Organization: Midas,Inc., www.midas.com
Vendor or Solution Proider of Choice: ISYS Search Software, www.isys-search.com
The Midas Nation
Midas is one of the world’s largest providers of automotive services, offering brake, exhaust, maintenance, tire, steering, and suspension services at nearly 2,600 franchised, licensed, and company-owned Midas shops in 19 countries—including nearly 1,800 in the U.S. and Canada. At any given time, employees, dealers, and partners need to access a wide range of company information—from warranty data, customer feedback, and sales reports to promotions and shop policies.
Keeping Communication Effective
Like most companies adjusting to the advances of digital technology, Midas’ communication system has adapted over the years. It has evolved from snail mail to fax-based and email-based systems. Finally in 2005, Midas recognized the need for a collaborative, web-based communication tool. It was then that the Midas team launched the Midas Portal, an online communication platform accessible by all Midas constituents via a web interface.
The Midas Portal was built with the intent of uniting Midas corporate headquarters with all franchisees through an online community rich with valuable business information, such as Midas news, promotion updates, sales figures, and customer feedback. The portal, which took the form of an extranet, was made accessible to Midas franchise owners, franchise employees, Midas corporate employees, and Midas’ supply-chain business partners (NAPA, CARQUEST, and Firestone). "The portal has about 7,300 users," says Dave Sommer, senior project manager of web development at Midas, Inc. "It’s our primary source of communication between all of our groups, and we have members logging on several times daily."
Creating access to Midas information sources through the extranet was one thing, but ensuring that users could log on and find exactly what they were looking for every time required another component. Realizing its portal members needed a way to search and navigate through the massive collections of company information, newsletters, promotion updates, and other information located on the portal, Midas began the quest to implement an enterprise search tool.
Finding the Perfect Search Solution
Before evaluating any search solutions, Midas first defined a set of criteria needed in a search engine. It required that the search toolbe able to index a specific set of file types, to work with proper permissions on a private website, to work in a web farm scenario, and to fit within an appropriate budget.
The Midas team looked closely at two large search vendors, as well as a few specialists and mid-size vendors. "What really surprised us is that the two large vendors, with brand recognition extending beyond the search industry, couldn’t deliver," says Sommer. "One was way too expensive, and the other simply couldn’t get up and running. In fact, the large vendors were the first two we eliminated because of their shortcomings."
After the initial elimination, dtSearch, Mondosoft, and ISYSSearch Software were left in the running. Based on Midas’ criteria, ISYS performed the best and impressed the portal development team. ISYS:web was purchased in December of 2006 and was implemented shortly thereafter.
Upon implementation, Midas found that ISYS’ indexing strength was top-notch."We have about 3,200 documents indexed, which is about 2.3 million words," says Sommer. "Updating an index takes ten to thirty seconds, at most. The original index didn’t take much longer— under a minute."
"The Midas Portal is a private website," says Sommer. "Most of the search engines we evaluated worked great on public websites, but anything that was password protected gave them too much trouble. They couldn’t get in. The only exception was ISYS." ISYS enabled Midas to set up five different types of user roles, each with its own security provisions. This was especially important due to the complicated permissions rules established by the team. For example, franchisees were granted access to only specific corporate documents. It was crucial that the permissions would be maintained with the search function.
The most important criteria for the selected search engine was that it needed to work in a web server farm scenario, where multiple servers handle requests from the same website. "Each of our web farms talks to a single web service," says Sommer. "In this environment we were able to install ISYS as its own server, giving us the ability to take down a farm, do maintenance, and bring it back up, all without affecting the search engine. The other search technologies we evaluated had trouble with this. ISYS handled it like a champ."
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From Out of the Box . .
After the Midas Portal was up and running with ISYS, Midas began to explore additional ways to configure its new search engine and to optimize its features. For example, the team used ISYS’ standard autocategorization feature from the start, then realized its potential and went further to customize the feature for optimal use within its environment.
"We let it run out of the box at first," says Sommer. "Then, we saw how cool it was and started to create our own categories and combine groups of information into categories. Since ISYS defines categories based on a document’s file path, we also tweaked the directory structure within the website so categories would pop out and make searching much easier for our users."
In addition, Midas has enabled filtering of each category so that the user experience is intuitive. "We have tons of business units, promotions, partners, and so on," says Sommer. "We allow categories to filter by each one of those. So, if a user is looking for a specific result—like, brakes supplied by [NAPA] or promotions for shocks and struts—they can do so very quickly and easily. It doesn’t take much thought and it works like a charm every time."
Midas has made the most of ISYS’ Search Trends for analyzing and measuring search patterns. By consistently monitoring the report for "searches with no results," the Midas team is able to enhance search accuracy. "Most of the time we find out that the user is looking for the right thing, but that we didn’t tag our content properly," says Sommer. "ISYS gave us a lot more functionality with its reporting tools than a lot of the other vendors we evaluated. Most other reports consisted of the number of indexed documents and how long it took to index them, which isn’t very useful information on an ongoing basis."
Taking advantage of ISYS’ web-based administration counci lallows Midas to maintain its portal from virtually anywhere. "It’s great," saysSommer. "My team isn’t limited to one specific location to make changes. If I’m on the road, I can make any necessary tweaks, or easily instruct one of my team members to do so from their own machine. This affords us so much flexibility."
ISYS has also helped to affect Midas’ bottom line. Midas headquarters houses a business support group, which fields calls from franchisees. In previous years, the call lines experienced heavy traffic. Now,with ISYS supplying search functionality to the Midas Portal, all of the information that is typically requested by franchisees is readily available online. The business support group fields significantly fewer calls, enabling more productivity on both sides of the line. "If our franchisees are ever looking for something, it’s typically on the portal," says Sommer. "They don’t have to call, or possibly wait on hold anymore. And it helps to level the playing field because everyone has access to the same information."
Moving forward, Midas plans to install ISYS for use on the company’s internal intranet. The intranet currently contains HR documents, internal training information, announcements, and other pertinent employee information.
"We’ve been thoroughly impressed with ISYS," says Sommer."It works well in our environment, met all of our criteria, and enabled us to go beyond its standard features to become a customized component of our daily business activities."
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About the Author
IAN DAVIES (firstname.lastname@example.org) is ISYS Search Software’s founder and managing director. He guides the company’s overall direction and serves as its chief technology expert. Widely regarded for his vision and dedication to developing high-value software, he has been the linchpin to the company’s success since its inception in 1988. Ian designed the original ISYS text-retrieval system after recognizing a market opportunity for search engine technology. The technology, now in its eighth generation, has won numerous awards and has been deployed by a blue-chip list of clients that includes high-profile businesses and organizations in government, legal, lawenforcement, recruitment, IT, and more.