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What is federated search?

In many workplace settings, searching for documents, files and wikis is a task that is required multiple times per day. Without the propery technology, it can be a significant proactivity inhibitor. In fact, Igloo found that 51% of employees avoid sharing documents because they can’t find them or it would take too long to do so.

Who needs federated search?

Why is finding documents such a problem? It’s because the productivity tools that modern knowledge workers use on a daily basis are becoming increasingly disparate. According to Blissfully, the average employee uses 8 SaaS apps, which means that there are 8 different places where an employee might have to look to access the knowledge, documents or files they need to get work done. This sounds like the job for something that avoids the act of repeatedly searching multiple resources every time that a knowledge worker needs to find something. In other words, they need something that searches multiple silos at the same time.

51% of employees avoid sharing documents because they can’t find them or it would take too long to do so.

Igloo State of the Digital Workplace Study 2020

It is not uncommon for the knowledge workers to require access to any of the following tools during the workday:

  • Google Drive
  • Confluence
  • Dropbox
  • Box
  • Zendesk Guide
  • Jira
  • Trello
  • Evernote

Without federated search tools, knowledge seekers could potentially have to conduct multiple searches in each of these silos and only find the required knowledge by process of elimination, which is a very time-consuming task.

A federated search definition

By definition, federated search is a term that is used to describe search tools that retrieve information from multiple sources rather than just a single source or silo. With federated search tools, knowledge seekers execute a single search query instead of conducting multiple queries in each separate resource, which can be more time consuming.

The best applications of federated search tools

As the Blissfully study so aptly found, the average employee is already inundated with SaaS tools in their productivity software toolkit. That means that it is counterproductive to just add another app that offers multi-silo search. Federated search tools work best when injected into existing tools or workflows where questions are asked and answers are given. There are two common places where these things occur: in Slack and in browser-based workflows.

Federated search in Slack

Slack, which is arguably the foundational operating system of modern companies, is the place where questions are asked and answers are given. Its the perfect platform for integrating multi-silo search functionality because so many queries organically occur in so many threads. While Slack does have its own search tools, they do not have federated functionality and only searches what is in messages instead of searching for knowledge. If anything, Slack’s native search tools only make the search process go on longer if they’re not just looking for some content in a conversation. Because of this shortcoming, Obie is designed to allow users to search for any document, file or wiki outside of Slack, across multiple silos where the most appropriate content often resides. This might include a search across Confluence, Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, Evernote or many other repositories. Obie enables federated search in Slack and is accessible in three ways:

  • Using the /obie command with any query
  • By entering any query into a Direct Message with Obie
  • Obie uses AI and NLP senses a question asked in a channels where he was invited, and has high confidence in producing a result, will execute a private query
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Obie puts federated search tools right in Slack

Browser Extension with Federated Search

Placing federated search tools into another app that occupies a browser-tab is not optimized for faster workflows. Tabs get lost amidst one of the many that are commonly left open by users. Instead, the best place to inject federated search into browser-based workflows is through an extension. The reason why a browser extension is preferable is because its minimally disruptive to common workflows. The user can simply launch the extension from the browser tray icons, producing a minimal overlay on top of the current workflow, execute the query, consume the requested information and dismiss the overlay as quickly as it came. This maintains the worker’s focus and satisfies the knowledge seeker’s need to continue along with productive work.

Why is Obie search different?

Many knowledge search tools lack federated search capability, but not Obie. Obie removes all bias from where you might store some knowledge and just gets knowledge seekers the documents, files or wikis they need to get more work done. Obie integrates deeply with its own native knowledge authoring tools as well as Google Drive, Confluence, Dropbox and many more. By injecting federated search tools directly into Slack and the browser via extension, you can get the fastest knowledge search experience.


If you’d like see federated search in action, request a demo that shows how you can search tools like Confluence, Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, Trello, Jira and many other silos, please book demo.