The Benefits and Costs of Using Metadata to Improve Enterprise Document Search

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The literature shows that there are many problems with enterprise document search. Studies reveal that typical knowledge workers spend between 10% and 20% of their time searching for documents they never find. While many argue that metadata can improve enterprise document search, in reality few organizations use metadata. This represents a missed opportunity. This article describes the results of two experiments that use simulation to evaluate the actual impact of metadata on the costs and benefits of enterprise search. The first study provides quantitative evidence of the increase in recall and precision that stems from the use of metadata-enhanced document searches. The second study demonstrates that simple metadata structures can be nearly as effective as complex ones, implying that the cost of creating and maintaining metadata is likely to be lower than generally thought. This is the first study to provide explicit quantitative evidence of the gains that can be achieved from the use of metadata, and one of only a handful of studies that examines the cost of creating and maintaining metadata.