Reflections on Search at Intranets 2012 conference

Despite large corporations spending hundreds of millions of euros creating information they spend almost nothing on search, Martin White said at the recent Intranets 2012 conference. But before dealing with this depressing fact, I would like to start on a more positive note.

Being a search professional it was an absolute joy to jump over to the other side of the fence and join the well over hundred intranet professionals at intranets 2012 in gorgeous Sydney. I whole heartedly recommend to search #intranets2012 on twitter to get a feel for the fun, inspiration and knowledge sharing that went on.

With sessions on collaboration, from recognized experts such as Michael Sampson, or by seasoned practitioners such as William Amurgis from American Electric Power, it was clear that social intranets are not only a buzz word but are already providing businesses with great value. Meanwhile James Robertson demanded that we raise the bar for design and usability from providing function to delivering pretty and simple intranets that surprise and delight. Mandy Geddes from Institute of Executive coaching gave me a brilliant idea of how to use private online communities to engage customers.

But in spite of returning from Sydney with a feeling of new energy, eagerness and almost urgency to get back to helping my customers and colleagues, I also realized that search was obviously not on everyone’s mind. Except for Martin White‘s excellent keynote only one session I attended to, Ausgrid Power‘s presentation of their intranet “the grid”, had search as a key area. Hopefully these few glimpses of light sparked something and I honestly think they do, bearing in mind the discussions I had in the breaks and in the fantastic social event Thursday evening.

After writing this to share my thinking, I have two things to say:

Findability ambassadors; our work has only begun and a I hope to see you all at Intranets 2013, because I’m sure going!

Search as an Integrator of Social Intranets

Wikis, blogs, microblogs, comments, ratings…we all know the buzzwords around the “Social Intranet” by now. Can we consider search as an integrator of Social Intranets?

If the first trend was about getting people to use the new technology, the second seems to be about making sense of all the information that has been created by now.

I sat down with a number of our customers the other week to talk about intranets and internal portals and everyone seemed to face one particular challenge: making sense of the collaborative and social content. How do we make this sort of information searchable without losing the context? And how do we know who the sender is?

One approach which was discussed is to use the people card and search as an integrator between the social components. By using search we can easily integrate everything from microblogging-flows, to comments and contributes in different communities used in the enterprise. The search engine fetches the information and presents it real-time.

Social intranets and search

Social intranets and search

When searching for project One HR on the intranet you can, besides all search hits, get an overview of the owner of the project and all the related discussions that has been going on. Apart from this, networks i.e. people who has been involved can be shown – creating 360° view of the information.

What is your view of the future social intranets? Have you solved the issues with search in collaborative and social content?

How to Create Knowledge Sharing Intranets and the Role of Search

“If only HP knew what HP knows, we would be three times more productive”

The quote is a statement from the former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, Lew Platt and summarizes this week’s discussion on knowledge sharing intranets at the conference “Sociala intranät” (Social Intranets) in Stockholm.

For two days intranet managers, editors, web strategists and communication managers gathered in Stockholm to talk about the benefits (and pitfalls) of knowledge sharing intranets where the end-users share and contribute with their own and their colleagues information. And what role search plays in a Social Intranet.

A number of larger companies and organization, such as TeliaSonera, Thomas Cook, Manpower and Perstorp, have started their second generation of intranets: where blogs, collaborative areas, wikis, personalization, micro blogging (see the twitter flow from the conference)  and Facebook-inspired solutions finally seem to work in a larger scale.

The pioneers, such as Fredrik Heidenholm from Skånemejerier, has been doing it without a large budget – proving that social intranets are more about users than expensive technical solutions.

Read interviews of Fredrik Heidenholm, Gunilla Rehnberg (Röda Korset) Hans Gustafsson (Boverket)  and Lisa Thorngren (Thomas Cook Northern Europe – Ving).

And in general, the speakers as well as the attendees seem to be agreeing with one another: having the whole organization contributing with their knowledge is a prerequisite for keeping knowledge sharing intranets alive.

But letting everyone create information requires a good enterprise search solution, something some of Findwise customers, such as Ericsson and Landstinget i Jönköping, talked about: “Search promotes the value of our social intranet” said Karin Hamberg, Enterprise Architect, at Ericsson. Search makes it possible to gather information from all kind of sources and make it accessible from one entrance. However, this also requires strategies for handling security restrictions (who should have access to what?), metadata models, user experience (expectations and behavior) and ranking (who determinates which results that should appear on the very top?).

