Office 14 and improved search in SharePoint

February 17, 2009 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Online Learning, SharePoint, Twynham School 

Whenever I speak to Twynham’s Network Manager Dave Coleman about our development of SharePoint we often get on to the topic of our move from SharePoint 2003 to SharePoint 2007. This was the point at which we could both genuinely see the creation of a powerful, robust and flexible Learning Platform through SharePoint. We were asked a more interesting question at BETT by a colleague from a different school who wondered, ‘what was the key change from 2003 to 2007?’ At this point Dave and I agree on our top 5 but not our number 1 change.

For me the most fundamental improvement in SharePoint 2007 was navigation and in particular hierarchy. SharePoint 2003 was flat which made the creation of our Revision Gateway (I will cover this topic tomorrow) a nightmare. We wanted a homepage with sub sites but this was not possible and so we had to manually link all the sites together. SharePoint 2007 was a massive leap forward in this area with a more ‘web like’ experience which as a result was more intuitive for our students. When you ask Dave about the change to SharePoint 2007 he disagrees and sees the emergence of search as the liberating influence. The ability to search from one site to the whole of SharePoint and from titles to the content of documents was indeed a real step forward in SharePoint 2007. My concern is that search never really gives me an experience as powerful as on the web and I sometimes find it is stumped by my query.

The good news from Microsoft is they have planned major improvements in search for Office 14. Having acquired enterprise developer FAST search last year they announced integration will arrive in the next version of Office. Bringing together such a widely used platform as SharePoint with high end search functionality can only make Microsoft’s next offering a significant step forward. Whilst the main driver for Microsoft is business efficiency and therefore potential cost savings in the enterprise market the gains will extend beyond this. For educationalists efficiency will undoubtedly play a part but I am sure that the major gain as a result will be the overall end user experience. In the education market user adoption and rich content are king but buy in is not mandatory as it is in business. Students and staff being able to find what they need when they need it will undoubtedly ensure they keep coming back for more content more often.

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