Purpose – Despite a growing demand for enterprise search from practice, little is known about its implementation from an academic perspective. As the few available practice-oriented investigations show, enterprise search user satisfaction is rather low. The purpose of this paper is therefore to explore user-centric barriers of enterprise search implementation in order to increase user satisfaction. Design/methodology/approach – Results are built on a qualitative user study in an R & D organization. Findings are gained from think-aloud observations introduced by semi-structured interviews in which ten knowledge workers explore a newly implemented enterprise search tool. Findings – Findings illustrate barriers that knowledge workers have to overcome when adopting enterprise search to find project-relevant documents. Implementation barriers relate to selection for keywords, search query formulation, availability and adequacy of metadata, relevance judging of search results, current search strategies, and overall perception of enterprise search usefulness. Research limitations/implications – Limitations address the piloted enterprise search software, along with its specific configuration and scope, the chosen research approach of generating qualitative findings from a single case, and the size of the involved sample of engineers. Implications address measures to increase enterprise search adoption. Practical implications – This study provides project managers with knowledge to take appropriate actions in the early phases of enterprise search implementation, and even prior to that, to raise the success of enterprise search projects. It contributes to a better understanding of enterprise search engine user needs and assists in concretizing user requirements. Originality/value – While existing studies primarily focus on advancing the technical perspective of search in organizations, the author elaborate on the under-investigated social and organizational aspects. The author furthermore stress the importance of user-centered approaches for enterprise search adoption.