Sven-Åke Svensson, from Landstinget i Jönköping, had the same experiences and emphasized the need for a good prestudy (workshop method) and tools for the editors such as a metadata service to help the contributors write good metadata tags. Sven-Åke also made a demo of the new intranet (if you are Swedish, the blog post “Landsting på väg mot det social intranätet” gives a great overview of the solution)

The two days covered most angles of Lew Platt’s vision – and apart from a number of good speakers the informal talk at coffee breaks and lunch gave a good insight in the fact that Swedish companies are working hard to provide knowledge sharing intranets that serves consumers as well as contributors.

Did you visit the conference? Was there anything in particular you found interesting? Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts.

P.S. If you want to read more about social intranets, take a look at Oscar Berg’s blogpost “The business case for social intranets”. An inspiring summary of the topic.

Do You Know Something I Don’t? The Art of Benchmarking Enterprise Search

During the autumn we have been trying to keep our customers and others up to date with the search world by hosting breakfast seminars. By benchmarking enterprise search and sharing experiences and discussing with others the participants have taken giant leaps in understanding what search can deliver in true value. The same goes for sharing experiences between companies, where you often find yourself struggling with the same problems, regardless of business or company size.

We have been discussing how enterprise search can help intranets, extranets, web sites and support centers to capitalize on their knowledge. Some of the things that have been discussed in regards to benchmarking enterprise search.

Business Cases

  • How can search help companies save 100 million SEK/year?
  • How do you count return on investment (ROI) for search?

Search Functionality

How and why should you work with:

  • Key Matches to promote certain content (similar to Google’s sponsored links on the web)
  • Synonyms (to make sure that the end-users language corresponds to the corporate without having to change the information)
  • Query completion and suggestion to give the user an overview of what other people have been searching for when they start to type (similar to Apples web site search).

End User Experience

  • How can different interfaces serve different information needs and user-groups?
  • How does your user interface serve your end-users?

Information Quality

  • Do taxonomies and folksonomies help us find information faster?
  • Can search be used to improve the quality of your content?

During the spring we will continue to hold seminars, keeping you up-to date. If you’re not on our mailing list, please look at our Findability Events and register for our events.

During Wednesday and Thursday this week we will be attending a Ability conference to discuss search. Hope to see you there!

Smooth CMS Migration Through Enterprise Search

Recently Findwise supported a successful CMS migration project for a worldwide customer in the furniture business by utilising enterprise search.

The goal of the project was to migrate from an old Content Management System (CMS) to a new CMS to meet the new demands of the organisation, and at the same time making least possible impact for the end-user throughout the migration process.

With support from Findwise and using the connectivity possibilities of an Enterprise Search Platform, content from both CMS’s could be indexed and searchable concurrently as more and more content got migrated to the new CMS. Also the new navigation structure of the Intranet was introduced step by step and reflected in the Search solution.

The power of Enterprise Search technology have once again been proven to provide an abstraction layer to underlying information sources and support the business, even when the information architecture is changing dramatically.

How Do You Measure Success on Your Intranet?

An intranet should, from my perspective, serve the people looking for general information as well as the ones who need specific information to solve an urgent task this very minute.
During the last few weeks I’ve been participating in many and interesting meetings which all have raised the question of how to measure success when it comes to finding content and people on your intranet. When working with enterprise search you often use the time you save as an important parameter. “If the users can find what they are looking for, then their everyday work will be more effective. Hereby we can save the user time and the company money”. This is an obvious truth, but I believe that there is more to consider.

If you use your intranet as a way for your employees not only to find information, but also share and collaborate it’s just as important that you find information that is related to you query (that you sometimes didn’t even know existed!), that makes you gain deeper knowledge and hence become more innovative. How do you measure success in those areas? There is a need for discussing supplementary new ways to measure Key Performance Indicators, perhaps by using more qualitative tools and focusing on user experience (of information retrieval, content quality and experienced value) over time.

What is your opinion? Do these things need to be measured in “hard facts” or can we find other ways to measure the value we deliver to our users?