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Is Your Enterprise Search Ready For AI?

Is your enterprise search ready for AI?

Thanks to Google, we all tend to take the magic of internet searches for granted. Sure, we know there are complicated algorithms working behind the scenes, filtering out the best results from the hundreds of billions of indexed web pages. But the speed and quality of response from Google makes that all seem… well… easy. 

In reality, search is a vastly complicated beast. And, thanks to the arrival of AI tools like Microsoft 365 Copilot, a lot of organisations are going to have to start taming that beast very soon. 

Why? Because Microsoft 365 Copilot offers some astounding productivity enhancements that can be sharpened to a very real competitive edge. But to use Microsoft 365 Copilot effectively, both you and it need to be able to find the right organisational knowledge at the right time. And the best way to make that happen is by optimising your enterprise search capabilities and experience. 

Microsoft’s Principles of Search 

So, what does the optimal search experience look like? Microsoft asked themselves this question when working through the maturity model for Microsoft 365. They came up with the following list of 10 guiding principles that combine to make search “magical”. 

  • Ubiquitous: Search should be available everywhere – within every app, on every device, and from every location. Users should never need to change gears to conduct the search they need. 
  • Comprehensive: Great search needs to have access to everything a user may need in order to complete their task or make their decision, regardless of that information’s source, location or ownership (subject to appropriate governance). 
  • Findability: People don’t care about search mechanics. They care about results. Great search should feel more like finding than searching – a shortcut to results rather than an extended process. 
  • Appropriate: Great search should feel like a mind reader, interpreting users’ context (role, location, current activity, etc.) as well as their query to return results that are personalised, prioritised and relevant. 
  • Governed: Great search should be governed in a way that balances the needs of users and the organisation, actively facilitating more secure and efficient content management that can be refined to deliver a more effective user experience. 
  • Refinable: Great search should deliver a selection of most likely results, while giving users the ability to filter, refine and redefine search criteria to improve accuracy according to their own judgement and insight. 
  • Actionable: Great search should include built-in mechanisms that enable users to turn results into actions (e.g. copying links, sharing findings, previewing and interacting with content, initiating or completing business processes etc.).   
  • Fast: Great search should be immediate, producing results within seconds or even before the query has been completed. 
  • Consistent: Great search should provide a reliable and consistent experience to build and maintain user trust and confidence. 
  • Obvious or invisible: Great search should either be so obvious anyone can use it, or so invisible/embedded users don’t even know it’s happening.  

Microsoft’s Search Capabilities 

That’s all well and good, but what tools do we actually have at our disposal to streamline search capabilities in Microsoft 365? 

SharePoint Search Index 

SharePoint Search Index is essentially a catalogue of content and metadata, known as crawled properties and made up of authors, titles and/or subjects. These are extracted from items (documents, URLs, etc.) on your Microsoft Tenant during a crawl – a process very similar to Googlebot’s internet indexing. 

In order to be included in SharePoint’s Search Index and Microsoft Copilot’s Semantic Index, crawled properties must be mapped to managed properties. (Find a list of SharePoint Online’s default managed properties, here.) Certain external data sources can be added to the Search Index using data connectors, extending both Microsoft Search and Microsoft 365 Copilot’s capabilities. 

Microsoft Search 

Microsoft Search uses SharePoint Search Index to help users find what they need to complete a task, or to supply Microsoft 365 Copilot’s AI with the information it needs to generate requested content.  

When both SharePoint Search Index and Microsoft Search are set up correctly, results should be quick, precise and refinable, including anything from people and files to organisational charts, sites, and answers to common questions. 

Your partner in search optimisation 

Getting the most from your content – particularly in the AI-enabled world we now live in – is about more than just having it available in your Microsoft environment. It’s also about making sure your users (and AI tools) can find what they need, when they need it – even if they don’t know exactly what they’re looking for.  

At Cloud Essentials, we’ve always been committed to helping our clients safely unlock the full potential of their organisational data. Get in touch to find out more about choosing the most beneficial cloud locations for your content, and deploying the right technology to help your users take maximum advantage of the knowledge within it.