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Information finding and search in intranets and EXPs

Information finding and search in intranets and EXPs

Information finding and search in intranets and EXPs

In our latest Intranets and Employee Experience Platforms report we evaluated leading digital products against eight scenarios. The fifth of these real-world business scenarios is ‘information finding and search’. 

What we explored 

Finding information can be a challenge for users, not only within intranets but across the broader digital workplace. We wanted to see how the products approached findability and ease of information seeking. Some platforms support enterprise-wide search and we welcomed any demonstrations that went beyond the intranet. We wanted to see: 

  • What the search service and experience was like on the platform. 
  • How admins could influence results, such as through promoted results or topic tagging. 
  • Whether the search would federate content from some or all integrated systems. 
  • What the people search experience was like. 

Note that we don’t dictate a long list of specific features, but instead consider common employee needs. We then ask the vendors to demonstrate how they would address the scenario in whatever way they see as the best approach.  

What we found 

Whenever we speak with clients’ employees, the search always comes up as an area needing improvement. Often this isn’t associated with the technology behind the search, but sometimes platform decisions do make an impact – such as those products that are still missing simple features like search refiners. These vendors tend to argue that their search technology will automatically present the right result to people, but given search issues are usually associated with content problems, we are sceptical of this response. Features like fuzzy and partial matching would be welcome additions here, particularly where controls aren’t in end users’ hands to refine results. 

Search management tools, like promoted results / best bets, can give administrators greater control over search results to help present the right things to employees. However, the extent and effectiveness of these tools really varies or are missing altogether from products we’ve seen. On the flip side, MangoApps provides a good search experience for end users and admins alike, with a feedback feature that includes good analytics to help admins tweak the experience for people. MangoApps and a handful of other vendors have started to introduce AI features into search. These present likely results or even consolidate likely answers from across the platform. Some, like Workgrid, even consolidate answers from multiple systems. AI in search is in its early days but our initial findings look promising. 

The people search experience is generally good across the products we’ve seen, with most allowing for any profile field to be searched. Some profile pages are more attractive than others though, with equally hit-and-miss org charts (with some products missing org charts altogether). Some products will allow employees to update their own profile fields and others, like LiveTiles, go one step further to encourage people to update their profile with helpful prompts and completion rates based on configurable settings. 

How SharePoint and Viva fared in this scenario 

Microsoft Search provides the search experience across M365 applications and is very powerful. Content across the Microsoft ecosystem is indexed and federating into other business systems is possible with some development work. There are sophisticated search management tools, including metadata and ‘bookmarks’ (promoted results), which are likely to need IT to administer. A new ‘Q&A’ feature intelligently presents likely answers to people. People search is good for individual results (a nice contact card and smart spelling correction). We expect to see this area progress significantly as Microsoft’s Copilot product evolves. 

SharePoint includes powerful settings for admins to deliver a strong search experience for employees. 

Overall, this is how the products scored in this scenario: 

ProductInformation finding and search
Appspace Intranet
Involv Intranet
LiveTiles Intranet
Oak Engage
Powell Intranet
SP Online & Viva
Staffbase Intranet

For more information on this topic and other scenarios, download our comprehensive free intranet review report today. Get the insights you need to make informed decisions and improve your internal communications strategy.

Suzie Robinson

I've always worked with intranets, and have practical experience with all aspects of intranet management, including research, implementation, governance, and strategy. My roots are in internal communication and I focus on employee experience and engagement.

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