Ektron has announced that it now uses FAST Search Server for more than a search engine. It's now Ektron's answer to automating the creation of personalized content for your website.

Basic Search Just Doesn't Cut it

Although I like to avoid sounding like a broken record, I will say it one more time: the days of the traditional static website are over. Organizations are challenged with developing a web presence that is reflective of the user who is viewing it. This means several things:

  • It needs to be personalized
  • It needs to be contextual
  • It needs to always provide the most up to date information possible

When Ektron launched the 8.5 version of its customer experience management (CXM) platform, it offered new search capabilities out of the box with Microsoft Search Server, and it offered an upgrade path to Microsoft FAST Search Server. With the addition of the new search engine, you received the following capabilities:

  • suggested results/did you mean
  • faceted search
  • dynamic relevancy tuning
  • federated search

But with the right technology, you can do a lot more. And if you are one of those customers who took the FAST upgrade, then you now have a lot more capability than basic search options like those listed above.

FAST for Personalization & Page Generation

Ektron has announced that it now offers more capabilities to support a better contextual customer experience. These include:

  • Metadata driven navigation: Users are no longer tied to a static navigation, trying to figure out where the information they want lies. Instead, they can expand navigation from the search page based on metadata.
  • Automatic Topic page generation: Most of the time topic pages are created manually or generated based on a set of metadata or rules. Using FAST, Ektron now enables automatic topic page generation based on what you are searching for.
  • Tunable Relevancy Model: Search results are based on the users needs, considering where they have come from, what they have looked at, what they are searching for, etc.
  • Personalization and Recommendations: This includes functionality such as "you might like", along with related searches and more.

The key to all this new functionality is that an organization can't create rules and models for every possible combination of user needs. And user needs are different pretty much every time they come to a website anyway. What's required is an experience that seems to implicitly understand what you are trying to find or do. And this is what the FAST integration is designed to do.

You could almost do away with the standard website navigation if you used FAST search in this way. Now that's not likely to happen any time soon, but if you think about it, what better way to get the information you want quickly then to do a website search (and trust me, there are a lot of websites that could use an improved search experience).

Editor's note: Read Jennifer Mason's Enterprise Search & the Cloud: Unifying Information Across SharePoint 2010, Office 365, LOB Systems & More

Microsoft's FAST Plans

Ektron is one of the first Microsoft Partners to use FAST Search in this way, but it's not going to be the last. You can expect Microsoft to soon start talking more about its own SharePoint based CXM strategy, and it's pretty obvious from this news that FAST is a big part of that strategy.

FAST Search for Ektron comes today as a Release Candidate, with the final release planned for first quarter 2012.