All the evidence points to enterprise search teams still being significantly under-resourced. Often only a single part-time manager is responsible for an application widely used throughout the organization every day. One solution is to set up a virtual Search Center of Excellence (SCE). This provides the appropriate level of support by having a number of people around the organization contribute their skills and experience.

Over the last few months I have been working with a global high-tech company with a European HQ but substantial business interests in the US and Asia that has decided to set up an SCE to support the change from the current enterprise search application to SharePoint 2013.

Roles and Responsibilities

Before I was engaged on the project the search team already existed as more of an informal community of practice than a formally-constituted team. The five team members came from records management, quality management, IT and two of the business units, one in Europe and the other in the US. Individually they were allocating roughly 30 percent of their time to search management. Two of the team members had a background in library and information science. Through the network of one of the team members a sixth person, based in Korea, was identified who could allocate only 10 percent of his time, but could act as a local contact for the business units in Asia.

The business case for the team was built around the seamless transition from the current search application to SP2013. The company makes extensive use of search in research and in business development so any interruption in service would be very damaging to ongoing business operations. The main responsibility for the team was to ensure that users throughout the company were fully aware of the switch in applications and the benefits that SP2013 would bring to searching a wide range of applications throughout the company.

Steering Group

We established a list of over 40 tasks that needed to be accomplished in the six months prior to launch. The team had the skills to complete the tasks but probably not enough time. It was decided to ask the company to set up a Steering Group for the search team which would be broadly representative of both IT and business departments. The primary role of the Steering Group would be to help the search team prioritize their time and if needed, take action to provide more resources on a short term basis to ensure that the launch was successful.