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Social Intranet Best Practices – Building A Federated Search Strategy

Sean R. Nicholson

Sean R. Nicholson

If you haven’t figured it out already, it’s a Google kinda world out there and your Intranet users expect your search functionality to provide them with accurate, relevant results to their search queries. With that in mind, if you haven’t already begun the process of building a federate search strategy, it’s time to do so.

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While the term “federated” might sound fancy, it’s just a high-tech way to say “cross-functional”. In a nutshell, if your Intranet search is federated, it means that it can go beyond searching your portal content and also retrieve results from your document management system, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system and any other relevant applications.

When putting together your federated search strategy, keep in mind that while returning a broad set of results from multiple systems is important, maintaining the security standards set forth by those applications is key. In other words, your federated search results should only return content and documents that the user is allowed to see in the originating application. This can often be the trickiest part of federated search, but many application vendors have begun exposing search APIs and Web Services that only return appropriate search results with security in mind.

The first steps to defining a federated search strategy is to take an inventory of all applications inside your Intranet that users currently search. Next, determine what roles might have a need to search which applications and prioritize the need to federate your search to those applications based on the business need. For instance, if a high volume of your users search your enterprise knowledge base and it isn’t tied into your portal search, that might be a good place to start. Your priority list will be defined on which applications are searched most frequently.

Once you have developed your priority list, work with your application vendors to determine whether they already expose Web services that would allow you to easily pass search terms and integrate results into your portal. Be sure to test your integrated functionality extensively to ensure that the results that are being returned are the same as if the user had searched in the originating application and be thorough in your security assessment of the results.

As you progress down your list of applications that are integrated into your portal search, be sure to let your users know that they can now use the portal search to quickly locate content across the enterprise. The more federated your portal search becomes, the more quickly your users will be able to locate information, which will drive portal adoption.