Bring better search to SharePoint

The more data you push into SharePoint, the greater the need for enhanced search relevance -- and there's a tool for that

You've overcome your concerns about dropping all your files into SQL. SharePoint is now your primary means of collaboration in your organization. You've invested a tremendous amount of time and money to connect your employees and their data to improve workflow. If only SharePoint's search capabilities were better. If only users weren't spending so much time searching for relevant data or the appropriate personnel in the company. If only users weren't re-creating data they already have "somewhere."

The problems with search have been an absolute failure point for many users of SharePoint 2007. The more they pushed data into SharePoint and grew their farm environment, the more they ran into the wall of search results being less relevant. Users soon began pining for the good old days of shared folders (which offered even worse search capabilities, but everyone forgets that when they are frustrated).

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Microsoft knew this was a problem and bought search expert Fast and and incorporated Fast's search features into SharePoint 2010, adding both better results relevance and results previews. Although Fast's search is a solid improvement to the SharePoint world, other companies had their own tools to improve search, first for SharePoint 2007 and then for SharePoint 2010.

One such company whose tool leverages SharePoint's strengths and slips right into place is BA Insight. When the architecture, engineering, and design firm McKinstry (which has one of the coolest home pages I've seen in years) moved to SharePoint, it liked the collaboration results. But as it grew to 1,600 people across 18 offices, it found that SharePoint was lacking in both data-search and people-search capabilities.

McKinstry chose BA Insight's Longitude Search to fix SharePoint's shortcomings. Terry Ashley, a senior business analyst for the IT group, chose Longitude Search because it didn't require custom application development, which meant McKinstry could not risk unforeseen customization costs. From a functionality standpoint, Ashley liked Longitude Search's instant preview feature with hit highlighting, so users don't have to open and look at docs to see if they are the right ones. Although Fast's search offers document thumbnail and preview capabilities, in many scenarios it can't display the previews. Longitude Search is more capable of showing previews in the scenarios where Fast falls down, McKinstry found.

Longitude Search's AptivRank technology monitors users as they search, then promotes or demotes content's relevance rankings based on the actions the user takes with that content. In a nutshell, it takes Microsoft's search-ranking algorithm and makes it more intelligent, which McKinstry also liked.

As I noted, several vendors have search tools that aim to overcome SharePoint's inherent weaknesses. Do you have a search tool you trust for your SharePoint environment? If so, please share your experience in the comments below (Add a comment).

This story, "Bring better search to SharePoint," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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