Make Federation a Part of Your Single Pane of Glass

Single pane search

I have been in the enterprise search market for over a decade and have had the fortune of working with many visionary companies. For too long, many have considered enterprise search to be too complex, which has resulted in organizations staying away from solving a business-critical problem for the team members. At BA Insight, we say hogwash! We say enterprise search is a lot easier than consulting companies, systems integrators, so called “strategists”, and even analysts make it out to be. With our software-driven, modular architecture, we make it easy. Our customers are up in running in weeks to months, not years.

Enterprise search is no longer a challenging undertaking.

In this blog, I discuss how we have solved the federated search problem to make it easier for IT and still provide an amazing, internet-like experience for your teams.

It’s quick and simple.

The traditional enterprise search definition of a “single pane of glass” was a single, integrated index, based on an array of enterprise systems. Now you can and should do more.

In addition to integrated content, you should include federated content in your unified view. For example, if you use Elastic, Solr, or Azure Search, leverage the existing index and include its results into your search experience.

Elastic and Azure Search can scale to billions of records, so why recrawl a billion items when you don’t have to?  It does not make sense.

It is important to be strategic. You should still integrate content like OneDrive and other unstructured content because of limited availability of metadata.

But again, start thinking of your unified view as a combination of multiple indexes. This improved unified view will dramatically improve the search experience. Employees will now have a complete view of information, improving productivity and decision-making.

With advances in AI, machine learning, and relevancy leveling (see Sean Coleman’s blog on “Search Orchestration: A Deep Dive”), federation often makes the most sense. Here’s why:

  • It’s simple (compared to search integration).
  • Less infrastructure headaches.
  • Less ongoing support headaches (The IT Department loves that!).
  • And, you go live quickly, instantly adding value (you don’t wait six months for crawling to complete).

Let’s look at some real-world examples from some of our visionary customers on when you should use a federation approach:

An international professional services company with six regional SharePoint farms. Due to data residency regulations, the firm cannot legally have a unified index of all six farms. With the power of federation, the company now combines all farm search results under a “single pane of glass.”  Having a global view improves their decision-making.

A multinational pharmaceutical company has over 100 million research-related documents in Box. If, and this is a big if, everything goes according to plan using an integrated approach, it could take six months to index 100 million records. That’s right, six months. Can you afford to wait that long? They couldn’t, so they leveraged federation.

By using federation, decision-making during the process for bringing a new drug market improved. R&D now has a holistic view of all available information, including external web content (Bing, Google) and subscription-based medical databases. Improving this process reduced mistakes and became a competitive advantage.

A publicly traded energy company with 10’s of millions of oil well maintenance records in SharePoint. Related oil lease information is in an Azure index because of the need to leverage geospatial data (longitude and latitude for plotting on a map).

With the power of federation and a next generation single pane of glass like BA Insight’s SmartHub, the organization now gets a holistic view of everything about a particular well, leading to improved decision-making and less down time.

An international law firm with 80 million records (contracts, pleadings, etc.) in iManage. For legal research, they leverage a subscription-based service from LexisNexis.

By federating LexisNexis case research with years of attorney work product stored in iManage, lawyers can quickly update and repurpose content, based on new legal precedent. Thus, they are leveraging the firm’s existing intellectual property as opposed to the wasteful process of reinventing the wheel when you are forced to create content from scratch.

Today’s firms face tremendous competitive pressure.  Improving business process and increasing productivity really got the senior partner’s attention!

These are just a few business examples of why you should consider thinking differently when it comes to your enterprise search strategy.

Federate and integrate. The better (way) “single pane of glass”.

I plan to continue my 2020 trend by shaking things about it. My goal is to provoke thought and a conversation. In my next blog, I will discuss why your team doesn’t need to leave the applications they are working in to go to a search center.  Instead, search should be brought to them – right in the applications they spend most of their day in.