Ministry of Social Development on the look-out for search solution

The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) is in the market for a new search solution as its current tool, Google Search Appliance (GSA), will be discontinued early next year.

In a Request for Proposal issued this week, the Ministry has set out the short-term requirements for a solution for website search across its publicly available information, and federated search across its internal intranet sites. The solution must also include analytics and reporting on all search activity and search terms use, as “this helps MSD to tune search and align with language used by its staff and external users and clients.”

The clock is ticking as Google is withdrawing service and support for GSA on 31 March 2019, and the licenses held by Ministry are due to expire in January 2019. The Ministry, acknowledges it is “working to very tight timeframes”, as it is expecting to go live with the new solution to replace GSA in December 2018.

The Ministry has seven internal intranets and 13 public-facing external websites. Replacing the GSA with “like for like” functionality is described as the Minimum Viable Product (MVP), The Ministry is also interested in long-term goals such as using the search solution to improve search relevance for individuals, drive increased productivity and engagement, and “provide a 360° view of staff, processes and clients, identifying relationships and events.”

The solution can be cloud-based or on-premise, although the former is preferable as the Ministry’s IT strategy and roadmap is cloud-first (where possible).

“Modernised search using machine learning (AI) technology to support semantic analysis and natural language driven cognitive search capability is also being considered as part of the replacement solution.”

The RFP notes that while the current content footprint is “not very large”, the solution will be expected to scale to accommodate “potentially terabytes of structured and unstructured content.”

It is states that while no personally identifiable data will be indexed as part of the initial project, “the capability to deliver secure search of client data will be assessed in the contact of a strategic solution.”

Google announced it would be discontinuing GSA in early 2016 and said at the time that its engineering teams would continue to support the product by providing technical support, fixing bugs, providing security updates, and offering usability improvements, but that future feature development would be limited. The company first introduced GSA in 2002.

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