Since I am a search consultant, I was very happy to see that “Search” as a topic made it even to the main keynote of Microsoft Ignite. It was great seeing the enhancements added to “Modern Search” in Office 365 – however I have missed something.
Watch Satya Nadella’s Vision Keynote HERE.
Then “the” Search session Monday afternoon (a few hours after Satya Nadella’s keynote) made everything clear. The session was titled “Accelerate productivity with search and discovery in SharePoint and Office 365” by Naomi Moneypenny, Senior Product Manager and Kathrine Hammervold, Principal Program Manager.
Here are the news and announcements in details from this session:
- Multi-geo search: “Multi-Geo enables a single Office 365 tenant to span across multiple Office 365 datacenter geographies (geos), and gives customers the ability to store their Exchange and OneDrive data, at-rest, on a per-user basis, in their chosen geos.”
(Private Preview comes late this year.)
See more details here: https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/Security-Privacy-and-Compliance/Introducing-Multi-Geo-in-Office-365/ba-p/107016
- Bing for Business: Another addition to the “search experience silo“. By using Edge and Bing, people can get results from their intranet, provided by Microsoft Graph. The direction is definitely to provide consumer-like experience in the enterprise, too. (Bing for Business Private Preview will be available later this year, GA comes next year.)
Learn more here: https://blogs.bing.com/search/2017-09/finding-what-you-need-at-work-just-got-easier-with-bing-for-business
- Search in Windows: While I don’t believe Bing for Business will transform everyone using Bing as the primary search engine, there is a feature that makes much more sense imho. When a user uses search in Windows, it will provide results coming from Office 365 and OneDrive for Business soon – driven by Microsoft Graph, of course.
- Text extraction from images. Until now, we had to use 3rd party solutions to OCR images and store their texts in the search index. Now, this capability is going to be available out-of-the-box in Office 365. You can find all the receipts of sushi dinners much easier 😉
- Keywords are: personalized and behavior based search. Everything is “personalized“. Everything is “behavior based“. The goal is to “delvify” everything.
As you can see, the most important thing behind all of these announcements is Microsoft Graph. Microsoft says no less than Office 365 has “the first personalized enterprise search engine in the industry“.
Watch the Search session of Naomi Moneypenny and Kathrine Hammervold HERE.
But what’s missing?
You might ask.
Or maybe you already have the same impression what I did have attending the first day of #MSIgnite: that everything is consumer-like. Everything is about relationships. Everything is getting “delvified”.
But where is the content? Where is metadata?!
Where is the effort many organizations put into their information architecture?!
These are not reflected, and not even respected in this new, “modern” world.
You cannot make any customization on the user interface. No custom metadata to be displayed. No custom filters. We don’t even have search refiners!
Moreover, these are not even on the roadmap!
This is very disappointing, isn’t it?
The answer: The Pyramid of Search & Content
After this confusing start of Microsoft Ignite, I had a session titled “Optimizing your Content for Search and Discovery“.
Well, given the messages of the first day, maybe I should have stood on the stage saying “you don’t have to do anything, Microsoft Graph will take care of all the magic for you” 😉 (Yes, I was really considering to start my session this way.)
But this would contradict everything I’ve been communicating over the past 10+ years.
The bottom layer of this pyramid is the unstructured content. No metadata, no structure, no governance – the typical “silo” that everyone knows. “Dark data” lives here which we don’t know too much, or in many cases we don’t know anything. In many cases, discovering content is the only chance to get ideas what we have here.
And since there is no metadata, and no structure, we have to rely on our good old friend, “Everything” search. Which, as we all know, is very limited, and the relevance of results is always questionable. But, supposing that relationships stored in Microsoft Graph provide value and benefits, the modern search might really be a better option in this case.
On the top of the pyramid, however, the content is very well structured. We have good metadata, too. – These are basic requirements for having good search applications. – But since there is no way to customize the “modern” search experiences in Office 365, the only thing we can rely on is the classic search.
To improve and enhance Search, the goal is to move the content from the bottom towards the top of the pyramid, by adding more and better(!) metadata and structure.
To conclude, I still believe that the new wave of “modern search” oversimplifies the real challenges of Enterprise Search. Most probably, this consumerization of the search experience does make sense when it comes to discover new content, or even when someone wants to find something in “everything”. But I still believe that search cannot be good enough without having good content. The goal should be to keep the customization options from “classic search” and add the “modern” benefits Microsoft Graph can provide.
And not enforcing the organizations (and users!) to choose between these two.
To watch my session at Microsoft Ignite 2017, click HERE.