BA Insight: The most satisfying part of my job …
This article was orignally written by Dennis Hiel sales director at BA Insight.
One of the great things about being a B2B sales professional is being involved in the lifecycle of a solution from its earliest stage, when it is just an idea, through production rollout. In my five years at BA Insight, I have been fortunate enough to be part of many innovative implementations of enterprise search and intranets.
Often these projects began by sharing real world examples of successful projects. I hope that by sharing the stories below it will get you thinking about the possibilities of applying them to your unique scenarios.
1. Finding the right person
There is a common theme across the professional services organizations that I have spoken with. It is a need to identify experts in order to bid on new work or address a specific client need. Our collaboration with one of the largest law firms in the world led to an innovative new approach that combined a number of ideas to develop a comprehensive solution to address this challenge.
The customer had previously relied on profile information to surface subject matter experts. In theory, this would work well. However, in practice, there were a couple of problems. First, profile information was often out of date or incomplete, leading to inaccurate search results. Secondly, the search algorithm was a black box making it difficult for end users to refine results.
During one of our conversations, the customer expressed frustration with the current approach. I suggested a brainstorming session with our CTO. The outcome was a new approach that gave more flexibility to the user and provided more accurate results.
The solution is built on SharePoint 2013 and BA Insight’s software portfolio and improved on the existing solution in two important ways:
- In addition to profile information, the product takes advantage of the work produced by the employee (documents authored, billable hours, etc.) as part of the algorithm to find experts. Think of it as the digital footprint of their work. The application then takes advantage of this information to nominate experts.
- Search results include the attributes of the experts, the same way internet sites like Amazon show attributes of a TV, so that users can understand how they were selected and can compare the information. Users are then able to adjust the weight of each attribute in order to determine the best resource for their particular needs.
The feedback from users has been extremely positive. They are able to locate experts much more quickly and precisely.
2. Implementation of a global medical knowledge portal
A large Pharmaceutical on the East Coast was receiving many complaints from their knowledge workers about not being able to find needed information.
I was engaged in the early days of the customer’s research, when they were looking at options ranging from highly customized solutions to out of the box software. Many of our early conversations were around the importance of capturing users’ requirements and focusing on the user experience and necessary capabilities as opposed to search engines or any other technology. Over time, the new solution was defined as follows:
- Crawl and index content from a number of repositories including Veeva Vault, Documentum, file shares, SharePoint Online and custom SQL databases.
- Take a user’s location, role, and search history into account to improve the relevancy of search results.
- Allow users to provide their areas of interest, preferred document types, and search preferences. Use this data to customize the experience for individual users.
- Automatically tag documents for classification to improve relevancy and provide meaningful refinement features.
- Identify only the “major topics” of a specific document to further refine the automatically generated metadata, allowing users to remove noise and find the specific content they are looking for much faster.
- Provide an intuitive interface to reduce training requirements.
- Proactively provide information that was relevant to users based on their profiles.
- Take advantage of analytics, whilst respecting European privacy laws, to continuously improve the user experience.
As a part of the selection process, a pilot implementation was defined as a stepping stone to the final selection of a vendor. BA Insight’s software portfolio delivered key functionality on top of SharePoint 2016. This software-based approach eliminated the need for custom code and positions the client to easily upgrade to new versions. As a result, the solution quickly moved from a pilot phase to production rollout in less than six months.
The same knowledge workers who were once complaining are now providing very positive feedback on the solution, often commenting on the ease of use, the benefits of the new advanced capabilities like document preview, and the improvements in the quality of the search results.
3. Increasing adoption of a global intranet
One of the world’s largest insurers noticed a decline in the usage of their global intranet. When they looked closer at their analytics, they found that a poor search experience was a leading cause of abandonment.
The primary complaint from users was that search did not work. When they performed a query, dozens of irrelevant search results were returned. Users then lost faith and looked for new ways to find information.
Working with the customer, we were able to identify two areas for improvement:
- Give users a way to navigate to relevancy by providing functionality they are familiar with from internet applications. These include type-ahead, breadcrumbs, recommendations, and refiners. With these tools users are able to intuitively navigate to relevancy.
- Fix the metadata problem. Metadata was inconsistent or did not exist at all, making it difficult to find unstructured content. An automated tagging solution provided the metadata required to improve relevancy and present meaningful refiner values.
These changes had a measurable impact on user success, and intranet usage is now trending up.
As I look back at these three examples, as well as the many other successful projects I have been involved with, I recognize that they all depended on a couple of things:
- Team Work. I am fortunate enough to work with an extremely talented group of people whose knowledge and experience has been imparted on me, which in turn helps me become an expert in the enterprise search market. It also provides me with a better understanding of my prospects’ and customers’ needs and gives me the ability to consult with them on potential solutions.
- Being in it Together: Over the course of a project, we have been able to earn our customers’ trust, changing their perceptions of BA Insight from a vendor to a partner. Once that level of trust is established, they stop viewing me as someone who is trying to sell them something, but rather consider me an experienced enterprise search professional who can help them find solutions to their critical business problems.