In our previous article, Microsoft Search – The Questions, we reviewed the many exciting new features and many improvements to Microsoft Search, with the focus on the question. In this article, our focus will be on the answer because that is what Microsoft Search is about – asking the question to obtain the most accurate and relevant answer quickly.
What happens when you Search? You get answers! There are now new and improved answers in Microsoft Search:
Acronym Answers: acronyms can have different meanings between different types of sectors, within an organization, and even between projects and Teams within an organization. It is now easier to find out what an acronym stands for within an organization with a simple query such as “Define…” as the definition is mined from content that your organization has curated, the content accessed by a user and the definition as defined by a Microsoft 365 Administrator. Acronym Answers is available in English in SharePoint and Office.com, Bing.com (other languages in addition to English), and soon it will be available for Outlook mobile, Outlook web, Teams Mobile, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
Calendar Answers: available on the Outlook mobile app, you can use either voice or type in the search box to find your meetings without having to scroll to find it. Find your meeting or event by title, time of the meeting, or attendee name and RSVP, join a Teams meeting, or send an email right from the answer. On the desktop, you can search for the meeting or replying to an invitation with the meeting notes, all from the inbox.
File Answers: searching for files in Outlook can be tedious – opening emails with attachments only to find that it is not the right one and repeating until you find the right one – extremely time-consuming! With File Answers, searching for file documents in Outlook can be achieved by using natural syntax that contains the author of the file, the sender of the email that contains the file, the file name, file type across attachments that have been received, and shared files from Teams chat, OneDrive for Business, and SharePoint.
Optimizing Search for Your Users
Your users, and your organization, depend upon successful searches conducted for information, content, and people but how does the Administrator know that users are finding what they need? With improved search analytics and a new feedback loop, Administrators will begin to receive better information on Search’s success with their users. Improvements and new features include:
Admin Feedback: as part of the search lifecycle, users will be able to provide secured feedback on the quality and accuracy of search results and suggested answers to the search administrator to help improve Search.
Analytics: with the right tools and insights, search administrators can keep team members productive with the new Microsoft Search Insights dashboard. Insights include top search queries on Microsoft Search, impression distribution over time, and what users are searching for.
Personalizing and customizing Search allows it to work at its best as it is working based on your organization’s and team’s unique needs. Personalization and customization will be rolled out, including the ability to customize verticals and filters, add your organization’s filters that are based on refinable managed properties, edit out of the box verticals, and change how results will look like. Compelling views of connector content via Adaptive Cards can be simply created by a layout designer.
Microsoft Search is Everywhere! But Where, Exactly?
Microsoft Search has been becoming available in Microsoft 365 apps and services, including contextual search in Microsoft Teams, with more improvements coming, Windows, and Outlook.
Microsoft Teams: using CTRL + F plus search terms allows desktop users to search in channels and chats, resulting in contextual search results. This ability is now available for the mobile app. The full page of immersive search results is optimized with better relevance and context, resulting in improved user recognition. By applying filters, users will find content faster and exactly what they are searching for. Microsoft Search will suggest and introduce answers that are mined from the organization, knowledge that is curated by its users. Because the answers are unique to the organization, the user will access relevant information quicker, and in turn, return to complete their tasks more quickly.
Outlook: fun fact – the most popular activity is email with search as the second most popular activity. A successful search understands ambiguities, the language being used, and delivers reliable results when you need them. In the new search bar for Outlook, there is a new microphone option so that users can either speak or type the search criteria. Search criteria can be contact specific, and the result will provide an actionable result. Search criteria can also be a specific contact, and the results will result in actionable and relevant results as opposed to keywords from email or calendar information.
Windows: when logged in with their work account, uses will be able to search local and organizational content from the Windows search box.
Microsoft Office: located at the top of the app, Microsoft Search is easily accessible in Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. By combining query, document understanding, indexing, and deep learning-based natural language models, search queries do not have to be an exact match for content to be found. On the mobile app, scanning QR codes, signing of PDFs, and turning pictures into editable Word and Excel documents are additional features that can be done.
Information Islands – How to Connect Them
Knowledge is exponential when it is shared and when the collaborators are situated in many different offices, including home offices, information can be distributed across platforms, ranging from cloud applications to on-premises. Connecting this information is the key to continued growth, collaboration, and success. Microsoft Graph connectors will become available for Microsoft Search, becoming the connector for disparate systems so that information can be found across the systems.
A new subscription is available for organizations without an Office 365 subscription. Microsoft Search service is now a standalone product that is available that allows the connection of applications and data platforms and will help users to quickly and accurately find the information they are searching for.
