Fine Tuning Your Enterprise Search - part 5

 by Martin Belam, 3 December 2004

Fine Tune The Way You Present Different Datasets

Within any modern enterprise it is likely that you will have multiple datasets or potential sources of data available to your users when they search. To improve the efficiency of a search it is important that each of these datasets is displayed to the user in a useful way. One search technology may not be appropriate for all of your data, but wherever possible you should avoid forcing your user to choose between different search options. The majority of people simply want to type in their words or phrase, hit 'Go' and get their answers.

The BBC's intranet, called Gateway, uses a federated search mechanism to simultaneously search across several areas of information within the business at once. This enables us to use one consistent search interface, a single box in the top right-hand corner of every page, to cover a multitude of functions. So, a search for the name of a member of staff will present the user with results from the following data sources:

  • Pages from the HTML and other documents on the intranet by them or that mention their name
  • Their contact details from the BBC's global corporate directory
  • Details of their page, and related colleague pages from connect.gateway, a piece of internal social networking software being used within the BBC
  • Conversations by or mentioning the person from talk.gateway, the BBC's internal message boards
  • Links to articles from Ariel, the BBC's in-house newspaper
  • An opportunity to expand the search to include results from the web, using the web search facility.

A search for a word or phrase will return results from the same data sources, although of course this time the results from the message boards, Ariel and the intranet content itself will reflect the phrase searched for rather than the contributions of an individual.

Search results page on the BBC's Gateway Intranet, showing data simultaneously pulled from different information sources


At the Infonortics Search Engine Meeting in 2004 Mondosoft CEO Laust Sondergaard observed that no client is happy with a search service, from whatever company, when it first comes out of the box. Every enterprise environment and every index of information brings its own unique challenge to search technology. However the techniques outlined in this article are all ways to help maximise the benefits your business can derive from the search & retrieval technology that you are using.

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