Why do some people say search in SharePoint is boring? I’d argue that it’s the opposite—when search is working well for your end users, it frees up your day for more interesting things, because you’re not dealing with angry users.
The Stress of DIALOG
And don’t tell them this, of course, but users have it easy now. In that far-off land called “Before The Internet Existed,” I would fire up my computer and enter a magical and highly expensive realm called DIALOG, where time spent searching in a patent or scientific or medical database was measured in dollars per minute.
That office chair of mine was a mini-pressure cooker as I racked up the minutes (and hundreds of dollars spent), typing in keywords and refining them. The thing was, we weren’t looking for huge results. We were looking for small sets of results. The smaller the better.
Which, really, is the key to good search. Targeted results that are accurate, not a buckshot spray of useless items that must be sorted through and evaluated.
But still, no crowds are exactly beating down the door to learn about search in SharePoint.
We take it for granted. Or we assume (or hope) it’s just good enough right now.
“Oslo” is FAST
Which brings me to Microsoft’s “Oslo” offering.
When I saw it demoed at Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2014, I have to admit I didn’t even note the word “search” or register its use.
What registered was the visual aspect of the demo and the notion that you could find things by cutting across previously impermeable boundaries. That Holy Grail—finally being so organized that you could put your hands on every little scrap of text or conversation or image you need—was what I saw.
Later, though, learning it had been created by Microsoft’s FAST team (FAST was a real-time search and BI solution provider from Norway, acquired by Microsoft in 2008) I realized that search had finally been made sexy. Because it had been made visual. And useful.
“Oslo” relies on the Office Graph technology, which involves machine learning applied to a data layer of content and “signals,” that is user interactions and user behavior. Office Graph builds on Yammer’s concept of the Enterprise Graph, which mapped relationships between people and information.
Finally, you can find content without even searching for it. What a concept. It gives one hope for the future.
SharePoint Search Matters
But you’re not on Office 365, at least not entirely. And you’re not looking to wait until “Oslo” is released under its final name near the end of the year. And you know what, it’s fun and sexy but it’s not for you. Right now.
Search is a lot harder than what “Oslo” demonstrates. Even a simple glance at the Microsoft article “Overview of search in SharePoint Server 2013” reveals article after article that you need to read to understand where you need to be to even get started in search.
The search tools provided with SharePoint 2013 work well, but even they must be set up and administered. If you work in a large enterprise, you’ll find even more complexity that needs to be dealt with, from indexing content from SharePoint and other repositories it touches, to the need to normalize and enrich content for the search algorithms to more efficiently deal with disparate items, to giving users with different needs and circumstances a good search experience.
But anyone in SharePoint will tell you—if people can’t find what they need in SharePoint, productivity suffers. So search is a necessity. And you ignore it at your peril.
Here’s a resource you might want to bookmark: Matt McDermott’s blog on search in SharePoint. He’s presented at IT/DevConnections and explains things very well. (If he can teach a dog how to turn on and off a lightswitch, he can teach you search.)
Where are you with search in SharePoint? Are you hoping for the best, or looking to learn more? What do you think of “Oslo”?