If all this is not enough, multinational organizations are now having to cope with the demands of multiple languages as they realize that just having an English-language intranet is not always the best solution. This then leads to the need to create indexes that facilitate cross-language searching. Just doing a simple look-up based on standard dictionaries is not enough. There are at least 2,000 words in the French language that have different meanings to the English word with the same spelling.
External Content Integration
Integrating content from external information services with internal information enables users to search for information from internal databases and external services using the same search terms. This is especially important with corporate information. Searching on Lucent may need to bring up documents on the relevant divisions of AT&T.
Most of the external information vendors are now providing very sophisticated index integration services, including Factiva, Moreover, and NewsEdge. Again there is a need for users to become conversant with some of the occasional oddities in the index terms used by information vendors. These tend to spring up in international versions of a typically domestic index.
Meeting User Needs
I am concerned that as intranets grow in size and complexity, the need for effective classification in content architecture, search applications, and external content integration will become exponentially important. Yet I find all too often that the level of understanding in these areas is not very high. It also needs to be appreciated that back-engineering a classification scheme once an intranet has been deployed is a very difficult exercise, and that the more effort put into specifying requirements at the outset, the better the result will be, and the lower the bill for remedial consulting services.
The key success factor, as always, is to look at the requirements and benefits from the viewpoint of users of the intranet, and not to fall in love with technology that will undoubtedly do 80% of the work that needs to be done. Success or failure depends on the remaining 20%, and that will probably always need to be carried out by professional staff with the appropriate expertise and experience. Many companies have laid off librarians and information professionals over the last few years (and probably the last few months in particular). If yours has, you would be well advised to get them back.