Operational Steps to Boosting your SharePoint Search Maturity Level

Getting the best out of a SharePoint deployment requires
meticulous planning, as well as a series of milestones and
guidelines against which the success of the SharePoint project can
be measured.  Sadalit Van Buren’s SharePoint Maturity Model
version 2.0 (

)is a good place to look for some answers.

In this model Van Buren defines Search Competancy as

“(Search is the)… ability to query indexed content and
return results that are ranked in order of relevance to the search
query. Areas of focus include scopes, display of results,
optimization, integration and connectors, and

The model then splits this into five levels of increasing
maturity. For the purposes of this article, let us focus on the
requirements for achieving what the model defines as the second
highest level of SharePoint Maturity:

“Content types and custom properties are leveraged in
Advanced Search. Results customized to specific needs, may be

In the following section, we will break this competency level
down into three key areas and examine how to achieve them using the
functionality available in standard SharePoint 2010.

Leverage Content Types and Properties

At this level, custom (and standard) content types and
properties are leveraged in a way that allows SharePoint users to
navigate to and refine their searches. This translated into massive
improvements to how rapidly they can move through a large set of
results, and find what they are looking for. These can be deployed
through the standard search page, by customising the refiner panel
in Standard SharePoint. For a walkthrough of how to do this in
standard SharePoint. Third-party solutions such as Ontolica are capable of the same
but the core value proposition remains the same: placing this
valuable information in front of the user without forcing them to
move into the realm of “advanced search”.

Customise Results to Specific Needs

Customising results to the needs of specific groups is another
important aspect. There are two major approaches to achieve this.
Firstly by adapting the look and feel of the page to better match
the needs of the users who will be spending large chunks of their
time on those pages. The second is to build pages that are
sensitive to the needs to different audiences and change and adapt
based on who is currently viewing the page.

Changing look and feel in standard SharePoint 2010 is best down
by modifying the XSL to provide users with a search interface that
matches their needs.

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The other more complex (and arguably more useful approach) is to
leverage SharePoint audiences to ensure that the various different
user-groups who access the page see refiners and filters that match
their needs. The FAST Search Center for SharePoint 2010 allows you
to do this in webpart configuration, but you can achieve something
similar by extending the standard SharePoint 2010 webparts. An
example of how to do so can be found here (


Audience scoping in this way allows for a much more streamlined
search experience where the specific knowledge-discovery needs of a
specific audience are catered to, without having overly complex
search pages, or having to deploy a great many search centers with
wildly differing configurations.

Make Results Actionable

Connecting actions to results is an important addition to an
effective search solution, as it allows users to move immediately
from finding something to taking a logical action with it. The
kinds of actions that could be included in this context vary as
widely as organisations do, but several candidates are the ability
to set up alerts on results, so that users can “follow” specific
documents as they change, as well as the ability to open the
location where that document is contained. Achieving this in
standard SharePoint 2010 requires that the result XSLT is edited to
integrate the needed functionality (here is an an explanation on
the MSDN for how to do exactly that (  http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms544191.aspx

Achieving Maturity Goals in SharePoint, the next steps

As we have seen, there are three key areas where specific
improvements will improve the maturity of a SharePoint
implementation. These can be achieved within the limitations of the
standard SharePoint functionality through a combination of
configuring webparts, editing XML and XSLTs and extending

So while the technical roadmap to achieving these goals is clear
enough, the real challenge is to discover which actual key areas
you will actually need to focus on in order to get the most benefit
for the effort and resources you put in to the project.

In our next article in the series we will be covering the
specific operational areas that organisations should focus on to
put these techniques into practice. Which metadata should you focus
on? How should you deploy Audiences and other context-awareness?
What result-page modifications should you target?

If you’d like to know more about the Ontolica solution in the
meantime, take a moment to explore the site, or get in touch with
me directly at te@surfray.com
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You
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