SharePoint 2013 entity extraction – part 1

What is your search missing?

The built-in search experience in SharePoint 2013 has greatly improved from previous versions, and companies adopting it enjoy a bag of new features (such as the visual refiners, the social search, the hover-panel with previews, to name a few). However, is your implementation of the search in SharePoint 2013 matching all your business and information needs?! Is your search solution reaching the target search KPIs? Are you wondering how you can cut down on the task of the editor, improve the search experience for your users, or reduce the time spent by your information workers finding the relevant content?

Entity Extraction in SharePoint 2013 Search  

To make your search good you need good metadata. They can be then used as a filters, boosted fields etc. Usually that means that documents need to be tagged, which may take a long time if done manually by content owners.

However, it is possible to extract some metadata from document content during index time. In SharePoint 2013 there are two ways of doing it: “Custom entity extraction” or with use of “Custom Content processing”. In this post you can learn the first way.

Custom entity extraction

SharePoint 2013 introduced a new way for entity extraction. It allows to extract entities from document based on dictionary.

The first step is, of course, preparing the dictionary. It needs to be in following format:

Key,Display form
Findwise, Findwise
FW, Findwise
Sharepoint, Sharepoint
Microsoft,Microsoft

Then you need to register that dictionary file in SharePoint – using Powershell scripts: https://technet.microsoft.com/library/jj219614.aspx

Last thing left to do is enabling entity extraction on the Managed Property it should be applied to. To get them from content of a document just edit “body” Managed Property

scr1

and select “Word Extraction – Custom 1” checkbox:

scr2

We choose that one because our dictionary was registered with – DictionaryName “Microsoft.UserDictionaries.EntityExtraction.Custom.Word.1” parameter, if you need more dictionaries then you register them using different dictionary name values and selecting the right option in Managed Property settings.

After that run “Full Crawl” for your sources.

Finally, just add the “WordCustomRefiner1” to your refiners on search result list and start using new filter:scr3

This way is really good if you are able to generate a static dictionary. Eg. you can use a list of all countries or cities you can find on the internet for location extraction. You can also extract at dictionary from your customers database or your employees list and then update it on regular basis.

However usually it’s not possible to get a full list of all entities, and they must be extracted using one of NLP algorithms, that will be described in next part.

Stay Cleaning and moving boxes for cloud

This is the seventh post in a series (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) on the challenges organisations face as they move from having online content and tools hosted firmly on their estate to renting space in the cloud.  We will help you to consider the options and guide on the steps you need to take.

Starting from our first post we have covered different aspects you need to consider as you take each step including information structure and how it is managed using Office 365 and SharePoint as a technology example.  Planning for migration.

Moving Boxes

Do not even think about moving into the cloud apartment without a proper  cleaning of the content buckets. Moving from an architected household to a rented place, taxes a structured audit. Clean out all redundant, outdated and trivial matter (ROT). The very same habit you have cleaning up the attic when moving out from your old house.

It is also a good idea to decorate and add any features to your new cloud apartment before the content furniture is there.  It means the content will fit with any new design and adapt to any extra functionality with new features like windows and doors.  This can be done by reviewing and updating your publishing templates at the same time.  This will save time in the future.

Leaning upon the information governance standards, it should be easy to address the cleaning before moving, for all content owners who have been appointed to a set of collections or habitats. Most organisations could use a content vacuum cleaner, or rather use the search facilities and metric means to deliver up to date reports on:

  1. Active / in-Active habitats
  2. No clear ownership or the owner has left the building
  3. Metadata and link quality to content and collections to be moved across to the cloud apartments.
  4. Review publishing templates and update features or design to be used in the Cloud

When all active habitats and qualified content buckets have been revisited by their set of curators and information owners. The preparation and use of moving boxes, should be applied.

All moving boxes do need proper tagging, so that any moving company will be able to sort out where about the stuff should be placed in the new house, or building. For collections, and habitats, this means using the very same set of questions stated for adding a new habitat or collection to the cloud apartment house. Who, why, where and so forth, through the use of a structured workflow and form. When this first cleaning steps have been addressed, there should be automatic metadata enhancement, aligned with the information management processes to be used in the new cloud.

