Along with many others in our part of the technology industry, we’ve spent the past few months with our heads firmly buried in SharePoint 2010, getting our products compatible, and along the way getting really familiar with the wealth of new features on offer.
So as we’re now at the “been there, done that” stage with SP 2010 we thought it might be useful to share our thoughts on what the killer features are, and where to watch out for the white elephants!
This week — killer features.
There’s a lot to get the developers excited: Just do a quick Google search and you’ll come across bags of blog posts on all the great new developer features. But here we want to take a slightly different tack and focus on the features that we think will make the most difference to the end user.
Our vote goes to FAST search.
In days gone by, we used to store things electronically and search for things electronically in much the same way as we store and search in the real world. We’d store things in the appropriately labelled folder in the correct virtual “drawer” of a virtual file cabinet. When we needed to find things electronically, we’d then be relatively happy to trawl through our virtual file cabinets until we located the item we needed.
Google’s magic relies on links to pages being like votes. Given enough votes the best content for any subject becomes apparent. But you don’t get the same high level of interlinked content inside organizations so this doesn’t work as well. Hence the scenario we’ve all faced of being unable to find that document that we know is hiding somewhere.
So, going back to our virtual teenagers bedroom, if we search for “Xbox” on Google it will most likely direct us first to the console, or the controllers or maybe our current favorite game – because those are the things that are being used most (linked to most), so Google reckons they are most likely to be what we are looking for.
If we search our virtual bedroom for “Xbox” on a corporate search it is just a likely to send us to the Xbox packaging gathering dust under the bed, or the Xbox receipt stuck in a book we gave up reading six months ago. Because – well – they both say “Xbox” on them, don’t they?
FAST search for SharePoint 2010 has the potential to change this. FAST was the Norwegian company that provided the technology behind Alltheweb and Lycos (Remember them?). Acquired by Microsoft in 2008 FAST Search for SharePoint 2010 is?? the first FAST product deployed by Microsoft, and if the integration of FAST with SharePoint delivers all that it promises it should offer the end user plenty to smile about.
There are a huge number of features we could talk about, but these are the three key things we think end users will really notice:
- Findability. The main pitfall with much enterprise search to date has been that you just couldn’t find things. Meta data is key to findability in enterprise search and problems occur because many unstructured documents are stored with no Meta data giving the search engine very little to work on. FAST has the ability to automatically and quickly generate Meta data for unstructured documents which would mean that the user will be able to actually find what they’re looking for.
- Relevance. We’re all used to the sheer randomness of server search results. FAST should improve things here greatly. Not only does it have advanced linguistic capabilities, but it also offers contextual search capabilities which can tailor search results to user profiles. All this offers the promise of far more relevant search results.
- Speed. How long have we all spent looking at that little spotlight icon endlessly scanning an empty screen as we wait for our file search results to appear? In this respect FAST lives up to its name. It promises to maintain speed and performance levels on searches of 100 million documents or more which will offer a real time saving for many users.
FAST Search for SharePoint 2010 is an add-on, not part of the out-of-the-box solution, and there are those pundits who believe the OOTB search has been improved so much in SharePoint 2010 that for most deployments the investment in FAST cannot be justified. We disagree and feel that the improvements in the end user experience will result in higher usage rates and so improved productivity.
So. FAST search is definitely on the top of our list of killer features in SharePoint 2010 – what’s on top of your list?
Tags: SharePoint 2010