Companies turn to global management consultant Booz & Company to build new capabilities that deliver lasting impact. But with information and employees scattered across 60 physical and virtual offices and numerous client sites in 33 countries, Booz & Company wanted to improve its ability to use existing knowledge and experts to zero in on the best information right away. It did that by implementing Microsoft FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint to quickly and accurately pull information from its knowledge base and locate internal expertise. By using FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint, Booz & Company employees enjoy increased accuracy and relevance in response to their queries. Employees can access internal expertise, which helps them maximize their time on solving clients’ toughest problems. Situation
Booz & Company is the oldest management consulting firm still in business, the first to use the term “management consultant,” and the only firm to provide top-tier consulting services in both the public and private sectors around the world. In 2008, the firm separated from Booz Allen Hamilton, which focused on government consulting, while Booz & Company focused on commercial enterprises. Today, Booz & Company has 3,300 employees working from 60 offices in 33 countries.
Be Knowledge Management Leaders
Booz & Company’s product is knowledge, and enabling employees to quickly locate and present insightful information to clients is critical to the firm’s success. When Booz & Company split from Booz Allen Hamilton, it established a new knowledge agenda—to be first in foresight. At the core were four business objectives:
Quickly respond to client needs with relevant solutions
Connect rapidly with internal experts
Collaborate across the firm’s physical and virtual offices
Innovate by keeping up with the latest information-sharing trends
After an extensive product review, Booz & Company selected Microsoft SharePoint Products and Technologies as its knowledge platform, because that technology contained most of the firm’s required functionality right out of the box. In October 2009, Booz & Company launched insidebooz.com, an internal knowledge portal and the central repository for the firm’s intellectual capital (IC). Into this knowledge portal Booz & Company placed thousands of reports, articles, “cleansed” project documents, and other proprietary IC. It also used the My Site feature in SharePoint to create employee profile pages; nearly 80 percent of the company’s 3,300 employees have profile pages that include their expertise, prior work experience, publications, client engagement history, and other information.
Get Search Right
||Having a workable search engine has made our knowledge platform come alive. With FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint, we have better performance, higher availability, and exceptional relevance.
Director, Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration, Booz & Company
Booz & Company had a rich history around knowledge management and has always invested a substantial amount of effort in tagging content with metadata that was meaningful to its business. However, for search, Booz & Company chose a third-party enterprise search appliance that ultimately could not accommodate this metadata. “Because the search appliance was a black box, we couldn’t modify the search algorithms to suit our needs,” says Adrienne Crowther, Director of Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration at Booz & Company. “Consequently, search results were random and not very useful. Searching for people was particularly problematic. It became clear that search was the weak point in our knowledge platform. Search needed to be relevant, intuitive, and refinable so that our people could find experts and the best content quickly.”
As the manager of insidebooz.com, Polly Kahler heard about the search problem every day. “Bad search was undermining our ability to gain traction as a robust knowledge system,” she says. “Once employees placed data into the system and couldn’t find it again, they just stopped using insidebooz.com. They couldn’t trust that the best material was online, so they resorted to contacting the colleagues they already knew, asking for information that was probably already in the system. Or, they came to us [the knowledge management team] and asked us to find content for them.”
In addition to accuracy and relevance, search performance and speed was inadequate. “Search routinely had to be reset, and employees kept asking why insidebooz.com searches were not as fast as Internet searches,” Crowther says. “Enterprise search is behind the firewall, so a little slowness might be expected, but our search appliance would often just sit and churn for up to 30 seconds before returning results, which was very frustrating.”
Booz & Company struggled with its search engine for more than a year. The company had created significant amounts of content tagged with meaningful metadata, yet employees could not retrieve the information. The chief executive officer had issued a mandate that Booz & Company needed to be “first in foresight” by using its unique knowledge and experience to advance clients; Crowther and Kahler knew that they needed to fix the search problem. “Poor search was holding our firm back,” Crowther says. “To compete, we needed to get this right.”Solution
Booz & Company was interested in Microsoft FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint, a customized enterprise search engine, as a potential solution. “Looking at FAST Search Server 2010 was logical for us,” Crowther says. “We had considered it in 2008, but it was not yet owned by Microsoft and was quite expensive. We decided to wait until Microsoft completed its purchase of FAST and integrated it into Microsoft SharePoint Server. The chief appeal of FAST Search Server was the fact that we would be able to use it to take advantage of our detailed metadata tagging, which the existing search product could not use.”
Booz & Company created a proof of concept using real data to demonstrate that the software could indeed meet its requirements. “We needed FAST Search Server to index our existing databases, people-search, and meet our custom needs,” Kahler says. “For example, we had to take our existing customized search scope results and implement them in FAST Search Server. The proof of concept demonstrated that all this would be possible.”Eight-Week Deployment
In late 2010, Booz & Company contacted RDA Corporation, a member of the Microsoft Partner Network with Silver certification in the Search competency, for help in evaluating and possibly implementing FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint.
