Oakville Improves with Google

Case Study

Town of Oakville Improves Online Access with An Enterprise Search Solution

The Town of Oakville in Ontario, Canada is just 30 minutes from downtown Toronto, and only an hour’s drive from Niagara Falls and the United States border. As of the 2011 Canadian Census, Oakville had 182,500 residents. It offers abundant cultural and recreational opportunities, shopping and dining as well as many trails and parks. Jewels of the city include two harbors and abundant green space.

Whether looking for business permits, nearby hiking trails or the latest minutes from an Oakville council meeting, visitors, residents and business users alike need access to relevant, up-to-date information and forms from the Oakville municipal government. In line with its goal of providing easy access to resources, Oakville delivers an increasing number of services online to internal business users and the public. In addition to its main corporate site the town operates several other websites.

On the back end, Oakville maintains diverse in-house content repositories to fuel its intranet and external websites. These include SharePoint 2010 for the intranet and public-facing online forms, custom databases housing information such as council and committee meeting information, by-laws stored in Lotus Domino and online program registration and facility availability search in Active Network Class software.

Although a search tool existed, relevancy results were disappointing to users, so search was used rarely, if at all. A new search tool became a high priority recommendation in the final report of Oakville’s 2010 web audit. The solution would have to provide relevant results across multiple websites as well as span several content repositories and file types such as PDF.

Specific goals included being able to:
  • Improve web visitors’ access to online information and services
  • Increase accuracy and relevance of the search function
  • Accelerate time to market for new search
  • Enable easy ongoing maintenance for low total cost of ownership (TCO).

Ancillary goals included promoting open and transparent government, providing opportunity for public engagement and reflecting the town’s vision to be the most livable town in Canada.

Upon extensive review, Oakville’s Website Steering Committee narrowed the choices for a new search solution to two. Based on its proven market track record, ability to search across the town’s vast variety of content repositories and websites, streamlined deployment and administration and strong ongoing technical and resource support, the committee selected the Google Search Appliance (GSA). After the initial business case was reviewed by town staff, the decision was sealed; the GSA provided the best solution for meeting the town’s list of requirements.

Working closely with Onix, Oakville installed, configured and customized the GSA to meet the town’s unique needs. Initial setup took just one day, basic implementation lasted two weeks and additional functionality and enhancements have been ongoing.

Today, the GSA searches across four websites as well as within the recreational program registration (iris) and facility availability application in Active Network Class and in bylaws files resident in Lotus Notes. Onix assisted by implementing a Lotus Notes connector as well as connecting the GSA to the iris registration system.

Since implementing the GSA, users can search across the town’s many repositories and websites transparently through a single, intuitive search box, resulting in an increase in the number of searches overall. In the first three weeks, there were a total of 18,097 searches made by town staff and the public, a marked increase compared with the previous search solution.

Search relevance has improved as well, with 1,520 users finding the right result on the first page and 75% of users finding the right result within the top three pages. A chief advantage of the GSA for Oakville has been its ease of administration. For ongoing maintenance, less than one-half of a full-time employee is required. The GSA readily met the town’s need to get a quick solution up and operational quickly.

Feedback from the town’s web visitors has been positive. And since the town wanted to continuously improve service delivery to be more efficient and effective, the GSA solution has been pivotal to helping the town achieve that goal.

Onix's involvement was essential to the success of the project, providing everything from needs assessment and project implementation to training. The firm’s configuration and customization assistance helped ensure that the GSA would provide the best return — and maintain a low ongoing cost of ownership for Oakville.

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