Tuesday, July 27, 2010

SharePoint Pillar: Search

I continue the “Pillars of SharePoint” series with an exploration of the Search feature. In my opinion, search is one of the most underappreciated and underutilized features of SharePoint. Given the proper care and attention, SharePoint Search can greatly improve productivity in an organization. Know that if you are only using SharePoint Foundation, you have limited search functionality. For a comparison of which search features are available in each edition of SharePoint 2010, refer to the editions comparison page for search.

Rather than duplicating all of the content that is available on the Microsoft product page, I want to emphasize a few that I think will make a positive impact on efficiency in an organization. By eliminating duplicate search results, adding visual cues (e.g. thumbnail previews of PowerPoint presentations) and adding filters for refining search results by various categories, Microsoft has made it much easier to find the information that you are looking for quickly. Add some of your favorite features from Bing and Google, such as “Did you mean…?” and related queries, and you have a first class search experience on your portal.

As a search administrator, you have the ability to tune the results based on reports. You may create a vocabulary that maps your business terminology to common search phrases, tweak the relevance of search results and even target certain search results for particular groups of people. An administrator may also supply “best bets” so that a particular search result always appears at the top of the list when a certain keyword is used. With the addition of FAST search, SharePoint 2010 provides a powerful search tool for connecting your people with the information and peers for which they are searching.

Monday, July 12, 2010

SharePoint Pillar: Content

In this third post on the “Pillars of SharePoint,” I will focus on the Content feature area. Note that Microsoft does not include managing web page content in this category – that is the Sites feature area. Content is about managing the business documents and information that are part of your daily business activities and decision making, plus the records that you keep for compliance reasons. SharePoint has long had document libraries for managing documents – including the ability to manage permissions and check documents in and out. Document retention policies and records management are really not new either. However, Microsoft has made improvements to the user interface to make these features more intuitive.

In working with documents, you now have the ability to select multiple documents at a time from a document library and perform certain actions on them. The fluent ribbon design on the web page works nicely with the multi-select functionality to greatly reduce the number of clicks required for manipulating documents and other information. Also, with just a few clicks you can mark a document as a record – which means that no further changes can be made to it. This is helpful for organizations with regulatory compliance requirements. Retention policies dictate when documents are allowed to be archived or disposed of.

New in SharePoint 2010 is the concept of Document Sets. Document sets allow you to group together a number of documents that belong together so they may be acted upon as if they are one. Microsoft mentions on the product feature page that this would be useful for “speeding up common processes like RFP responses.” I think it would also be useful for maintaining documents for large project teams, the annual budgeting process, the internal quoting process and so forth. By creating a document set, I can create a version or snapshot of my entire set of documents at a given time. I may also send the entire set through a workflow process for approval. What is nice about these sets, too, is that the documents may still be treated individually as well as collectively. Considering the improvements in classifying documents that we explored in a previous post, grouping those similar documents into a set will most certainly result in streamlined workflows and error reduction.