SharePoint People search gets an upgrade announced at SharePoint Virtual Summit

Published on: May 16, 2017

In the past few months, I’ve written a lot about SharePoint, specifically on how it is focusing its lens. In the SharePoint Virtual Summit that was just streamed live from Microsoft HQ, the SharePoint team highlighted how focused their lens is.

The new people search integrated into SharePoint search highlighting skills

Focusing its lens

A key takeaway for me in this messaging is that SharePoint is letting other services in Office 365 really take whats rightfully theirs. As an example, calendaring is Outlook’s baby and always has been. The shared foundation of Office 365 Groups, the Microsoft Graph, and the overall security and compliance story has really helped to bring together all of these services.

Share and manage content, knowledge and apps

With the announcement that you can easily add Office 365 Groups services into the SharePoint navigation, this will start to glue all the Office 365 services together no matter which way you enter into it. 
To date, this has been a very disjointed experience if you created a Office 365 Group from Outlook, visited the SharePoint site and then wanted to get back to the Group e-mail conversations.

Groups support inside SharePoint

I believe they still have a way to go until it feels truly connected, but this is a great start and shows the engineering teams are working together cohesively to their strengths.

OneDrive enhancements

At Build 2017 last week, I was pleased to see the announcements around OneDrive on-demand sync, which will seriously improve the experience across both consumer and Office 365 experiences. The improvements around sharing will certainly reduce frustration and give you control of your hard drive to match what competitors like DropBox have had for a long time.

Power Apps and Microsoft Flow integration

PowerApps in SharePoint

PowerApps and Microsoft Flow in SharePoint UI

Recently, I talked with Laura Rogers about PowerApps and Microsoft Flow on our weekly Hyperfish podcast. It’s only very recently the user experience in SharePoint started to integrate with both Power Apps and Microsoft Flow. With built-in approval and review request Flows in SharePoint Document libraries announced today, it really starts to highlight the strategy moving forward for SharePoint, away from InfoPath and SharePoint Designer Workflows.

Communication sites

Communication sites in SharePoint

My takeaway from the Communication sites is what can be built with the new Modern SharePoint sites and the SharePoint Framework. The demos certainly highlighted that the days of SharePoint “looking like SharePoint” are over. Daniel Kogan spoke specifically to this at Build:

“SharePoint engineering use the SharePoint Framework to build their first party experiences, the same Framework all developers can use to build third party experiences” Daniel Kogan, Microsoft Build 2017 session

This is a great step forward for SharePoint, to ensure they think about everyone and not just themselves with their experiences.

The thing I’d like to see in years to come, is an Office 365 Framework. I’d hate to see Office add-ins, SharePoint Framework, Microsoft Teams Framework all have UI stories that are different and don’t leverage shared resources like Office UI Fabric and the Office Store for instance.

People Search

People Search in SharePoint

Last week I blogged about where profile information is stored in Office 365. In the Office 365 groups announcements in March, Microsoft showed more dependency on profile information. The announcements today further puts pressure on your organization to get on top of profile information.

Office Delve has been a very tactical push for Microsoft, which I’ve explained in the past where its focus is. The people search experience in Office 365 has always allowed you to search by a person’s name or job title. But it didn’t do a great job of searching specifically on Skills, Interests, or Past Projects. As per the announcements today, these fields will be indexed and improve this experience. In case you are wondering, these three key fields are actually stored in the SharePoint User Profiles data store, not Active Directory.

In the SharePoint Virtual Summit, a great customer story came from Shire who have been part of an early adopter initiative with SharePoint. Shire also use Hyperfish within their organization.

“We have been very successful with SharePoint Online, but profile information is critical to its success. We use Hyperfish at Shire to complete our users profile information. This unlocks the power of the new SharePoint people search and lights up contact cards across the experience.”
Dave Feldman, Associate Director Collaboration at Shire

At Hyperfish, we allow you to analyze your organizations’ profile information and reach out to users to get them to fill in their missing profile information. 
Organizations have taken advantage of our FREE Analyzer, that shows you how complete your directory currently is. From the anonymous reporting data, we can see that around 80% of all the profiles analyzed do not have Manager, Department or Office Location completed.

We support updating not just Active Directory and Azure Active Directory but also the SharePoint User Profiles data store both on-premises and online.

The Skills, Interests & Past Projects information is not something that is filled out once and stays static, much like Manager, Job Title, Department and Office Location changes over time. The Hyperfish service can be configured to notify users to update their information on a regular basis.

“Finding people in your organization is critical for many scenarios, but it is only effective if the profile information is complete and up-to-date.” Brian Cook, CEO of Hyperfish

We see many reasons why users may use people search:

  • finding someone to ask a question around a particular topic
  • looking for a mentor in a particular topic
  • finding someone with similar skills to learn from or start a community with
  • finding someone who potentially owns something in an organization
  • promoting their own skills within the organization to help others

When I worked at Microsoft, I found it incredibly hard to find people to answer questions. I’d often guess based on the division, department or job title, who was the right person to reach out to. The other way was to jump into community discussions on Yammer or e-mail distribution lists and find those that helped the most. Having the ability to discover experts based on skills they’ve tagged themselves with, would’ve saved me and others much precious time .

For organizations as a whole, this advanced people search will reduce the amount of duplicate effort, saving time and wasted expense at the once, but only if their profile information is kept up to date.

SharePoint pies for everyone!

I definitely think the SharePoint community still needs to get used to not having 3 year release cycles with big bang announcements that blow us away and move to a more 6 month trickle of features. Last year we celebrated SharePoint not being dead. This year we are celebrating SharePoint getting back on track! This fall we can experience all these new features. This will keep SharePoint competitive in a space it owned for a very long time.

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