More than 90 percent of documents that are created have no useful metadata, according to Butler Group analyst Richard Edwards.
As a result, as much as 10 percent of a company's salary costs are wasted on ineffective searches, according to Edwards, who co-authored a 240-page report on the problem.
Until more useful metadata is available, he said, it is an uphill struggle to get better results with enterprise search applications.
His study is supported by an IDC report which found a company that employs 1,000 information workers can expect more than $US5 million in annual salary costs to go down the drain because of the time wasted looking for information and not finding it.
When the information is found, often its useless. Forrester Research analyst Matthew Brown said companies spend a lot of money architecting portal systems, intranets, dashboards and databases, trying to address the problem.
IT governance chief systems officer at the NSW Office of the Board of Studies, Mark Coleman, said staff need to be educated in the 'metadata' of the organization so they know where to look.
"This requires an understanding of the culture of the organization; the definition of a product in one part of the organization may not be the same in other parts," Coleman said.
The CIO of law firm Ebsworth and Ebsworth, Lionel Bird, agrees the key to the effective retrieval of information is in the metadata.
Bird said its about the integration of information related repositories, particularly document and records management systems, e-mail, workflow and information lifecycle management (ILM).
"Organizations need a strategy for document and records management which describes the relationship between collaboration and classification through the document and record lifecycle," he said.
"This includes developing a taxonomy (a metadata classification scheme) which can be internally developed or alternatively purchased off the shelf.
"It should be practical, simple, relevant, accurate and easy to use.
"A second useful approach is to use workflow techniques to ensure that the relevant metadata is captured at the appropriate stage of the document or record lifecycle."