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Experience Management

What’s New in Search Solutions – People Search 2.0

Phonebook Whitepages
For many years, People Search with the Google Search Appliance was essentially a glorified phonebook lookup.  Our customers could search for colleagues by name or title, and retrieve basic information like phone numbers or addresses.  Even the advent of ‘Expert Search’ did not tangibly change the situation — it just made the phonebook-style lookup easier to implement.
The Problem: In 2015, several Perficient clients came to us demanding more from People Search.  We realized that these companies did not have just a single source for information about people, and that by investing in additional data aggregation and pre-processing, we could deliver more sophisticated and useful people search results.  
The Solution: Instead of indexing only first-order fields about people (name, title, location, etc.), we started adding data like skills, project experience, previous jobs, and recently authored content.  This expanded the number of ways that a person can be found, and it also increased the number of ways that the results can be sorted, ranked or biased.  You can now search for people with similar skills, or who worked together on past projects, or who recently collaborated on a document about a certain topic.
The Results: This modern approach to people search has yielded very positive results, as well as some unanticipated consequences.  On the positive side, colleagues can now be found using a much wider set of criteria – the net can be cast wider, so to speak.  On the negative side, ranking the results in a logical order is more complex, and it can be more difficult for users to understand why a certain person is coming back in the search results.  Perficient is working with our clients to more tightly define the expectations for selecting and ranking people results when all of this additional information is available.  
For example, some customers prefer to prioritize title or tenure in the ranking of people results, whereas others prioritize skill or location (proximity) matches.  When several different criteria are deemed important, the implementation can get very complex.  Perficient is helping our clients through these challenges by implementing best-practice user experience and technology solutions, including advanced filtering and segmentation of the results, natural language processing to better understand the intent of the query, and search analytics to monitor usage patterns and improve the results over time.  We are also improving the relevancy of people search results by implementing more sophisticated data aggregations and enrichment techniques, such as integrating data from social media profiles or using entity recognition to build relationship graphs between people and other important content.
Perficient is excited to be working with our clients on the frontier of people search.  Different companies have different search challenges, but people search is nearly universal.  Our research and work in this area is already paying dividends with new clients and new opportunities.  Please contact us at if you would like more information about our people search work, or any other enterprise search topic.

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Chad Johnson

Chad is a Principal of Search and Knowledge Discovery at Perficient. He was previously the Director of Perficient's national Google for Work practice.

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