With decent resource descriptions and cleaned up content through the audit (ROT), this last step will auto-tag content based upon the business rules applied for the collection or habitat. Then been loaded into the content moving truck, or loading dock. Ready to added to the cloud.

All content that neither have proper assigned information ownership, or are in such a shape that migration can’t be done should persist on the estate or be archived or purged. This means that all metadata and links to either content bucket or habitat that won’t be moved in the first instances, should at least have correct and unique uri:s, address, to this content. And in the case a bucket or habitat have been run down by a demolition firm, purged. All inter-linkage to that piece of content or collection have to be changed.

This is typically a perfect quality report, to the information owners and content editors, that they need to work through prior to actually loading the content on the content dock.

Rubbish and Weed
Finally when all rotten data, deserted habitats and unmanageable buckets have been weeded out. It is time to prepare the moving truck, sending the content into its new destination.

Our final thread will cover how will the organisation and it habitants will be able to find content in this mix of clouds, and things left behind on the old estate? Cloud Search and Enterprise Search, seamless or a nightmare?

Please join our Live Stream on YouTube the 20th November 8.30AM – 10AM Central European Time
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Placemaking, wayfinding and game rules in the Clouds

This is the sixth post in a series (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7) on the challenges organisations face as they move from having online content and tools hosted firmly on their estate to renting space in the cloud.  We will help you to consider the options and guide on the steps you need to take.

Starting from our first post we have covered different aspects you need to consider as you take each step including information structure and how it is managed using Office 365 and SharePoint as a technology example.  We will cover more about SharePoint in this post, and placemaking in the cloud.
Funky Village
In SharePoint there are a set of logic chunks. One could decompose the digital workplace into intranet sites, as departmental and organisational buckets; team sites where groups collaborate, and lastly your personal domain being the my site collection. Navigating between these, is a mix of traditional information architecture and search driven content.  When being within a such a habitat as a teamsite, it is not always obvious how to cross-link or navigate to other domains within the digital workplace hosted in Sharepoint.

One way to overcome this, is to render different forms of portals, based upon dynamic navigation. These intersections and aggregates help users to move around the maze of buckets and collections of the content. Sharepoint have very good features, and options to create search-based content delivery mechanisms.

 A metadata and search-based content model, gives us cues for the future design of the digital workplace, with connected habitats and sustainable information architecture. Where people don’t get lost, and have wayfinding means to survive everyday work practices.

This is where how you manage the content in SharePoint and Office 365 is critical.  As we said in our first post it is important you have a good information architecture combined with a good governance framework that helps you to transform your buckets of content from the estate into the cloud.  We have covered information architecture so we now move more towards how governance completes the picture for you.

There are three approaches to the governance your organisation needs to have with SharePoint and Office 365.  You don’t have to use just one.  You can combine some of each to find the right blend for your organisation.  What works best for you will depend on a number of different factors.  Among them:

  • Restricting use – stopping some features from being used e.g. SharePoint Designer
  • Encouraging best practice – guidance and training available
  • Preventing problems – checking content before it is published

Each of these approaches can support your governance strategy.  The key is to understand what you need to use.

Restricting use

You need to be clear why your organisation is using SharePoint and Office 365 and the benefits expected.  This will shape how tight or loose your governance needs to be.

Once you are clear on this, you then need to consider the strategic benefits and drawbacks such as SharePoint Designer and site collection administration rights.

Benefits

  • You control what is being used.
  • You decide who uses a feature e.g. SharePoint Designer.
  • You manage the level of autonomy each site owner has.
  • You find out why someone needs to use a feature.
  • You monitor costs for licences, users, servers, etc.
  • You measure who is using what and why for reporting.

Drawbacks

  • You stifle innovation by not allowing people to test out ideas.
  • You stop legitimate use by asking for permission to use features.
  • You prevent people being able to share knowledge how they wish to.
  • You may be unable to realise the maximum potential of SharePoint.
  • You create unnecessary administration.
  • You risk adding costs without any value to offset them with.

