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Learning how to leverage 'the new normal' to drive adoption of enterprise search at KMWorld Connect 2021

Established in 1972, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is the nation’s largest philanthropy dedicated solely to health. It is grounded by a vision of a culture of health that provides everyone in America with fair and just opportunity for health and well-being.

When RWJF was just starting to roll out a new enterprise knowledge management function, enterprise search was part of the plan, but RWJF expected to approach it gradually. Then COVID hit, and everything changed as remote working became the norm. RWJF quickly decided to put its big-picture plan on hold and laser-focus on search which was an obvious need, given the new WFH reality.

In a presentation at KMWorld Connect 2021, Ari Kramer, knowledge management officer, RWJF, and Sara Teitelman, co-founder & principal, Ideal State, a full-service consulting firm specializing in search, shared how RWJF made the decision to pivot to concentrate on an enterprise search project and what was involved in the work.

RWJF is now firmly on the path to implementing an enterprise search experience that combines enhanced use of available in-house technology capability with targeted new supporting roles to help it continually identify and elevate the kinds of information RWJF staff most want and need. RWJF is about to rollout phase 1 of its search project to everyone in the organization and is now planning phase 2.

Kramer and Teitelman showed how RWJF has been able to drive dialogue around the importance of effective internal search capability, as well as the kinds of staff engagement, cross-departmental collaboration, and leadership support necessary for enterprise search to succeed on a long-term basis.

Initially, the enterprise search prototype project had three goals, said Kramer and Teitelman. One was to establish a strong baseline understanding of RWJF’s current and merging needs relating to internal search and discovery, two was to recommend technology to address immediate enterprise search and establish a foundation from which to guide future development, and three was to identify governance elements and supporting resources necessary for effective management maintenance and long-term improvement.

Problems that were identified early on included:

  1. Confusion about where to search
  2. Duplicate content across multiple systems
  3. Workarounds used by people to index key resources
  4. People relied upon as systems of record
  5. Difficulty in searching key systems
  6. Use of different naming conventions and standards
  7. Heavy use of G-Suite (now Google Workspace) for storage, sharing, and collaboration
  8. Difficulty identifying staff and their expertise and projects

Using enterprise search functionality available within Microsoft 365 and G-Suite, the team built light prototypes and conducted a side-by-side comparison. After deciding to go with Microsoft, the team engaged Raytion as an additional partner to support enterprise search connector development and interface design.

RWJF is now planning for phase 2 and beyond and expects to: add more RWJF systems, content, and data sources, as well as integrated text analytics to support content enrichment, continue to work with stakeholders around KM/IT governance, and leverage key search technology enhancements from Microsoft as they emerge.

In closing, Kramer and Teitelman offered some key takeaways and closing thoughts for others embarking on a similar project:

  • Establish and maintain strong alignment with organizational strategy
  • Leverage user research as a chance to connect with staff across the organization
  • Identify champions and staff in natural positions to play supporting roles for the project
  • Find the right balance between search rollout priorities and long-term objectives
  • Engage key stakeholders as much as possible in ongoing decisions and work

KMWorld Connect 2021 is going on this week, November 15-18, with workshops on Friday, November 19. On-demand replays of sessions will be available for a limited time to registered attendees and many presenters are also making their slide decks available through the conference portal. For more information, go to www.kmworld.com/conference/2021.

Access to session archives will be available on or about November 29, 2021, so be sure to check back for on-demand replays.

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