Medtronic and the Google Search Appliance
Overview As a leader in medical technology with annual revenues of approximately $8 billion, Medtronic enables medical professionals to develop comprehensive solutions to their patients' life-limiting disorders and chronic diseases such as heart disease, neurological disorders, and vascular illnesses. Each year, 2.5 million patients benefit from their work.
In order to achieve breakthroughs, Medtronic's 30,000 employees, especially research scientists and engineers, must be aware of one another's projects by having access to important internal information such as published papers, recent medical journal abstracts, and presentations.
The Challenge Medtronic relied on disparate SQL search queries on their intranet, which comprises approximately 80,000 HTML, PDF, and Microsoft Office documents hosted on one server. The existing search method proved extremely unpopular and inflexible, allowing users to enter only one search term at a time, which returned low-quality results. Medtronic employees were growing angry and frustrated with having to look up information in separate queries, and getting irrelevant or inaccurate results in return.
The importance of linking Medtronic employees to internal information they need cannot be overstated. The technical and research staff must have access to the latest data and findings to be able to develop cutting-edge products and treatments for their customers. It became the responsibility of Nathan Ahlstrom, Principal IT Technologist in the research division at Medtronic, to provide a unified search solution for all employees.“
A new search solution had to be able to search across our entire website and handle variable length queries. I was looking for technical knowledge management that avoided duplication of work, and encouraged collaboration across the different offices and groups within the company,” recalls Ahlstrom.
“Prior to getting the Google Search Appliance, our intranet was primarily made up of a technical and medical news library, and a technical news portal. We wanted to enhance employee collaboration by developing an internal online newsletter that would focus on articles about employees and their projects, but first needed a unified way for everyone to search. The idea behind constructing the human interest articles and employee bios is to avoid the duplication of work, so people would know who and where to go to get the latest information on a topic, and be able to view employee presentations and published articles,” he says.
During this knowledge management redesign, scientists and engineers had to have access to the latest medical journal and technical news articles on the company intranet. And if key information such as new disease findings or recent technological developments is missing, they can post what they know quickly and easily.
Ahlstrom discovered the Google Search Appliance by browsing on Google's website. He knew of Google's reputation for fast, accurate web search, and wanted to know more about the product. “We have a number of researchers who do intranet and database searching, and were already familiar with Google as a great tool for web search. After reading more about the Google Search Appliance, I contacted sales and then made a purchase, because it worked well and the price and timing was right,” he explains.
Compared to other search solutions, which can take several weeks to get up and running, installing and deploying the Google Search Appliance was quick and easy, says Ahlstrom. “The crossover cable was right in the box. I just hopped on my laptop to get it running, and had it up on our network in half an hour.”
As for installation, Ahlstrom says, “The whole process only took three days. I had it in my office crawling our content for a day and a half, and then put it in a rack in our server room. There was a lot of content to go through initially, but after the test crawls, I didn't have to think about it much. Our users were already familiar with using Google, so we just added the Google logo and the search box to the top of our website and were ready to go.”
End Result Since deploying the Google Search Appliance in May 2002, Medtronic's intranet site traffic has tripled, to more than 4,300 searches per month. To further optimize search efforts, Ahlstrom installed the Keymatch and Synonyms features on the main areas of the site, the latter of which he found to be a great help with project code names. The Keymatch feature also enabled him to highlight certain listings that the company wants to promote, such as important medical journals, above the search results.
Medtronic employees are impressed with the validity and the speed of results from the Google Search Appliance. Says Ahlstrom, “It enables users to easily find the articles they are posting and avoid duplication. Since our employees finally have the capability to search their technical database, they can make sure that the intranet is up to date with the most current information.” Ahlstrom no longer hears from frustrated employees complaining about not being able to find documents since deploying the appliance. “No news is good news,” he says.
“Without a doubt,” says Ahlstrom, “the ability to take a broad view of our entire site is the most impressive thing about the Google Search Appliance. The results are phenomenal. I always laugh when I see “0.1 second” to retrieve search results. We went from almost no searching to a great search tool in just three days,” he says. “Other than adding a new subcollection now and then, it pretty much runs on its own.”
About the Google Search Appliance The Google Search Appliance is an integrated corporate search solution that extends Google's award-winning search technology to intranets and websites. The Google Search Appliance is available in three models: the GB-1001 for departments and mid-sized companies, the GB-5005 for dedicated, high-priority search services such as customer-facing websites and company-wide intranet applications, and the GB-8008 for centralized deployments supporting global business units.