SharePoint Adoption and Search

By Daniel Antion posted 12-06-2011 19:42


 Last week, I had the privilege of being on a panel at the Gilbane Conferencewith Chris McNultydiscussing SharePoint Adoption. Our moderator, SharePoint guru Marc Andersonran the session as a conversation with the audience, and the first question we received was about augmenting SharePoint’s search features with 3rd-party products to improve adoption. The question was from a person working for a search vendor, and I think there was an ulterior motive involved, but I did respond. We have purchased an add-on for SharePoint search, but not so much to improve search. Rather, we purchased the product (BA Insight’s Longitude Search) to improve the user experience. The reason I draw that distinction, is because I really fear the other reason for investing in search tools – the thought that search can save the day when you have a poorly implemented ECM solution.

People often joke about searching for something on the web, and having Google/Bing return hundreds of thousands of results. They joke, but they don’t care because an adequate result usually lies within the first 10 or 20 suggestions. What if they are conducting that search in-house, and what if they have to review every result? I have had to do that, for an eDiscovery request, and I was much happier knowing that the relevant documents would all be “in this location”. Search does not eliminate the need for a good organizational structure for your content. Full text search doesn’t eliminate the need for appropriate metadata, and rank and relevance indicators are no substitute for subject matter experts considering the actual business value of a document.

We purchased Longitude Search because it also provides a preview of the search results, and it ranks and highlights results within documents. In other words, it helps the humans review the search results in the browser. That last bit is important. Being able to review the results in the browser is critical to our remote workers and traveling users. On the other hand, leading the user, remote or otherwise, to the right site within SharePoint, perhaps even the right library and giving them a search scope that will narrow the field helps reduce or possibly eliminate the need for review. That saves the person time, and that is a very important goal of mine. When people start to think that “it’s easy to find the document I need in SharePoint” I am winning the battle for adoption.

The picture on top is a “search tool”. I can dump one of my containers of miscellaneous nuts, bolts and bits of hardware into this, and quickly search for “the thing that I need” and then return the junk to the jar.  The picture below the search tool is where the fasteners I regularly use are stored. They are organized into categories (screws, nails, brads, etc.) and they are laid out by demand (the ones I use most often are near the top). I look at SharePoint/ECM the same way. If my entire fastener supply was in one big bin that I had to search through, I would quit woodworking. 

#SharePoint #Search #Adoption