You need to get the balance right with governance that gives you maximum value for the effort needed managing SharePoint and Office 365.

Encourage best practice

The goal from implementing SharePoint and Office 365 is to have an environment that enables employees to publish, share, find and use information easily to help with their work.  They are confident the information is reliable and appropriate, whatever their need for it is.  People also feel comfortable using these tools rather than alternative methods like calling helpdesks or emailing other employees for help.

Encouraging best practice by giving them the opportunity to test to meet their needs is one approach to achieving this.  There are factors you need to consider that can help or hinder the success of using this approach.

Benefits

  • You inform employees of all the benefits to be gained.
  • You train people to use the right tools.
  • You design a registration process to direct people to the right tools.
  • You point employees to guidance on how to follow best practice.
  • You encourage innovation by giving everyone freedom of use.

Drawbacks

  • You can’t prevent people using different tools to those you recommend.
  • You risk confusing employees using content unsure of its integrity.
  • You can’t prevent everyone ignoring best practice when publishing.
  • You may make it difficult for people to share knowledge effectively.
  • Your governance model may be ineffective and need improving.

Getting the balance right between encouraging best practice and the level of governance to deter behaviour which can destroy the value from using SharePoint and Office 365 is critical.

Preventing problems

As well as encouraging best practice, preventing problems helps to reduce time and costs wasted on sorting out unnecessary issues.  While that is the aim of most organisations the practical realities as it is rolled out can divert plans from achieving this.

You need to get the right level of governance in place to prevent problems.  Is it encouraging innovation and keeping governance light touch?  Is it a heavier touch to prevent the ‘wrong’ behaviour and minimise risk of your brand and reputation being damaged?  How much do you want to spend preventing problems?  What does your cost/benefit analysis show?

Benefits

  • People using SharePoint and Office 365 have a great experience (especially the first time they use it).
  • Everyone is confident they can use it for what they need it for without experience problems.
  • Employees don’t waste time calling the helpdesk because many problems have been prevented.
  • Effective governance encourages early adoption and increased knowledge sharing.
  • Costs spent preventing problems are justified by increased productivity and reduced risk of errors.

Drawbacks

  • People find registering difficult and lengthy because of extra steps taken to prevent problems and don’t bother.
  • People find it too restrictive for their needs and it stifles innovation.
  • People turn to other tools (maybe not approved) to meet their needs and ask other people for help to use them.
  • Too restrictive governance prevents most beneficial use by raising the barrier too high for people to use.
  • Costs of preventing problems are higher than benefits to be gained and not justified.

You need to consider the potential benefits and drawbacks before deciding on the level of governance that is right for your organisation.

Remember, it is possible and probably desirable to have different levels of governance for each feature.  It may be lighter for personal views and opinions expressed in MyProfile and MySite but tighter for policies and formal news items in TeamSites.

That is the challenge!  You have so much flexibility to configure the tools to meet your organisation’s needs.  Don’t be afraid to test out on part of your intranet to see what effect it has and involve employees to feed back on their experience before launching it.

The way forward is to create a sustainable information architecture, that supports an information environment that is available on any platform, everywhere, anytime and on any device.  A governance  framework can show roles and responsibilities, how they fit with a strategy and plan with publishing standards as the foundation to a consistently good user experience.

Combining a governance framework and information architecture with the same scope avoids any gaps in your buckets of content being managed or not being found.  It helps you transform from your estate to the cloud successfully.

In our last concluding posts we will dive into more design oriented topics with a helping hand from findability experts and developers. Adding migration thoughts in next post. But first navigating the social graph being people centric, leaving some outstanding questions. How will the graph interoperate if your business runs several clouds, and still have buckets of content elsewhere?

Please join our Live Stream on YouTube the 20th November 8.30AM – 10AM Central European Time
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Content Governance – life cycle and reach

This is the fifth post in a series (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7 ) on the challenges organisations face as they move from having online content and tools hosted firmly on their estate to renting space in the cloud.  We will help you to consider the options and guide on the steps you need to take.

