Tuesday, November 14, 2006

SharePoint 2007 Update - Enterprise Search Rocks!!

So, we are now less than a month away from going live on our SharePoint 2007 portal. Practice, Office, Admin Department, Client, Matter and personalized home pages are almost finished. We are using audiences and content targeting to deliver webparts and data on everyone's home page. We have ported over the CMS.Net reporting, so we have a decent amount of financial reports available and our firm directory is coming along nicely. Our content administrators are getting trained to start publishing content to their respective pages (we have content admins for virtually every page on the site) and our beta group is gearing up for testing within a week or two.

You've likely seen my previous posts on Windows Workflow Foundation (WWF), which has been a huge boon for us, now let me introduce you to the next new feature of SharePoint 2007 which I think is reason enough to make the switch, the new Enterprise Search engine.

Previously, the enterprise search in SharePoint had some limitations as far as how much data it would handle (scalability) and how well it actually found the stuff you searched for (relevance). Microsoft addressed this issue in spades with the 2007 release, so much so, that they are actually breaking out search as its own SKU in the event an organization hasn't already licensed SharePoint and would like to buy it separately.

With the help of XMLAW's web part for Enterprise Search within WorkSite, we pointed the SharePoint 2007 Enterprise Search engine at our DMS and let it rip. With almost 3 million documents firmwide, it didn't happen overnight, but soon we had access to all our documents via the search engine. Most search results come back in under 1 second, with more complex searches taking less than 3 seconds. We can also search WorkSite profile data, the search terms are highlighted in the search results and relevancy has been fantastic. Initial testing by our lawyers has produced rave reviews and we're actually rolling out a 'search site' with access to just the DMS prior to our firmwide portal release. This will help introduce the portal in an easy way and begin providing the lawyers a feature they have been longing for, fast searching on the DM.

The Enterprise Search engine with SharePoint 2007 can do lot's more than just search documents in your DMS. Using the BDC (Business Data Catalog), we're able to point this search engine at any database we want to. So, for example, if a lawyer wants to know how much time has been entered by x lawyers, to y client over z time frame, we can give them interface into this via SharePoint. While not as feature rich out of the box as something like Recommind or Autonomy, it can likely do 70%-80% of what those systems can offer at a fraction of the cost. So, for those of you looking to make an investment in an enterprise search tool in 2007, you should really take a long look at SharePoint Enterprise Search before moving on to other high priced options in the marketplace.

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