Ernst & Young LLP is a "big six" professional services firm that takes a knowledge-centric approach to delivering accounting, tax and consulting services to its clients. Our goal is to create a "connected enterprise" that facilitates knowledge sharing and work collaboration. This requires a strong commitment and culture supported by a robust technical environment. Ernst & Young has been committed to an evolving and rapidly growing knowledge sharing infrastructure for over five years and currently manages an extensive collection of intellectual property such as industry and process best practices, client deliverables, marketing collateral, professional resumes and business relevant journal articles concerning the many industries and clients it services. Content is stored in more than 400 separate Lotus Notes databases and numerous other repositories created on Windows NT file servers, Oracle databases, Folio Infobases, internal Web sites and in PC/Docs managed files. In addition, the knowledge environment is organized according to a robust taxonomy that facilitates cataloging and searching for materials of interest.

While the firm has been able to warehouse this content, accessing it was becoming an issue. Notes' capabilities to hold unstructured data and documents solved a lot of problems for Ernst & Young. However, end users had to know ahead of time which of the over 400 (and growing) knowledge sources to access in order to find relevant content. And, Notes ability to handle our rapidly growing capacity was also in question. Just two years ago, with only a few dozen knowledge sources, this would not have presented a problem, but with such a large number of choices including international repositories, it was becoming difficult for our professional staff to stay current about where to go and how to access content. The ability to continue to capitalize on our vast knowledge base was in need of a unified tool that could organize, search, retrieve and disseminate information across the various data platforms and repositories. With a lack of such tools in the marketplace, E&Y's IT staff presented end users with a two-step process. Users started out by searching a general catalog, which offered them referential or meta data about the multitude of Notes and other repositories. The meta data search would then yield a list of repositories that might hold the relevant information. In the second step, users would then have to formulate a query and execute it separately on each of the sources. For example, if the meta data search yielded five possibilities, five separate databases would have to be opened and five separate queries would have to be issued. Searches were conducted using the native query features of each database.

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