The International Monetary Fund (IMF) needed to make it easier for its staff to research the economic affairs of its 187 member countries so that they could make better-informed policy recommendations. To this end, the IMF implemented an enterprise search solution using Microsoft SharePoint Server and Microsoft FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint. The solution provides consolidated access to information and documents from multiple repositories. By using advanced search technology, economists can access documents and conduct research more efficiently. In addition, the IMF implemented Knowledge Exchange, a search-driven portal that enables taxonomy-driven classification and refining of core official documents. With the combined solution, the IMF has boosted employee satisfaction significantly and encouraged employees to share information more readily.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF), based in Washington, D.C., and with approximately 4,000 employees, works to foster global monetary cooperation; secure financial stability; facilitate international trade; promote employment and sustainable economic growth; and reduce poverty worldwide. The IMF comprises 187 member countries, and IMF economists regularly visit these countries to perform bilateral surveillance (appraisal of and advice on a country’s economic and financial policies) and to provide technical assistance. IMF economists prepare exhaustively for these missions, a process that requires them to search through the organization’s vast data stores to find country-specific information of all kinds.
However, the IMF staff members were challenged to perform their research efficiently. The IMF stores documents and information in multiple locations, including network file shares, departmental Microsoft SharePoint Server sites, other internal websites, and the OpenText eDOCS document management system. In eDOCS, the IMF houses documents in two primary libraries—one for works-in-progress and another in which the IMF stores and manages final versions of reports that have been drafted by economists, based on findings from their country visits. Nearly 3 million documents are stored in this system, approximately 500,000 documents are stored in SharePoint sites, 50,000 more on an IMF external website and other file shares, and 27,346,890 in network file shares. “The sheer amount of information is daunting,” says Ina Darsadze, Enterprise Information Architect at the IMF.
||Putting ‘everything the Fund knows’ at the fingertips of our employees helps us best utilize our talented staff and our unsurpassed knowledge of the global economy. Enterprise search is a vital part of that story.
Chief Information Officer, International Monetary Fund
To find the documents they needed, IMF staff members had to search each system separately. “This took time, and to complicate matters, the legacy intranet search did not allow for strong filtering mechanisms,” explains David Pomeranz, IT Deputy Division Chief at the IMF. It was difficult for employees to search under even the most basic parameters, such as by the name of the department that had authored a document, the file type of documents (for instance, a Microsoft Word document or a PDF file), or the date that a document was authored. IMF staff members often received meaningless results—for instance, documents that were extremely out of date or had no relevance to their research. Also, except for within the OpenText eDOCS library, where final reports were stored, it was difficult for the IMF staff to identify the most current version of a file because there were multiple versions of documents in these systems.
In early 2010, the IMF IT department decided to implement a new enterprise search solution that would make the lives of its staff members easier, enhance information management, and ultimately lead to better, more informed decision-making. The department conducted an employee satisfaction study as part of its proposal to secure funding for the project. “We found that employees spent a significant amount of time each day looking for information,” says Pomeranz. The department also found that the satisfaction rate with search was roughly 48 percent. Employees often abandoned searches out of frustration, and resorted to asking assistants or colleagues to find and send them the information they needed through email.
In mid-2010, the IT department received funding for its project, which was perfectly aligned with the IMF Chief Information Officer’s (CIO) strategic initiative to improve information and knowledge management throughout the organization. “It was very clear that our search tools needed to be improved,” says Jonathan Palmer, CIO at the IMF. “Busy staff members were spending too much time and effort to find the information they needed. We prioritized making it easier for people to find and use the data they need, as this would boost efficiency and improve overall results.” The objective of the project was to implement an enterprise search solution that aggregates information from multiple sources (file shares, SharePoint sites, websites, and OpenText eDOCS) and make it searchable from a single environment.
The IMF evaluated a variety of search technologies from vendors such as Google, Autonomy, Endeca, and Vivisimo. It also evaluated Microsoft FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint. “We measured the functional, technical, and business features of these systems against our criteria,” says Farah Gheriss, IT Project Manager at the IMF. “FAST Search Server 2010 measured highest in all categories, including our evaluation of each company’s technical support.”
The IMF also liked FAST Search Server 2010 because it interoperates closely with Microsoft SharePoint Server. “As part of our strategic vision for collaboration, we plan to expand our SharePoint Server environment—so again, FAST Search Server 2010 was the best fit.”
||We found that employees spent a significant amount of time each day looking for information.
IT Deputy Division Chief, International Monetary Fund
The solution also promised fast time-to-market and meshed with the broader enterprise architecture strategy at the IMF. “FAST Search Server 2010 supports our ‘buy versus build’ strategy,” explains Joshua Sampson, Solutions Architect at the IMF. “It offered many out-of-the-box features that we could extend and enhance with limited development effort. The product is based on familiar Microsoft technologies and is interoperable with key components of our infrastructure, including document management, corporate taxonomy, database technologies, and our software development environment.”
