Verizon Solves Enterprise Search Problem In Distinct Way

Delivering quick access to competitive information can be the difference between success and failure for many corporations. Today, large companies have difficulty providing that information to employees in a simple and efficient manner. Verizon Communications Inc. took a unique approach to meeting that goal by opting for a SaaS (Software as a Service) enterprise search solution.

September 16, 2009

3 Min Read
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Delivering quick access to competitive information can be the difference between success and failure for many corporations. Today, large companies have difficulty providing that information to employees in a simple and efficient manner. Verizon Communications Inc. took a unique approach to meeting that goal by opting for a SaaS (Software as a Service) enterprise search solution.

A Dow 30 company, Verizon has a workforce of more than 235,000 and last year generated more than $97 billion in revenue. Headquartered in New York, the behemoth delivers a variety of wireline and wireless communications services to businesses and consumers. Verizon Wireless has more than 87 million customers nationwide, and Verizon's Wireline operations provide converged communications, information and entertainment services.

Daily, employees in its various business units search for competitive information found in syndicated research reports, equity reports, internal research studies and statistical databases. Ten years ago, the telecommunications giant formed the Verizon Information Research Network (VIRN), an internal team dedicated to helping employees find desired information. As the Internet dramatically expanded the volume of information available, various inefficiencies arose.

Verizon subscribes to more than 20 external data feeds. Having the VIRN team sift through all of the available information and funnel it back to employees was inefficient. Instead, the company wanted to provide employees with the means to sort the information themselves.

In fact, many employees were already doing that and making ad hoc searches. "Too many of our employees were going out to Google to search for information," said Marcia Schemper-Carlock, Manager of Client Research at Verizon. "That was a huge waste of time because they are not going to easily find business information by doing that."To address those problems, the telecommunications giant decided to look for an enterprise search system in the summer of 2006. The company found only a few possible products and conducted trials with three (she would not divulge who the vendors were).

The telco settled on Northern Light's SinglePoint solution because Verizon liked the system's indexing features and found that it did a better job of presenting relevant data to employees than the other products. Another plus was that users were able to rely on one ID to access all of the data feeds, so the company did not have to worry about password management.

A key differentiation was Northern Lights' SaaS approach to enterprise search. Few vendors now offer SaaS search solutions. The conventional wisdom has been that companies do not feel comfortable storing important corporate data off site, but Verizon took the opposite view. "We did not have the manpower to run the search system on our site," said Schemper-Carlock.

The system was up and running in early 2007 and handles tens of thousands of information requests each year. Although used by many in the firm, the portal is still making deeper inroads, averaging about 150 new clients a month. The system has not totally eliminated work for the VIRN staff; it still handles about 2,500 complex research requests a year.
Some companies are concerned about managing a SaaS system. Verizon has weekly calls with Northern Light, and the telecommunications company has found that when issues arise, the vendor addresses them quickly.

However, pricing has been an issue for Verizon. "Whenever we need customization work done, there does not seem to be any rhyme or reason to the pricing," explained Schemper-Carlock. "Sometimes it is free, but other times there is a fee - and sometimes a significant one - for the work." The company would prefer to pay a base price that includes any enhancements, but Northern Light does not seem to be moving in that direction.Despite that shortcoming, the communications company is happy with SinglePoint. In fact, Verizon determined that finding information takes one hour with the Northern Light product compared to 13 hours via Google. The company's ability to provide its employees with quick access to needed information is one reason for its ongoing success.

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