 Starting from our first post we have covered different aspects you need to consider as you take each step including information structure and how it is managed using Office 365 and SharePoint as a technology example.  We will cover governance and how content should be managed in the cloud in this post.

content buckets

Content created within a context, as either a departmental site, or team habitat has usually only reach and bearing for the local context of fellow members of staff within this unit. Other pieces of content have a coverage that stretches all parts of the business. One simple example, is the bucket of content that makes up the management system, with governing principles, strategies, policies and guidelines that describes the core processes, activities, roles and so forth within an organisation.

Yet other content, as the outcome from a project, will build a bucket of content that either lives in a new context, improves a bucket of content or feeds into yet another following project.

From an information management perspective, it is vital that you have organising principles to all your content, where all these layers have been covered. Both reach, and the life cycle to the set of content.

You need a governance framework that reaches out to every bucket of content.  This covers what is still on your estate as well as the growing amount in the cloud.  All content needs to be managed to remove risks of leakage of sensitive information and prevent people having an inconsistent user experience as they move from one bucket of content in the cloud to another content bucket still on the estate.

You need to make sure people do not see the difference between buckets of content on the estate from content buckets in the cloud.  People using your content to help with their work don’t need to know where the content is kept.  They need to find it as easily as before, preferably even easier!  Content in the cloud  should feel the same and be a natural extension to the digital environment people are already used to.  Manage it with a governance framework that covers every bucket of content and make it more easy to adopt quicker and use more often without caution or delay.

Part of your governance needs to cover publishing standards based on business needs so it is easy to access from any device e.g laptops, tablets and smartphones, and to view without unnecessary authentication levels.  This helps to create that consistent good user experience that encourages people to use your content whether the bucket is in the cloud or not.

A professional team from group HR, might work in their local teamsite, with on-going conversations, work-in-progress documents and so forth. Pieces of their content production leads to governing policies that have a global reach within the organisation, and needs to be linked from the corporate intranet spaces. with versioning and good quality to resource descriptions (meta data). This practice and professional network of HR people, do also share content on a departmental site. With links and resources, that have direct impact on their internal processes. The group of people, have outreaching triggers, and in-bound conversations. And have to balance these two states.

When it comes to temporal content buckets, like a project team site. There are several considerations one have to capture. First where will the outcome and result be stored, when the project is finished. In which context will these content pieces contribute. Second, what should be captured from all on-going conversations (social elements) and work-in-progress and drafts developed during the projects lifecycle? Should a project habitat, be searchable after closing down? Or do the habitat change status, hence all documentation stay within the collection, but the overarching state to the habitat changes? Within Sharepoint these temporal states, versions, workflow and properties. All sum up the organising principles.

If these principles haven’t been ironed out, and been described and decided. Inevitable there will be emerging ghost towns, of dead habitats and lost collections of content. With no governance or ownership whatsoever. All this will become a digital landfill.

We will cover more about SharePoint in our next post in this series. Please visit Michael Sampson‘s recent slides where he takes you through strategy, planning, governance and user adoption for collaboration!
Please join our Live Stream on YouTube the 20th November 8.30AM – 10AM Central European Time
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The Curator – how to cultivate the habitat

This is the fourth post in a series (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7) on the challenges organisations face as they move from having online content and tools hosted firmly on their estate to renting space in the cloud.  We will help you to consider the options and guide on the steps you need to take.

In the first post we set out the most common challenges you are likely to face and how you may overcome these.  In the second post we focused on how Office 365 and SharePoint can play a part in moving to the cloud.  In the third post we covered how they can help join up your organisation online using their collaboration tools and features.

In this post we will cover engagement and how sorting and categorisation of artifacts, according to a simple-to-understand and easy-to-use standard, will form the bits and parts of the curation and cultivation process.

CultivationAll document libraries should have one standard listing of all items – with two very distinct audiences: being either actors within the habitat or the people contributing, acting and joining the daily conversation; and secondly, those visitors who pass-by the habitat to collect, link and act upon the content presented within the habitats realm.