Another key advantage of using FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint was the availability of a strong network of Microsoft partners that could help with the design and implementation. The IMF chose to partner with EMC Consulting, a member of the Microsoft Partner Network with Gold competencies, and capitalized on the consultancy’s FAST Search Server expertise to develop a robust implementation.
Knowledge Exchange Portal
The IMF designed the Knowledge Exchange portal, a search-driven application that is based on FAST Search Server 2010 and built on SharePoint Server, and accessible from a SharePoint site. The IT department worked closely with each division and department at the IMF to define which types of documents would be available in the portal, how they would be categorized for search, and how user access to documents would be managed. “Many of these documents are For Official Use, so it was an important, albeit lengthy, process to get agreement from all of our departments on how these documents would be managed and viewed,” says Gheriss.
The portal home page features recently published documents, and from a sidebar menu, clickable “refiners” make it possible for employees to browse for information by country, department, document type, and topic. These refiners reflect the overarching taxonomy that the IMF created, by which all of the documents in the Knowledge Exchange portal are categorized (see Figure 1). For example, under the department heading, a user can sort by Fiscal Affairs, European, Statistics, and so on. The portal includes a topical hierarchy that enables economists to select topics of their choice—for example, Tax Policy National Accounts. The page also shows exact counts of how many documents have been located that match each refiner.
|Figure 1. IMF Knowledge Exchange portal with search|
results provided by FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint.
The site also features a search box where employees can enter keywords. FAST Search Server 2010 is capable of phonetic name-matching, so even if an employee types in an approximation of a document author’s name, the search engine returns results that sound similar to the user’s query. Search results appear in the center of the page, and the different refinement options on the left help economists refine their searches.
The IMF also engaged Applied Relevance, a provider of taxonomy management software designed to augment search engines such as FAST Search Server 2010, to ensure that employees receive highly relevant search results. Applied Relevance (AR), a Microsoft BizSpark partner, helped IMF integrate document classification rules into the SharePoint Server-managed metadata environment and automatically apply additional descriptive keywords to documents as they are indexed by FAST Search Server 2010.
The IMF uses the Applied Relevance DataFacet Service Application, which complements SharePoint Server-managed metadata services, to build tagging rules to fit its corporate taxonomy and test the rules against existing documents. For instance, the IMF can create a rule to locate documents that mention the word “Burma” within 10 words of “Republic”, but not the word “Myanmar.” This agile approach to taxonomy-building allows the IMF to preview how taxonomies will be applied in real time against real data. The rules language supports the following search parameters: required terms, excluded terms, proximity, word forms (stemming), wildcard characters, and metadata fields.
The Applied Relevance DataFacet Service Application is also called from the FAST Search Server indexing pipeline to automatically tag and enhance a document’s metadata as documents are indexed from external repositories such as OpenText eDOCS. Applied Relevance DataFacet Service can also tag documents with relevant taxonomy metadata when a user checks a document in to a SharePoint library.
||We’ve taken advantage of … FAST Search Server 2010 and enhancements provided by Applied Relevance to create a high-performance search environment.
IT Project Manager, International Monetary Fund
The IMF used technology from SeeUnity, a member of the Microsoft Partner Network with Gold competencies, to create a connection between the OpenText eDOCS system and the Applied Relevance tagging application. The connector retrieves documents from eDOCS and passes them to Applied Relevance, where they are tagged and enhanced with taxonomy metadata, and then passed to Fast Search Server 2010 to be indexed. “FAST Search Server 2010 provides a very straightforward connection for us to intercept the document at indexing time, and add descriptive metadata to match the classification rules based on the content in the document,” explains George Everitt, Founder of Applied Relevance.
Document Status, Security
To further improve search results, the IMF implemented a tool to help users identify final versions of documents—wherever they may be stored. For instance, the system assumes that if a user saves a document as a PDF file, the file may be the final version of the document. Upon saving the file, the user is prompted with a check box to mark the document’s status as final. In the indexing process, FAST Search Server 2010 identifies documents that have been marked as final and classifies them as such so that they can be easily recognized in search results.
The IMF also takes advantage of managed metadata in SharePoint Server and FAST Search Server 2010 to define and manage security levels for each document. For instance, the metadata includes information on the group to which the document’s author belongs in the organization’s Active Directory Domain Services. Group information is gathered as metadata, and as the document is indexed, it is categorized as such by FAST Search Server 2010. Documents that are deemed confidential—that is, to be viewed only by authorized users based on their membership in Active Directory groups—will still appear in search results but can only be opened by specified users. “The economist or other user can see who the author is and send a message to the author to ask for access to the document,” explains Darsadze.
The IMF created a strong foundation for enterprise search using Microsoft SharePoint Server and FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint. The new environment encourages information sharing through its ease of use, boosts efficiency, and has resulted in higher employee satisfaction.
