Ten intranet search case studies

It is very difficult to track down good case studies of intranet search implementations that when eight come along together it was well worth spending a couple of hours to read through them, They are published in the Nielsen Norman Group 2017 Intranet Design Annual. I will review this report from an intranet perspective in due course, but for now I just want to look at some of the highlights, and low lights, from the way ten very different organisations have provided intranet search. In the introduction to the report the authors note that search is starting to be taken seriously (my words, not theirs) and that is very good news.

The stand-out case study is that from IBM. The IBM intranet is on a vast scale in size, reach and user numbers, and search has always played an important role. The description of the way in which the Blue Pages people directory has evolved is worth buying the report for on its own account, and then hand delivering copies of the pages to your HR Director and your CEO. Of course a huge amount of research and development went into the development of the directory but the result is probably the definitive people/expertise directory for you to benchmark your own vision and achievement. If you want to learn more about the technical background to the Blue Pages track down the papers authored by Ido Guy when he was at IBM Research Haifa. However in the case of IBM it’s not just about the technology but also about vision, governance and user research. The technology is in fact bespoke and built on the Amazon Web Services platform (interesting!) but IBM Watson is about to be implemented. One of my current clients is about to use IBM Watson and I will be very interested to see how well it works as a people and expertise finder.

Other companies which have an interesting story to tell include Bank of America, Encana, Goodwill Industries, Jet Blue and the Kerry Group. The range of search software is wide, including Google Search Appliance (Bank of America), SharePoint 2010 (Goodwill Industries), PostgreSQL (Jet Blue), SharePoint 2013 (Kerry Group) Solr (Latvian Railways) IDOL 7.5 (Santander) and Office 365 (Tourism New Zealand). Which means that Bank of America and Goodwill Industries are in for an interesting 2017 and maybe Santander needs a Plan B.

The not-so good news is that when you look down the teams running the intranet there is never a mention of who is taking responsibility for search, and in particular search analytics, even though every other aspect of intranet management is listed out. This probably means that IT are taking the search lead but IT need to be able to call on user feedback and business requirements to put the search log analytics in context – which of course assumes that IT are actually running any search analytics.

Martin White