This makes it very easy for visitors to find their way around a habitat, if the visitors’ area (business lounge) is pretty much aligned to the overarching theme of the site… and all artifacts that the project team like to share wider, have been listed in a virtual bookshelf, with major versions only. The visitors’ area, has all the relevant data, presented upfront. Basically the answers to the questions set when starting the project. The visitors’ area shouldn’t be a backdrop, but rather a storefront. The content has to be of good quality. Then there should be options to engage with the inner-living-room of the habitat, and enter the messy on-going conversations, depending on access-rights. But the default setting, should always be open for unexpected “internal” (within the realm of the organisation) visitors. If the visitors’ area is compiled in a nice and easy to use manner, most visitors are just happy to pick the best-read from the bookshelf, or at least raise a questions for the team! The social construct for this is “welcoming a stranger”, since that visitor might link to your team’s content, cross-linking into his social-spaces.

The habitat’s livingroom and social conversations, will address new context-specific organising principles. A team might want to add new list-items, sort categories or introduce very local what-goes-where themes. This may be especially so when the team consists of actors who have different roles and responsibilities with regard to the overall outcome. And because of this, there may be a certain mix of tools or services in this one habitat of many, where they hang-out for project tasks.

The contextual adjustment is where the curator has to work on a cultivation process that glues the team together. The shared terminology within a group conversation, is what match their practices together. At inception, the curator picks a bouquet of on-topic terms from the controlled vocabularies. Mixing this with everyday use, and contributions from all members, this can be the fruitful and semantically-enhanced conversations with end-user generated tags or “folksonomies”. The same goes for interior design of links, tools, chosen content types and other forms of artifacts that the team will be needing to fulfill their goals and outcome.

The governance of the habitat, leans very much on the shared experiences in the group, and assigned responsibilities for stewardship and curation – where publishing standards, guidelines and training should be part of the mix.

We will cover more on governance and how content should be managed in the cloud in our next post.
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Housekeeping rules within the Habitat

This is the third post in a series (1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7) on the challenges organisations face as they move from having online content and tools hosted firmly on their estate to renting space in the cloud.  We will help you to consider the options and guide on the steps you need to take.

 In the first post we set out the most common challenges you are likely to face and how you may overcome these.  In the second post we focused on how Office 365 and SharePoint can play a part in moving to the cloud.  Here we cover how they can help join up your organisation online using their collaboration tools and features.

Habitat

When arranging the habitat, it is key to address the theme of collaboration. Since each of these themes, derives different feature settings of artifacts and services. In many cases, teamwork is situated in the context of a project. Other themes for collaboration are the line of business unit teamwork, or the more learning networks a.k.a communities of practice. I will leave these later themes for now.

Most enterprises have some project management process (i.e. PMP) that all projects do have to adhere to, with added complementary documentation, and reporting mechanisms. This is so the leadership within the organisation will be able to align resources, govern the change portfolio across different business units. Given this structure, it is very easy to depict measurable outcomes, as project documents have to be produced, regardless of what the project is supposed to contribute towards.

The construction of a habitat, or design of a joint workplace, all boils down to pragmatic steps that are aligned with the overarching project framework at hand. Answering a few simple Questions (Inverted Pyramid):

  • Who? will be participating, who will own (organisation) the outcome from the joint effort pulling together a project (dc.contributor ; dc.creator ; dc.provenance ) and reach ( dc.coverage ; dc.audience )
  • What? is the project all about, topic and theme (dc.subject ; dc.title ; dc.description, dc.type )
  • When? will this project be running, and timeline for ending the project. All temporal themes around the life of a project. (dc.date)
  • Where? will participants contribute. What goes where and why? (dc.source ; dc.format ; dc.identifier )
  • Why? usually defined in project description, setting common ground for the goals and expected outcome. ( dc.description )
  • How? defines used processes, practices and tools to create the expected outcome for the project, with links to common resources as the PMP framework, but also links to other key data-sets. Like ERP record keeping and masterdata, for project number and other measures not stored in the habitat, but still pillars to align to the overarching model. (dc.relation)

When these questions have been answered, the resource description for the habitat is set. In Sharepoint the properties bag (code) feature. During the lifespan of the on-going project, all contribution, conversations and creation of things can inherit rule-based metadata for the artifacts from the collections resource description. This reduces the burden weighing on the actors building the content, by enabling automagic metadata completion where applicable. And from the wayfinding, and findability within and between habitats, these resource descriptions will be the building blocks for a sustainable information architecture.