Encourages Information Sharing
The Knowledge Exchange portal makes it so easy for employees to access information that IMF departments want to use it to make more and more of their documents available. “I thought departments might be reluctant to share, but this really wasn’t the case,” says Palmer. “A clear message from the Managing Director, encouraging staff to treat information as an institutional asset and share it more within the Fund, helped to set the scene, and everyone responded well. Now, people see how easy it is to find information in the portal, and this encourages them to share. SharePoint Server and FAST Search Server 2010 support our efforts to make information accessible. Putting ‘everything the Fund knows’ at the fingertips of our employees helps us best utilize our talented staff and our unsurpassed knowledge of the global economy. Enterprise search is a vital part of that story.”
||With SharePoint Server and FAST Search Server 2010, we have built a system that makes the economists’ jobs easier and less stressful overall.
Enterprise Information Architect Team Leader, International Monetary Fund
Departments are also confident that they can carefully manage access to their documents and information within the Knowledge Exchange portal. With access based on Active Directory group membership, managers can be sure that only authorized users are viewing documents. However, users can still see the titles to all documents and can request access to documents that may be off-limits to them. “Many of our division chiefs regularly request to expand the collection of documents that they maintain in the Knowledge Exchange portal,” says Darsadze. “This is evidence that people find the system useful and have confidence in its capabilities.”
Boosts Efficiency, User Satisfaction
Using the Knowledge Exchange portal, economists no longer have to visit multiple systems and conduct numerous searches to find information. “The Knowledge Exchange portal has become the main resource and forum for sharing and finding documents,” says Brian Christensen, Division Chief at the International Monetary Fund. “This centralization of documents has helped to increase the efficiency of sharing and retrieving documents, and, in turn, the productivity of IMF employees.”
Based on FAST Search Server 2010, the Knowledge Exchange portal makes documents from SharePoint sites and OpenText eDOCS accessible in a single environment. FAST Search Server 2010 makes it easy for users to narrow their search results to find key data. The Applied Relevance taxonomy engine enhances the environment with easy-to-use classification tools and automated application of additional metadata. Furthermore, new documents added to the environment are indexed and available by the next day. “We’ve taken advantage of robust enterprise search features from FAST Search Server 2010 and enhancements provided by Applied Relevance to create a high-performance search environment,” says Gheriss.
The IMF built the solution quickly, thanks to the interoperable nature of FAST Search Server 2010, and its many out-of-the-box features for improving search results—as mentioned above. “The close integration of FAST Search Server 2010 with SharePoint Server, as well as its ability to support third-party connectors, helped us achieve a very streamlined, efficient development experience,” says Sampson. “Using FAST Search Server 2010, we were able to implement a new enterprise search solution, as well as a platform that enables rich search-driven applications, faster than had we created a custom solution or used proprietary, difficult-to-integrate technologies.”
Since implementing the Knowledge Exchange portal, the IMF IT department has received positive feedback from employees and has found that the site sees a large amount of traffic, with an average of 3,000 visits per month. User satisfaction measurements with document search now register at 78 percent, a 30 percent improvement. “With SharePoint Server and FAST Search Server 2010, we have built a system that makes the economists’ jobs easier and less stressful overall,” says Dilek Brown, Enterprise Information Architect Team Leader at the IMF. “We are now able to provide the information they need, when they need it, in a highly organized manner.”
Provides Strong Foundation for Enterprise Search
The IMF Knowledge Exchange is relied upon as a primary search tool for documents. Employees can go to one location to search for information among multiple repositories and can easily pinpoint the specific documents they need, among millions. The FAST Search Server 2010 environment has become an invaluable enterprise search tool for the IMF. “Our economists rely on it daily to prepare for visits to member countries, and its value is recognized across the organization,” says Gheriss. The IT department provides regular reports to senior management on the health, usage, and coverage of the Knowledge Exchange portal as a tool critical to IMF business processes.
The only training that the IMF provided to employees was to instruct them on how to mark documents as final. “The environment is so intuitive that economists and other users have been able to take advantage of it with very little help from IT,” says Gheriss. Based on its initial success, the IMF plans to soon integrate the FAST Search Server 2010–based system with other content stores, such as its data warehouse, where it stores and manages structured information such as financial reports. “At the highest levels, people want to see the Knowledge Exchange portal grow. We plan to expand the corpus of documents available through the Knowledge Exchange portal,” says Gheriss.
From a development perspective, the Knowledge Exchange portal provides a strong foundation and starting point for the IMF, as it embarks on many more improvements to search in its environment. “FAST Search Server 2010 supports our goal of reusing existing investments,” says Sampson. “With the Knowledge Exchange portal, we have built a robust, search-driven application, and now we can take advantage of the FAST Search Server index to support additional applications at the IMF.” Because FAST Search Server 2010 is based on familiar Microsoft technologies and supports standard application programming interfaces (APIs), the IMF can rely on its developers’ existing Microsoft .NET Framework development skills to rapidly develop new solutions.
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