person looking out into the fog
PHOTO: Andrew Neel

Microsoft's approach to enterprise search has changed over time. Its previous focus on locating documents and files in monolithic enterprise repositories and intranets has switched to encompass an ecosystem of applications, platforms and components. 

As businesses increasingly moved their data from on premises to the cloud, the vision of what enterprise search also had to change. It's common for teams today to have data across a variety of repositories — including data located outside of the Microsoft ecosystem — which need to be supported and connected to, whether in the cloud or on premises. Traditionally enterprise search was all about file systems, intranets, document management systems, email and databases. But as intranets, content services, documents and more moved out to a variety of different clouds, the technology did not keep up. 

Related Article: 6 Mistakes to Avoid in Microsoft's Hybrid Search

Microsoft's New Search Vision

As a result, Microsoft turned its focus towards better understanding people and their context within the organization. 

Microsoft describes its new search vision as, "cohesive search that intelligently helps you find, discover, command and navigate." The plans including integrating “new organizational search experiences into the apps you use every day, including Bing.com and Windows, and our vision to connect across your organization's network of data.” Microsoft Search now encompasses desktop search, Cortana, SharePoint search, enterprise search connectors, Bing search for business, Teams command and search bar and mobile app(s) search. 

microsoft search
Microsoft has delivered much of the infrastructure as it builds it out in Office 365 admin user interface. A few examples of updates and releases include the enterprise bookmarks, no-query personalization based results, organizational search in Bing for business, command/search box in Office and Teams, content extraction from images/video, and more with additional releases announced. One announcement includes plans to support physical location including maps, as well the ability to add applications and answers in search results, rather than possible links.

Research by Microsoft into what employees frequently searched for on the external, consumer-facing Bing showed queries whose results could have or should have been included in intranet enterprise search results. Bing for business gives employees across a company search results within the organizational context of the business, be it an enterprise, school or organization. It uses artificial intelligence and the Microsoft Graph to tailor the search results to employees and the content within an organization.

Also, with compliance and privacy coming under increasing scrutiny, the need for ediscovery has been never been more important. The company has been rolling out updates in to its Advanced eDiscovery as well, moved into general availability this week.

Related Article: Optimizing Office 365 Search Is a Guessing Game

What to Look for Now in Microsoft Enterprise Search

With the rate of releases in the Microsoft portfolio, it can become confusing at times understanding what's available and what's promised for down the line. Below is a list of the newer enterprise search features currently available:

  • Enterprise Bookmarks: Find sites, tools, files and other results within the enterprise. These bookmarks are marked as such and shared across desktop, Office 365 and SharePoint. (These have been released for Bing for Business)
  • Personalized Results: The search engine proactively makes suggestions when you click in the search box, such as people you interact with the most and documents you were working on recently. No query is required to get suggestions. 
  • Locations: Locations helps you search and find a person, giving you information like their role within the company, who they work for, recent documents, building locations, offices and floor maps. 
  • Conversations: Contextual and relevant results from public, team and group conversations that take place in Yammer and Teams.
  • Organizational Chart: Hierarchy of a person’s place within the company and ability to navigate. 
  • Organization News Marked as “Official”: SharePoint News marked as official news on a single special site. Delivers you targeted news based on information in the graph and news from sites you follow. 
  • Unified Administration and Analytics: Admins can configure and define the search triggers, words or phrases. IT admins will also have the ability to learn from analytics on how people within the organization are using Microsoft search.