Magazine article Online

Post-Processing Search Results at Teltech

Magazine article Online

Post-Processing Search Results at Teltech

Article excerpt

Ask any online searcher what they'd like to have to help them with their work,; and most likely their answer will be "More time, please." For years searchers have been battling the issue of time. "It's all in the computer, isn't it? Why do you need an hour to get my answers? All you have to do is type in a couple of keystrokes." And so on and so on.

Of course, searchers know that it takes more than that. While information professionals must allow for adequate time to plan and conduct a search, why spend an equal or greater amount of time postprocessing that search? Cleaning up the downloaded information into a presentable form, then arranging for delivery of the results is not the best use of a professional's time. Getting the search results into a client-friendly format is important, but some of the tasks involved are repetitive and predictable.

In 1995, Teltech, an information service company based in Minneapolis, began an aggressive systems project aimed at enhancing the desktop capabilities and efficiency of our research staff. We identified the post-processing of search results as an area of opportunity. Too much researcher time was being spent making information presentable and coordinating its delivery to the client. What follows is a description of Teltech's efforts to develop a solution to this universal challenge.

TELTECH RESOURCE NETWORK

Teltech Resource Network is in the business of providing business, science, and technical research services to corporate clients, both end-users and information professionals. Clients expect projects to be handled in a timely, costeffective manner. Part of our service plan is to help control our clients' research costs. That plan includes using the knowledge of everyone on our team and the efficiency of desktop solutions. Teltech works to provide its research teams with both decision-making and time-saving options.

Teltech's team of researchers needs to be able to handle a wide variety of research requests. Researchers work with hundreds of different clients each week, all with different companies, all having different expectations, and all needing their research results about eleven minutes ago. Our researchers search numerous different databases and online systems. Therefore, they need tools that work in many different situations and many different databases.

Teltech software developers know what systems possibilities exist. We decided to join forces with the researchers, who, after all, know all the steps required to edit and deliver search results. Together, we designed a development team for the project that would allow for constant testing and feedback.

SAVING TIME...AND WRISTS

Prior to this project, search results were edited in a fairly typical wordprocessing way. Researchers used lots of arrow keys and block deletes; they inserted lots of page breaks, typed addresses, added delivery information, and prepared cover pages. In spite of this timeconsuming effort, the final output looked pretty much as it did when it was downloaded from the computer.

Our development team started by talking to our searchers about their work procedures, watching them process searches, and listening for their needs. Our central goal was to devise a systems-based processing tool that would save them time. But our investigation soon uncovered another performance requirement: keystroke reduction. Researchers were not only looking for a way to save time; they also wanted to save on their wrists.

We found out that, in some cases, searchers were spending twice as much time on repetitive editing tasks as they were on actual research. We also noticed that most of their editing required intimate knowledge of the search results. Therefore, we could not simply automate the editing process. Rather, it was critical that the software solution we devised allowed our researchers to continue handling the "thinking" part of the work. …

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