In our next post we will cover how to encourage employee engagement with your content.

Please join our Live Stream on YouTube the 20th November 8.30AM – 10AM Central European Time
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Wagon Trains to the Cloud

This is the first post in a series(2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) on the challenges organisations face when they move from having online content and tools hosted firmly on their estate to renting space in the cloud.  We will help you to consider the options and guide you on the steps you need to take.

In this first post we show you  the most common challenges that you are likely to face and how you may overcome these.

A fast migration path, to become tenants in a cloud apartment housing unfolds a set of business critical issues that have to be mitigated:

  • Wayfinding in a maze of content buckets and social habitats.
  • Emerging digital Ghost Towns due to lack of information governance.
  • Digital Landfills without organising principles for information and data.
  • Digital Litter with little or no governance or principles for ownership, with redundant, outdated and trivial (ROT) content.
  • With no strategy or plan, erodes any possibility to positive business outcome from moving to the clouds.

WagonTrn.jpg
WagonTrn” by Tillman at en.wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia by SreeBot. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The way forward is to settle a sustainable information architecture, that supports an information environment in constant flux. With information and data interoperable on any platform, everywhere, anytime and on any device.

You need to show how everything is managed and everyone fits together.  A governance framework can help do this.  It can show who is responsible for the intranet, what their responsibilities are and fit with the strategy and plan.  Making it available to everyone on the intranet helps their understanding of how it is managed and supports the business.

The main point is to have a governance framework and information architecture with the same scope to avoid gaps in content being managed or not being found.

Both need to be in harmony and included in any digital strategy.  This avoids competing information architectures and governance frameworks being created by different people that causes people to have inconsistent experiences not finding that they need and using alternative, less efficient, ways in future to find what they need to help with their work.

Background

Building huts, houses and villages is an emerging social construction. As humans we coordinate our common resources, tools and practices. A habitat populated by people needs housekeeping rules with available resources for cooking, cleaning, social life and so on. Routines that defines who does what task and by when in order to keep everything ok.

A framework with governing principles that set out roles and responsibilities along with standards that set out the expected level of quality and quantity of each task that everyone is engaged and complies with, is similar to how the best intranets and digital workplaces are managed.

In the early stages with a small number of habitats the rules for coordination are pretty simple, both for shared resources between the groups and pathways to connect them. The bigger a village gets, it taxes the new structures to keep things smooth. When we move ahead into mega cities with 20+ million people living close, it boils down to a general overarching plan and common infrastructures, but you also need local networked communities, in order to find feasible solutions for living together.

Like villages and mega cities there is a need for consistency that helps everyone to work and live together.  Whenever you go out you know that there are pavements to walk on, roads for driving, traffic lights that we stop at when they turn red and signs to help us show the easiest way to get to our destination.

Sustainable architecture and governance creates a consistent user experience. A well structured information architecture that is aligned with a clear governance framework sets out roles and responsibilities. Publishing standards based on business needs that supports the publishers follow them. This means wherever content is published, whether it is accredited or collaborative, it will appear to be consistent to people and located where they expect it to be.  This encourages a normal way to move through a digital environment with recognizable headings and consistently placed search and other features.

This allegori, fits like a glove when moving into large enterprise-wide shared spaces for collaboration. Whether it is cloud based, on-premises or a mix thereof. The social constructions and constraints still remain the same. As an IT-services on tap, cloud, has certainly constraints for a flexible and adjustable habitual construction to be able to host as many similar habitats as possible. But offers a key solutions to instantly move into! Tenants share the same apartment building (Sharepoint online).