In February 2011, Booz & Company proceeded with implementation, which took eight weeks. Taking advantage of RDA’s guidance and expertise, Booz & Company deployed FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint in a virtualized three-server environment: one virtual machine runs Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, one runs FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint, and one runs Microsoft SQL Server 2008 data management software as the database server. Because FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint was designed for SharePoint Server 2010, RDA created innovative custom configurations to ensure that FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint also worked seamlessly with Office SharePoint Server 2007.
“RDA’s assistance with the analysis, installation, and custom development was essential to the success of this effort,” noted Kahler. “Working with such an experienced Microsoft partner made all the difference.”
||Search was the weak point in our knowledge platform. Search needed to be relevant, intuitive, and refinable so that our people could find experts and the best content quickly.
Director, Knowledge Sharing and Collaboration, Booz & Company
Booz & Company launched its new search capability against insidebooz.com in April 2011. Using FAST Search Server for SharePoint along with its extensive metadata tags, Booz & Company rebuilt and improved its customized search scopes to include a summary page, IC, qualifications, people, resumes, internal documents, and sites and blogs. When employees enter a term in the insidebooz.com search box, the top-three choices in each scope are provided. Employees can then navigate into specific scopes for more specialized information. After the first round of search results, employees can further tailor searches by using a number of refiners. For example, someone in financial services can narrow the results set to content that is relevant to financial services in a specific region. When performing a search, FAST Search Server captures the security attributes of both documents and users and returns only documents that the user is authorized to see.
Booz & Company uses deep refiners, a FAST Search Server feature, to further filter results. If an employee searches for the term capabilities, he or she first receives information on Capabilities-Driven Strategy, a key Booz & Company offering, with links to the company wiki on that topic, proposals, and other relevant documents. Previously, the same search would result in 5,000 random documents linked only by their inclusion of the word capabilities. By using deep refiners, Booz & Company can incorporate the language of its business into the search experience to yield more accurate and useful results.
Booz & Company also uses the best bet, spelling, and synonym features of FAST Search Server to find information without entering every possible variation. Additionally, document titles, which are what most people remember about a document, are included in search results, which did not always happen before. “We can tell FAST Search Server that our custom metadata is important and which metadata is more or less important,” Kahler says. “We can also tell it to ignore certain metadata, such as document properties. We could not do any of this with our previous search appliance.” Benefits
By using FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint as the search engine for insidebooz.com, Booz & Company has been able to give employees faster access to accurate, relevant information. This, in turn, helps to increase productivity and create the best possible solutions for its customers.
Faster Access to the Most Relevant Information
With its new enterprise search capability, Booz & Company staff members are better able to access experts and IC in insidebooz.com. “Having a workable search engine has made our knowledge platform come alive,” Crowther says. “With FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint, we have better performance, higher availability, and exceptional relevance. More employees are using search now, because search is more relevant; it actually returns results that people expect to see. ”
Higher Employee Productivity
The company’s 3,300 employees are more efficient and productive with the new search capability, because they find the information they seek through much less work. “If employees cannot find what they need on insidebooz.com, they then email 20 colleagues to ask if they have good resources,” says Ilona Steffen, Global Director of Marketing at Booz & Company. “Those 20 employees then have to dig around in their hard drives and search for the information. That’s a huge productivity hit across the organization; it has pretty much been eliminated with FAST Search Server.”
Kahler and her team feel that a burden has lifted. “Previously, when an employee was looking for something, someone on our team would often have to find it for them because they couldn’t find it themselves,” she says. “I would spend hours each week locating documents. Today, 9 times out of 10, employees perform a search on insidebooz.com and find it themselves.”
Search performance has also improved, which boosts productivity. “One of the issues with the previous search engine was that performance metrics were very difficult to obtain,” Kahler says. “With FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint, we have ready access to search metrics. Within the first few months of use, insidebooz.com exceeded 12,000 search hits per month with no unscheduled downtime, which we experienced with the previous search engine.”Better Solutions for Customers
Booz & Company clients are the ultimate beneficiaries of faster, more relevant search. “Booz & Company is not in the business of cookie-cutter solutions; our solutions are tailored for each client,” Steffen says. “However, we do bring our staff up to speed on different topics by having them read the top three articles on organizational culture, for example, so that we can be smarter before having a conversation with the client. Or we might bring those top articles to a client meeting. With FAST Search Server, we are arming our employees with the best content and bringing the best solutions to the table.”
Crowther agrees. “We can respond more quickly to client demands with the best intellectual capital that our firm has. We are increasingly able to do that because we have highlighted best bet documents. The ability to do this saves us significant staff time, and that’s the most critical resource we have.”
Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 is the business collaboration platform for the Enterprise and the Internet.
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