As we mentioned earlier, implementing a workplace search solution can help organizations gain or maintain a competitive edge. The following benefits help create that upper hand:
- Save employee time. With a single search entry point to all your content, employees can search quickly and easily for the information they need.
- Boost productivity. Enable employees to efficiently re-use knowledge, spending less time searching for information and more time doing meaningful work.
- Improve decision-making. Employees can make the best decisions with a complete view of relevant and up-to-date information.
- Minimize duplicate work. Employees can efficiently locate past work.
- Lower cost of maintaining content. With content proliferating across many different silos, SaaS search helps companies avoid manual work to organize and make it findable across these different repositories.
- Enhance customer experience. Customer-facing teams with quick access to customer information, processes, and related content, can help customers quickly and easily.
How to Measure SaaS Search Impact
When considering whether to invest in a SaaS solution, it’s important to know if and how you can prove the return on that investment. Measuring the impact of SaaS Search can be done in a variety of ways, including the following:
- Gauge improvements in customer satisfaction, using surveys such as Net Promoter Score (NPS) to show positive changes in customer happiness and loyalty
- Gauge improvements in employee satisfaction by implementing an internal survey at regular intervals
- Benchmark current time spent searching for things and calculate employee time savings after implementation of the SaaS Search solution
Impact on Employee Experience and Productivity
SaaS Search impacts two critical areas: employee experience and business efficiency. By empowering people with relevant knowledge and reducing wasted time and burnout caused by endless hours spent hunting for information, SaaS Search greatly improves the employee experience. It can lead to the following positive outcomes:
- Faster onboarding: A unified search solution can reduce the time needed to train employees on various apps, as they can get what they need through the cloud-based search engine rather than digging through each app separately.
- Greater efficiency: Search as a service saves time and effort, leading to improved productivity.
- Re-use of company information: SaaS Search ensures that valuable content can be discovered, used, and re-used.
- Less time spent duplicating work: By the same token, SaaS search also ensures that work isn’t recreated because it couldn’t be found.
- Better decision-making: It also provides employees with a complete data picture, so they can make meaningful decisions more quickly
- Employee satisfaction: As a result of all of the above, employees are more efficient, strategic, impactful–and happier.
Impact on the Business
By helping employees achieve more than ever before and enabling better decision making–and because of its low effort-to-high value ratio–search as a service also improves business efficiency. It can lead to the following positive business outcomes:
- More productive workforce: The time employees used to spend searching for things can now be spent on getting things done. They also have more time for problem-solving, and strategic and creative thinking.
- Fewer mistakes and delays: When the right people have access to the right information, projects are more likely to be error-free and on time.
- Happier customers: Customer service representatives that can get answers quickly and have a 360-degree view of each customer (from contract details to previous interactions and issues) can deliver a better experience.
- Controlled operational costs: By improving productivity and mitigating mistakes and delays, companies can better control costs.
How to Drive SaaS Search Success
As with any new application or process that is rolled out, success depends largely on user adoption. Availability of the solution must be communicated broadly. How and where to access it should be made clear. And over time, user feedback should be collected to improve the SaaS search experience over time.
Once employees are persuaded to use it, a robust workplace SaaS search solution will quickly earn their allegiance, for these reasons and more:
SaaS Search provides a unified and intuitive search experience. You could liken it to a master key that unlocks information, no matter the lock. In this way, it removes the frustration that employees face when dealing with multiple, different search experiences.
By creating a single point of access to all the places where company information lives, SaaS Search also helps employees derive more value from the myriad workplace applications. Apps that were barely used or deemed as not user-friendly are now back on the table as viable sources of useful content with the help of SaaS Search.
The key is to instill trust in employees as they search. Your SaaS Search solution needs to be robust and intelligent, with natural language processing that understands meaning and intent and machine learning that learns and improves with each search query, so that results are consistently relevant. If employees can only find irrelevant or outdated information, they won’t trust the solution and therefore won’t use it.
SaaS Search Tools
There are many SaaS Search tools out there, but most fall into two buckets:
- Search built into existing business applications, such as SharePoint, Salesforce, and Box.com. These are built-in and ready to go, but are limited to searching within that application and have less sophisticated search capabilities that return less relevant results.
- Intelligent cloud-based search solutions (such as Sinequa), which unify information across disparate systems and make it discoverable by those who need it. When evaluating your options in this category, look at these things:
- Functionality/search relevance
- Ease of use
- Collaboration/social features
SaaS Search Use Cases
SaaS Search can address a variety of needs in the workplace, including the following:
- Company-wide search: In this scenario, SaaS Search is available for all employees to use, and is based on the body of content that the organization chooses to provide to the solution to index.
- Customer support: SaaS Search for customer support can either be deployed to help internal support teams who need to answer customer requests or on a company’s external website so customers can self-serve.
- Engineering: In this use case, SaaS Search can help ensure engineers can access technical requirements, CAD drawings, processes, logged issues, other experts and more to improve project efficiency and increase customer satisfaction.
- Knowledge Management: Improve the flow of information, manage data dispersion, and protect and activate valuable organizational knowledge with an intelligent search that doesn’t just find data, but understands it. With the right solution, searchers get far more than an answer to their question - they get a dossier of related, action information to drive meaningful discovery and innovation.
Interested in SaaS Search for your organization? Learn more about Sinequa Workplace Search.