7 Essential Tips for Mastering SharePoint Search and Discovery

Posted by Dan St. Hilaire  /  May 10, 2024  /  Microsoft 365, SharePoint   —   No Comments ↓

7 Essential Tips for Mastering SharePoint Search and Discovery

SharePoint provides robust search and discovery capabilities that enable users to swiftly find and access relevant information across the vast array of content stored in the Microsoft 365 ecosystem. However, to truly make the most of these powerful features, it is crucial to provide comprehensive and effective training that empowers users to utilize SharePoint's search functionality to its full potential.

In this blog post, we will explore seven essential training tips to improve user proficiency with search and discovery in SharePoint dramatically. Mastering these techniques will be extremely valuable for streamlining information retrieval and boosting productivity. While focused on SharePoint, these tips are also widely applicable to optimizing search operations across the entire Microsoft 365 suite of applications.

1. Emphasize Search Fundamentals

Start by laying a strong foundation by emphasizing the importance of search fundamentals during training sessions. While basic keyword searches may suffice for simple queries, many users are unaware of the advanced search techniques that can elevate their results to new heights. Take the time to thoroughly educate your users on leveraging Boolean operators like AND, OR, NOT to construct precise search strings. Demonstrate the power of wildcards to broaden queries and find word variations. Additionally, dive into the array of advanced search filters available for narrowing results by properties like file type, author, modification date, and much more. By arming your users with this fundamental knowledge, they will gain the ability to craft highly targeted search queries that retrieve accurate, relevant results – saving considerable time and effort.

2. Highlight Metadata and Taxonomy

SharePoint empowers users to classify and organize content through robust metadata and taxonomy capabilities. Metadata encompasses properties like document type, author, department, keywords, and more - providing valuable context about files. Taxonomy, on the other hand, refers to the hierarchical classification system used to categorize content.

During training, underscore the pivotal role metadata plays in enhancing searchability and discoverability of content. Guide users through adding comprehensive metadata when creating or uploading documents. Explain how this simple step drastically improves the likelihood of relevant items surfacing in search results based on the specified properties. Demonstrate how to create and leverage managed metadata term sets to ensure consistency in tagging across the organization, enabling precision searches based on unified terminology. For new users facing the daunting task of meta-tagging existing document repositories, we recommend starting with SharePoint templates or automated tools that can expedite adding basic metadata en masse – providing a solid foundation to incrementally build upon.

3. Demonstrate Advanced Search Features

While fundamental search skills are crucial, SharePoint also provides an array of powerful advanced search capabilities that supercharge the process of finding precisely relevant information. During training, devote ample time to showcasing features that can meaningfully elevate the search experience. Highlight search refiners, which dynamically filter results based on criteria like file type, author, managed metadata tags, and more - allowing users to quickly drill down and find exactly what they need amidst a vast pool of data.

Explain how result sources enable targeted searching within defined content repositories or site collections, rather than broad searches across entire tenants. For example, marketing staff could search exclusively within approved assets libraries for branded materials. Explore result types and how they help distinguish different content formats like documents, pages, images, and more within a single result set.

Be sure to cover contextual search options like people and keyword highlighting which boost findability. Guide users through constructing advanced queries using Boolean operations, property filtering, and other techniques to retrieve precise results. Real-world examples of these advanced features working in tandem will illustrate their collective power. KnowledgeWave also offers targeted, private training focused on advanced Microsoft Search capabilities.

4. Train on Search Filters and Sorting

Once users grasp maximizing advanced queries, training must cover how to further analyze and manipulate search results for optimal findability. Demonstrate applying dynamic filters based on document metadata or properties like modification date, file type, author, and more. Compare simplified filters for streamlined application of common parameters versus advanced modal filters that unlock granular customization.

Explain how sorting results by criteria like relevance scoring – which leverages AI and machine learning to rank findings – can help to discover the most pertinent items. Cover sorting options like title and date as well. Guide your users through combining sorts and filters sequentially so they can progressively refine and prioritize results.

Try going beyond just filtering by highlighting data visualization techniques for derived insights into result sets. Show how you can activate and read graphical views summarizing result metadata like file type breakdowns. Export results seamlessly into Microsoft Excel for deeper analysis and reporting. Mastering these visualization tools will help users rapidly extract meaningful intelligence from even the largest data pools.

5. Introduce Search Alerts and Result Recommendations

Beyond search itself, SharePoint incorporates intelligent features to display relevant information continually over time. Train users on setting up search alerts to receive notifications when new content matching specified queries are published – ensuring they remain updated on the latest information fitting their interests or responsibilities without lifting a finger.

On the artificial intelligence front, provide an overview of how SharePoint leverages usage analytics and machine learning models to display result recommendations based on a user's search history, patterns, and organizational content maps. This powerful AI capability extends beyond SharePoint, assisting with intelligent information search and discovery across the entire Microsoft 365 landscape. Encourage users to review and explore these recommendation sources, as they often unveil valuable related materials that may have otherwise gone under the radar.

KnowledgeWave members can watch our on-demand webinar "AI: How It Is Impacting Microsoft 365 Users" to gain deeper insights into AI's increasing integration and impact across these productivity tools.

6. Provide Real-Life Scenarios and Examples

Training sessions should incorporate ample real-life scenarios and use cases that attendees can directly relate to their roles and responsibilities. Gather common search challenges specific to your organization and methodically walk through how to approach them using SharePoint's suite of search and discovery tools. From an HR manager needing to swiftly locate policy documents based on relevant terms, to a sales rep searching for past client communication records - construct tailored examples that illuminate techniques for overcoming these hurdles. Be sure to comprehensively model executing efficient searches at various levels - from the top-level Microsoft 365 scope trickling down to specific SharePoint site collections and sub-sites. Grounding conceptual lessons with contextualized applications is key to accelerating proficiency.

7. Encourage Continuous Learning

The search and discovery capabilities within SharePoint and the Microsoft 365 ecosystem are constantly evolving, with new features and enhancements being released through updates on an ongoing basis. Fostering a culture of continuous learning around these growingly intelligent and powerful tools is paramount.

Read more: Why It's So Important to Have Ongoing Office 365 Training

Promote resources like Microsoft's own training materials, third-party courses, blogs, and communities that can help users stay abreast of the latest tips, tricks, and changes. If your organization has an active subscription to the KnowledgeWave Learning Site (KLS), be sure to highlight how your staff can access complimentary monthly webinars specifically curated to keep members up-to-date on pertinent new feature releases. KLS also offers an expanding library of on-demand video tutorials enabling self-paced refreshers for skill reinforcement. Embracing a growth mindset around search will ensure your team is maximizing their use of these crucial productivity tools.

By intentionally incorporating these training best practices, organizations can empower their employees to fully unleash the power of SharePoint's search and discovery capabilities. A proficient, well-trained user equipped with knowledge of advanced search operators, metadata tagging, filters, AI-assisted recommendations, and more will be able to leverage the platform to precisely pinpoint the information they need when they need it. This heightened ability to cut through informational clutter amplifies productivity, knowledge sharing, and collaboration across teams and departments.

While simple keyword searches may seem adequate on the surface, mastering the depth and breadth of SharePoint's search toolset opens new frontiers for discovering insights while streamlining access to critical data. With the continuous advancement of AI and machine learning being infused into these technologies, comprehensive search skills will only grow more essential over time. Solidify them now through structured, scenario-driven training programs.

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For the past 20 years, KnowledgeWave has been helping companies deploy and adopt the latest business software. We stay up to date with the most recent software features and are constantly adding additional training to our online learning library, the KnowledgeWave Learning Site.

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Topics: Microsoft 365, SharePoint