A discussion of the FAST search engine which is now part of SharePoint Portal Server. We explore the business opportunities in both employee-facing and customer-facing scenarios and discuss the differences in the technology from the perspective of readers that are already familiar with SharePoint.
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A posting by Kara Swisher reveals a sneak peak at Kumo, a potential update to the Live Search experience. Part of the posting includes three sample screen shots of the beta search experience.
I want to highlight a key difference: the left-hand side of the mockups now include a FAST-like navigation experience.
The categories appear to be dynamic, and for a sample search of ‘audi s8’ we see parts, used, forum, accessories, sale, images and video.
An interesting move looming, and it highlights the opportunity for our customers. If the web-based search experience is trending in that direction, do you want to be ahead of or behind that trend?
I have a tendency to think and speak in analogies. I can’t help myself I am a story teller by nature. Sometimes my stories are in the form of anecdotes and sometimes they are pictures I draw on scraps of paper scattered around my desk. Inevitably, whatever the topic, whatever my point, I will find a way to position it within a personal experience that I believe contains a natural parallel.
Often my stories are a stretch but in general I do find the old saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ just as relevant if the picture is in fact created with words…
So here is my latest:
Over the weekend I made the mistake of losing myself in articles and web links. Before I knew it I had spent almost nine hours reading search related blogs, articles, white papers and Wikipedia posts. Needless to say, my head was full of ideas by the time I left the office Sunday night.
Thinking I would sleep on it, leaving my new knowledge to magically organize itself overnight, I went to bed. I was scheduled to give a Lunch’n’Learn to my colleagues on Monday and sincerely felt the presentation would be incredibly smooth and coherent after my brain was given a good eight hours to settle.
Not surprisingly, the ‘magic’ didn’t happen exactly as I’d hoped. I was more than informed with facts and figures. In addition to my hours of reading Sunday, I had been in attendance at the Fast Forward conference in Vegas (surely you have read my blogs?), presentations has been prepared for several client meetings over the last few weeks and I had been literally immersed in search related discussions for months.
Why then was it so difficult to deliver a succinct, efficient and powerful Lunch’n’Learn on the topic of Fast Search Monday afternoon?
The answer is simple. Because I didn’t have a plan. There was no strategy behind my presentation. No objectives were set. No success criteria established. Satisfied with a vague sense of who would attend, I didn’t take the time to review RVSPs and organize my content in a manner that would satisfy the interests and needs of my varied audience. With attendants from our technical, creative, user experience, project management and executive teams, folks had committed to the Lunch’n’Learn despite busy schedules in part because they had specific questions on the topics they expected to be covered and believed the Lunch’n’Learn would deliver the answers they wanted.
Even though I had learned so much and was very excited about the opportunity to share my knowledge, my lack of a plan resulted in a presentation without direction; yet packed full of information fragments and seemingly disconnected ideas and insights. In thinking I could jam my head full of information without giving any thought to the reasons why people had come to the Lunch’n’Learn in the first place I essentially gave a kamikaze-style presentation. I went down in flames.
The temperature in my cheeks rose steadily as quizzical looks criss-crossed my colleagues’ faces. The presentation didn’t end, the time ran out. As I packed up my laptop and slunk back to my desk I cursed myself for losing site of the plan.
How ironic that the message I evangelize to clients was completely lost on me:
Without a plan, in the absence of strategy, there is nothing more than a mess of information. A mess of information is overwhelming, it’s not helpful.
** Is my point clear? Read the previous post of my colleague, Jeff Dunmall, titled "Rendering Search Results". There he describes search results provided by the Bank of America as 'pretty nifty'. Pretty nifty indeed. One might even say, strategic. FAST technology has enabled the solution. However the solution would not be possible without the strategy behind it.
A recent post at Google illustrates how important it is to carefully render search results. It shows the result of a usability study tracking eye movement through search results, and considers different techniques to drive the best end result.
Sure, makes sense for Google, but for Enterprise Search solutions? Consider what the FAST team built for Bank of America. Do a search for routing number and look at the first search result. Based on the study from Google, this is where users spend most of their time looking.
The first result is actually a tool to look up your routing number based on state. The next result is a mini-FAQ for common routing number questions. The third result is what would normally appear first on a more conventional experience. By giving customers exactly what they are looking for precisely where their eyes start looking, BofA reduces the number of customers calling BofA for routing number information. That saves them money. From the customer's perspective, their banking site answered the question they had in less than 30 seconds.