Some reflections on SharePoint search

I’ve been working on the chapter structure of the 2nd Edition of Enterprise Search, which should be published in early 2015, and recently sent out a draft contents page to a number of search experts for comment. One of the new chapters I listed was about SharePoint 2013 search. To my surprise some of my reviewers felt that it would not be appropriate to give SharePoint special treatment with its own chapter and others encouraged me to write quite a substantial chapter. Then yesterday I was interviewed by John Mancini (the Chief Executive of AIIM) about my views on search in connection with the search micro-courses I have developed. One of his questions was why I was giving a chapter to SharePoint 2013.

I responded that there were three reasons. First I doubt that any one has yet purchased a licence for SP2013 on the basis of its search functionality and then found it had good information management and collaboration functionality. So the organisation finds itself with a search engine that it never asked for, and then has to work out what to do with it. Second this search engine works very well and may well set benchmarks for search satisfaction that have not been achieved with other corporate search applications. Finally it may work well on SharePoint repositories but using it as a general purpose search application is a challenge, as a very good briefing paper from the Real Story Group documents. For these and many other reasons SharePoint 2013 is atypical of almost any other search application and I have seen many companies struggle with getting the best out of it.

There is of course a wealth of published information on SP2013, with Amazon listing around 500 titles, but of these there are only a handful specifically on search and none of these are from Microsoft or one of the major publishing houses. It could be argued that search should be treated as just one element of SP2013 and not in isolation. However take a look at the TechNet section on search planning or the ebooks from BA-Insight There is a lot to take into consideration.

So for now I’m planning to keep the chapter on SharePoint 2013 search but will be thinking carefully about what information and advice I need to provide in what I  regard as a book on enterprise search for business managers and not IT specialists.

Martin White