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The Search Engine for Your Business: Part 1


It has been a while since I’ve hit the blogosphere. During that time I had the pleasure of presenting a search webinar speaking about SharePoint 2013 search. Not only did I learn that presenting for a webinar was much different than presenting in front of a room of people, I also realized that the divide between business and technical search during the webinar was greater than I believed.
Let me elaborate. I had badly assumed that many people who had attended were both business and technical, but who had decided and knew exactly what they wanted to do with search, and that all they wanted to see was if SharePoint 2013 was the answer to their business. So my presentation tailored heavily to the feature-friendly side of SharePoint 2013 search and spoke of a lot of technical, administrative benefits of the platform which perhaps isolated business users who were there to just learn about search in general.
Here is my response to your questions and interests! This will be the beginning of a multi-part blog which will dive into what you and your business should know when selecting your search engine. Starting from the core, we will look at what features have been crucial to clients as well as what you should look for in an indexer. SharePoint 2013 will be used heavily as an example here, but it’s up to you to do due diligence on your research!

upward-graphWhat is Your Business Goal?

So what are you doing, or want to do with search?
Part of what makes search projects so interesting is that every client envisions and comes up with their idea of what their ideal search platform looks like. While we at Perficient can help guide your solution to completion, the idea is still yours. Start with something that you would like to find easier, and let that seed grow into your potential business platform.

  • Intranet Search
  • Product Catalog
  • Legal Documents
  • Medical Journals
  • Research Data
  • Business Data
  • People Directory
  • News and News Archive
  • Publishing
  • and so… so much more!

What does my Business Gain?

Generally this question is asked with dollar signs attached to it. It is an important question no doubt, and if I could answer it with graphs and charts, then I wouldn’t be writing this blog.
What your business gains can be answered with a balance of two points. How efficient your search solution is in delivering correct and relevant results and how many business users are using it every day. If you can nail both points with your solution then you have a solution which has potentially infinitesimal returns. Although if you truly want to measure your returns, a calculation of the time spent looking for something the “old” way versus the “new” search solution will give you an semi-accurate count.
Of course there is the risk that you will deploy your solution and either nobody will use it, or your search results won’t be accurate (and in return nobody will used it). If your solution does return accurate results and is faster than your old methods, but users aren’t using it, then normally a good nudge as well as a quick 15 minute training will hopefully convert some non-believers.

Where to Start?3-questionsOF

If you don’t have any ideas, then look for areas in your business where people struggle to find data. Look for places where a simple free-text search with refinement could be faster than what your current solution does now. Look especially at areas that your business could truly gain value from having something done faster.
If you’ve already got a concept, then great! Now you have to refine your concept. I would recommend looking at search engines that other companies have implemented. Nearly every major retailer has some sort of search engine that you can view to get ideas. Look for things that are done well, and things that you don’t like. Pay close attention to the behavior of the search experience, from how results load on the page to how refiners behave (multi-select, narrowing, result counts, etc).
Finally, if you know what features you want and have a design on how you want your search experience to behave, then it’s time to select your search engine to build your platform upon. Hopefully the following blogs will point you towards the features that you want, and help you understand how important the behavior of each feature can make or break your budget.

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