Meanwhile, Back at the Farm

By Dan Antoin posted 03-30-2011 07:51


Whenever I go to a conference like Info360, I come back with my head full of ideas, but I like to find one thing I can focus on right away. This year, that will be “Findability”. I’ll pass up the opportunity to poke fun at the fact that Office doesn’t recognize that as a word and get right to my task.

I started thinking about this after listening to Bob Larraviee’s session. At one stage of his presentation, Bob spoke about search for a few seconds, and then he focused on “findability”.  I started thinking about this critical distinction, my users don’t just want to search, they want to find what they are looking for. What does that really mean? Well, consider shopping as a metaphor, if you are lucky enough to have a local hardware store, you can walk in, hold up a key and say “I need to have two copies of this made” – done! On the other hand, if you go into Home Depot, it might actually be easier to buy a new door. Don’t get me wrong, I love big-box home improvement stores, but when I think about why I love them, I realize that I like wandering around and considering all the possibilities. That’s not the experience I want from SharePoint, I want SharePoint to greet me at the door and usher me to the exact item I came for.

Findability requires (at least) two things. First, SharePoint needs to be well organized. I should know where to look for the information I want to find. The second thing that I need is the ability to search. I have heard some search vendors suggest that search can triumph over organization but I disagree, I think you need both. Search is great when I know what I am looking for, when I know the terms or the timeframe or the content types used. For example, if I search on “nuclear power” I get almost 24 million results; I consider that to be functionally useless. If I narrow my search by specifying .ORG and .EDU domains, in the United States and include the search term ‘Technology’, I reduce the results to 1.5 million – still too many. If I add the term ‘BWR’, I get down to 129,000, still a lot, but at least the stuff on the first few pages is useful. What is even more useful though is the fact that I can zero in on Images, Video, News and Maps by clicking one of the tabs at the top. I remember how happy I was when the major search engines added these tabs. The effect of adding the tabs was to add organization to my search results.

Given that I have a large number of documents in SharePoint related to nuclear power, I can help my users by making it easy for them to find the place where we store information about ‘technology’. I can also include metadata to distinguish between, general science, BWR, PWR, non-power reactors, etc. I can include metadata to indicate the source of the information, ORGanizations, EDUcational institutions, commercial customers, etc. Next, I can give them the ability to search. In fact, SharePoint lets me define Search Scopes so I can help them constrain their searches to the areas where they will find technical information, but not insurance policies that satisfy many of the same criteria. Finally, with SharePoint 2010, my coworkers can Tag articles with their opinions about the quality, relevance, timeliness and facts that may be questionable. Now I am bringing organization, search and informed opinion together to help people find exactly what they are looking for. I hope Bob would approve.



#Search #organization #SharePoint #findability #AIIM #sharepoint #infor360