Coveo Search Improves Consulting Company's Operation

In early 2006, the company realized that the inherent search capabilities found with its Microsoft office productivity search system were inadequate, so Haley & Aldrich set out in search of a new option. The company looked online, solicited information from vendors and examined about a dozen different products. The selection process was becoming muddled until Parkhill went to a search conference. There, he attended a session on content search and purchased a report from CMSWatch on enterprise se

October 7, 2009

4 Min Read
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Disinterest, maybe even disdain.

Those words illustrated how employees at Haley & Aldrich, a Boston large scale construction consulting corporation, felt about the company's Intranet. While a lot of potentially helpful information was stored on it, the workers were often unable to find it. "Our search system returned tons of results, but many had no value," stated Trent Parkhill, Vice President and Director of IT Services at Haley & Aldrich. In replacing the system, the firm found more than a search system; it found a tool that fundamentally changed the company's operations.

In business for more than fifty years, Haley & Aldrich, which has about 400 employees spread out in 22 offices in the US, specializes in complex projects. It has been hired to help construct high rise office buildings and large municipal infrastructure projects, such as bridges. Because it works with complex blueprints, contracts and copies of various municipal laws and regulations, the business is data intensive. The company has about 15TB of storage now and recently has been experiencing 50%-70% annual growth.  

One challenge is that the company's content is spread out among their twenty-two offices. To complete various projects, the corporation forms teams where employees in as many as thirty offices work together. Information is stationed all over the country, and employees need quick and easy access to it.

In early 2006, the company realized that the inherent search capabilities found with its Microsoft office productivity search system were inadequate, so Haley & Aldrich set out in search of a new option. The company looked online, solicited information from vendors and examined about a dozen different products. The selection process was becoming muddled until Parkhill went to a search conference. There, he attended a session on content search and purchased a report from CMSWatch on enterprise search. Those events led the company toward Coveo Enterprise Search.Price was one attraction. "Many of the vendors seemed focused on Fortune 100 companies," explained Parkhill. They sold products that indexed small sets of data (50,000 to 100,000 documents) while Haley & Aldrich wanted to load a few million items into its system. The more documents a company indexed, the higher the price for the search system.

Customization was another item that drove up the cost. With the Coveo system, the consulting firm could tailor the system itself. With competitive products, only the vendor could do that. The end result was many of the products were in the $750,000 and up range while the Cover system cost about $120,000.

So Haley & Aldrich started a pilot program in the fall of 2006. "The search vendors all have their own secret recipes for prioritizing results," Parkhill explained. "The only way to really understand how a product will work in your company is to install it."

The Coveo solution was attractive because it supported facets. If users entered, say a three word search, a number of different potential information sources, such as Word documents, are presented next to the results. Showing the possible data sources helps users find what they need.

The company downloaded a copy of Coveo Enterprise Search and had it running in less than one day; indexing the data took another day. In a relatively short time, Haley & Aldrich had several hundred thousand documents indexed. "Traditional content management systems load documents and then force users to add meta data so employees can search for them," said Parkhill. "Users simply won't do that."Haley & Aldrich was able to quickly write some code that automated the metadata entry process. Whenever a document was indexed, its information was linked to a project and all of its financial information (who worked on it, who was client, how many hours were in a project) was tied together. The goal was to take search beyond having employees look for a certain document and help them mine the experience and knowledge present in the company.

The initial results were promising, but Parkhill faced a significant challenge: "I had no budget for the software." He went to CEO, conducted a demo, and sold him on the purchase.  Next up was a meeting with the COO, who after five minutes simply said, "Buy it."

To spur adoption, Parkhill held a series of lunchtime presentations where he demonstrated the product's features and showed how it worked. The attendees then went back to their departments and started to show their coworkers how to use the system.

Use of the system quickly sprouted.  "Every three to six months, someone approaches me with a new way to use the system," concluded Parkhill. "It has already had a dramatic impact on how we conduct our business, yet we feel like we have only scratched the surface of its capabilities."

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