Search Processes

Search Processes

Autumn season is here, with so many events again: the calendar is full with workshops and conferences again.

One of the sessions I am doing this season has the title “Findability in YOUR Organization”.

There is a reason why I highlighted the word “YOUR”. Each organization is unique and has a different need than the others. Therefore, each organization requires a different approach and solution. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to Search.

To be able to serve the organization’s search needs, the first things to understand is these three search processes:

  • Crawl & Index
  • Query
  • Analytics

Each process has to be configured and customized to serve the unique search needs of the organization.

Crawl & Index

The first step is to get connected to the source systems, crawl the content, process, then store the content into the search index.

There are several things to consider here:

  • Connection: In some cases, SharePoint can connect to the source system by using out-of-the-box search connectors (SharePoint, file shares, Exchange public folders, public websites, BCS). Otherwise, a custom search connector has to be added (for example, Documentum, IBM Connections, Lotus Notes, HP Trim, SalesForce, etc.).
  • Crawling: After connecting the source system, the search engine has to crawl the content. Crawling can be full, incremental or continuous. Scheduling crawls is a common challenge, see some best practices in this blog post, and this one.
  • Content Processing: The out-of-the-box content processing is responsible for extracting all the data, metadata and permission information from the content that is needed to be stored in the search index. However, you can create your custom pipeline extensions when needed.
  • Indexing: When everything is set up correctly, indexing stores the crawled and processed content, metadata, and permission information to the search index. Please consider that this process takes time, and you might experience some delay between the content changes and their reflections in the search results.

 

Query

Query processing is responsible for receiving the queries from the users, processing them and returning the proper and relevant results from the search index.

It’s important to understand, that in SharePoint, the results are always security trimmed, which means the user who initiated the search (by entering the query), gets only the results he/she has at least read access to.

The user experience has a critical role here.

 

Analytics

The 3rd process that is really important is Search Analytics. These reports give us guidance on how to improve and tune up our search. My favorite analogy is that search is like gardening:  You set up your garden, plant the trees and flowers, water them, and enjoy a beautiful first blossoming. However, the work has not ended at that point. If you do not water it regularly, if you do not prune the trees, fertilize and weed the garden, or mow the lawn, your lovely garden can rapidly turn into a barren field or a chaotic jungle.

Quality Search Analytics requires maintenance. Do it regularly, and make sure the reports get analyzed and considered for further search enhancements, and your search garden stays beautiful.


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