When the set of habitats grow, navigation in this maze becomes a hazard for most of us. Wayfinding in a digital mega city, is extremely difficult. To a large extent, enterprises moving into collaboration suites suffer from the same stigma. Regardless if it is SharePoint, IBM Connections, Google Apps for Work, or a similar setting. It is not a discussion of which type of house to choose, but rather which architecture and plan that work in the emerging environment.

Information Architecture for Digital Habitats

If one leans upon linked-data,  linked-open-data, and emerging semantic web and web of data standards, there are a set of very simple guidelines that one should adhere to when building a Digital Village or Mega City. The 5 stars, our beacon of light!

All collections and shared spaces, should have persistent URI:s, which is the fourth star in the ladder. When it comes to the third star of non-proprietary formats it obviously becomes a bit tricky, since i.e. MS Sharepoint and MS Office like to encourage their own format to things. But if one add resource descriptions to collections and artifacts using Dublin Core elements, it will be possible to connect different types of matter. With feasible and standardised resource descriptions it will be possible to add schemas and structures, that can tell us a little bit more about the artifacts or collection thereof. Hence the option to adhere to the second star. The first star, will inside the corporate setting become key to connect different business units, areas with open licenses and with restrictions to internal use only and in some cases open for other external parties.

Linking data-sets, that is collections or habitats, with different artifacts is the fifth star. This is where it all starts to make sense, enabling a connected digital workplace. Building a city plan, with pathways, traffic signals and rules, highways, roads, neighborhoods  and infrastructural services and more. In other words, placemaking!

Placemaking is a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces. Placemaking capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential, with the intention of creating public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness, and well being.

We will cover more about how this applies to Office 365 and SharePoint in our next post.

Please join our Live Stream on YouTube the 20th November 8.30AM – 10AM Central European Time
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Customizing search in SharePoint Online

Search in SharePoint 2013 – Part 3: Customizing search in SharePoint Online

This post is the third in a series of four articles providing several best practices on how to implement and customise search in SharePoint. In the first post, we provided a brief overview of the differences in terms of search between the on-premise and cloud versions, and in the second blog post we discussed several things you should consider when migrating to the new SharePoint. In this post, we will mention several search features that can be configured in SharePoint Online, and we will be specifically referring to those available in the Enterprise Plan. If you need more information than is provided in this blogpost, feel free to visit our website or contact us!

Here is a summary of what customisations for search in SharePoint Online will be discussed:

  • Defining your own custom result sources, and hiding any that you are not using
  • Setting up hybrid search if you chose a hybrid solution
  • Defining which refiners to show and how to display them
  • Adding query suggestions that are related to your organisation
  • Adding query spelling corrections
  • Changing how the search results are displayed to show previews and additional metadata

Get ready to search ‘everything’

This is the uncustomized search box that you will see on your search center page. Please note that in some SharePoint Online plans the ‘Videos’ vertical is not available.

This is the uncustomized search box that you will see on your search center page.
Please note that in some SharePoint Online plans the ‘Videos’ vertical is not available.

Everything is the default scope when performing a search in the SharePoint search center and is returning every type of result from all of your site collections. There are a few other scopes (search verticals, or so-called Result Sources) that are included by default, People, Conversations, and Videos, and these are preconfigured to search on what you would expect.

  • You can add new result sources, say for example Reports, that shows only search results that are tagged with the keyword ‘Final Report’. You define yourself what the criteria for a result source should be.
  • If there is a result source that you are not using, say for example if you have no video content and don’t plan to have in the near future, it’s less confusing for the users if you simply not show it for now. It’s easy to add it back if you will need it in the not so foreseeable future.

If you choose a hybrid solution, your content is split between the online SharePoint and the on-premise SharePoint Server.

  • It’s possible to have one search that displays results from both locations. For example, to show results from the on-premise installation in SharePoint Online, you have to define a new result source that is able to retrieve the results from the on-premise. Then you can configure the search results page to show results from both result sources (everything from SharePoint Online plus everything from SharePoint on-premise that matches the search query).

Screenshot from the post Hybrid search by the Microsoft SharePoint Team Blog showing how results from the cloud are integrated in the search results page when the user searches from an on-premises SharePoint 2013 site. Notice also the new visual refiner for date interval in the refinement panel on the left.

Screenshot from the post Hybrid Search by the Microsoft SharePoint Team Blog showing how results from the cloud are integrated in the search results page when the user searches from an on-premises SharePoint 2013 site.
Notice also the new visual refiner for date interval in the refinement panel on the left.

Drill down into the search results

The search Refiners allow the users to drill down into the search results. There is a new type of refiner in SharePoint 2013, a visual refiner, by default used for the ‘Modified Date’.

  • The way in which the visualisation of the refiners is made has drastically changed, and you can define your own visualisation of the data if you want to. For example, what about a map as a refiner, instead of a list of city names?

By default, the refiners you will see would be the Result type (example values: Excel, Web page), Author (example values: John Doe, Jane Doe), and Modified Date (shown as a distribution of values).

  • If you edit the web part responsible for the refiners, you will be able to add other refiners as well. For example, company names are automatically extracted from your content, so it is easy to simply add that to your refiners.
  • Also, another useful refiner to show to your users is the Content Type, offering one level of detail more from the Result Type refiner.

Search guidance

Query suggestions are displayed as the user types.

Query suggestions are displayed as the user types.

As the user types a query in the search box, SharePoint is able to show Query Suggestions that help complete the query. SharePoint automatically creates a list of suggestions based on previous searches. When at least 6 search results are clicked for a specific query, that query will be added to the list of suggestions.

  • Besides the list that SharePoint creates automatically, you are able to add your own list of suggestions. This is especially useful when starting fresh with your installation, since a fresh installation will come with no query suggestions. You could help the users by adding your company name, product names or similar to the initial list of suggestions. You will also find manual adding of suggestions useful when reviewing the search logs, since these can give you a new perspective on what the users are looking for, and based on that input help guide your user to the relevant results using query suggestions.
  • You are also able to import a list of suggestions that are not intended to be shown in suggestions. Say for example that your testing team uses a specific keyword for testing content. In this case, it is very probable that the test keyword will soon appear as a suggestion for all users. To avoid this, simply add the keyword to the query suggestion exclusion list.

Similar to the query suggestions, another functionality whose purpose is to help the user in formulating the query is the Query Spelling Correction. An inclusion and exclusion list is used in this case as well, the only difference is that these are managed in the Term Store, while managing query suggestions is made by importing a plain text file.

  • You can add your own terms in the query spelling correction inclusion and exclusion lists. Probably one of the most often misspelled words is the word ‘business’. Or was it ‘bussiness’? After adding this term to the list of words to be included in the spelling suggestions, the correct form of the word would be shown under the ‘Did you mean’ functionality if the user misspells it.

Change how the search results are displayed

Screenshot from an Office Blogs post showing the hover panel for a PowerPoint document.

Screenshot from an Office Blogs post showing the hover panel for a PowerPoint document.

A final item on our list of proposed customisations for your search results is to change how the search results are displayed. In SharePoint 2013, it is the Display Templates that define how each element in the search results page is displayed. For example, there is a template for the refiner, another one for the hover panel of a PDF item, another one for the hover panel of a Word item, and so on.

  • A simple fix would be make sure that you have previews for PDF files in the hover panel. It is the Office Web Apps that power the previews for Office documents (such as Word, PowerPoint, Excel), but the preview for PDF files might not be visible for you. If so, what you can do is change the display template that is associated to the PDF result type.
  • You can also define what metadata to show for each result type. For example, for a Word document you would by default be able to see the Title, a text snippet and a URL, and in the hover panel the document preview, Last Modified date and author, as well as probably a list of the main headings from the document. However, if you have added additional metadata to your document, such as Location or Keywords, you can display these in the search results as well by modifying the right display template.

You can find more information about how to administer many of these search functionalities from this Microsoft Office page and from our search experts. Let us know how far you are in implementing SharePoint online for your organisation – we sure have a few more tips to how to configure and customize the search in SharePoint!