As they say, knowledge is power, but how to get that knowledge is dependent upon asking a relevant question and receiving accurate, precise, and up to date answers. With Microsoft Search, asking a question has never been easier, and obtaining the best answers quickly with accurate relevancy is the golden grail as Microsoft Search, powered by AI, combs through content across platforms and systems, curating it based on personalization and customization, and delivering it quickly to the user. Microsoft Search, with its people-centric focus, is once again raising the bar and changing the face of how information is obtained as a response to how we perform our day to day tasks.
Every day, every session at the 2020 Microsoft Ignite Virtual conference has been like opening a gift bag of surprises. There is one surprise after another, and they just keep coming! These are all super pleasant surprises – enough to get any user, admin, or corporation excited to start implementing and using them. Microsoft Search is one these – who ever thought a search engine could get this exciting?!?
The best way to describe how search historically works is by comparing it to a human model in real life. Think about losing a physical item, like your debit card. What is the first thing you do when you realize you have lost it? Well, we deny we lost it and like to believe we misplaced it. With that, one begins to think backwards, starting with when was the last time you used it to purchase an item. Then, the last location when you remember having used it. You continue to progressively narrow your search down to a position that is detailed and small, and finally, to an exact location, such as the basket located on the top of your dresser. This works if you are the one that misplaced your card but what if someone else misplaced theirs? Or the card you are looking for belongs to someone else? This process is no longer this simple and the process will change in response to the change in parameters. Because the process is not necessarily the same for each event to perform a search, it is not consistent, and the final outcome is an inconsistency with the results. Historically, search operates similarly – a serious of queries with continuous refining until you find what you are looking for.
Microsoft 365’s Search is responding to the needs of users as it evolves to become more intelligent. Not only is it becoming more personal, but it will provide precision with minimal effort as context awareness will provide personalized, trending, and important results with each first search you perform.
What are the New Search Features?
As we all know, traditional search engines, like the analogy above, work from the peripheral towards the centre to find the information. Another great analogy is how to put a jigsaw puzzle together. Most people solve a puzzle by working on the edges first because completing the frame of the puzzle is the easiest. Once the frame is completed, it becomes the anchor for the remainder of the puzzle work, which proceeds to work from the edges towards the centre.
Microsoft, especially seen in Teams and SharePoint, is the opposite. Information is provided by the user, and this information radiates outwards to the Team and other users involved in the collaboration. This process brings us to the first new feature, People-Centric Search. Furthering collaboration and utilizing collective knowledge, People-Centric Search provides the ability to scope and refine your search to an individual because knowledge is not always in the written word, but more often it is an individual who has that knowledge.
Many more new features of Microsoft Search include:
Find Skills and Expertise: bringing together a team involves finding individuals with specific skill sets. With Find Skills and Expertise, you can now find individuals with expertise and skills that you are looking for within your organization that are based on machine learning algorithms which are identified from self-attestation, content understanding, collaborative patterns gleaned from email and documents, and the addition of skills in the user profile.
Power BI Search: according to business intelligence and analytics, Power BI is the Magic Quadrant Leader. By integrating Power BI Search, reports and dashboards are now searchable in SharePoint, Office.com, and Bing.
Conversation Search: a new Conversations vertical will allow a search across apps and services such as Teams, Outlook, SharePoint, Yammer, and Office.com for conversations.
Image Search: images can now be searched across SharePoint and Office.com.
Improved Filter Design and New Filters: easily find files, pages, presentations, or other information with precision by utilizing the out of the box filters.
Topic Search: Topic Search falls under the umbrella of Project Cortex and will be available later in the calendar year. AI will be used to curate, build, and organize knowledge topics across Teams and systems, automatically organizing related resources to create topic pages. Topics can be either manually created or they can be automatically mined from content curated by users. Topics will have a definition, name description, and will be connected to content (file and sites), people, and conversations, bringing together people, information, and content.
Personal Query History: have you ever performed a search, then jumped to another search, and then later that day, you wanted to go back to what you found in the first search at the beginning of the day? We actively use search throughout the day, and to go back to that first search of the day, we either have to enter the exact words or we have had to memorize the exact sequence of words to duplicate the search. With Personal Query History, that is no longer the case because your recent searches will appear as you type in the search box, assisting you to see recently used information. This setting is managed through Office 365>My Account Settings, and the ability to delete or download for future reference Personal Query History can be found under My Account Privacy Controls.
These new features are exciting as they will, undoubtedly, make searching for information and content that much easier, accurate, and relevant. Microsoft Search features are not only impacting the front end of a search, they are also impacting the back end of a search – the answers! More explanations in my next article, Microsoft Search: The Answers.
This year’s Microsoft Ignite 2020 has been full of excitement and energy with announcements for SharePoint and Microsoft 365 that are not only exciting and amazing but are raising the bar even higher by integrating AI to produce better results and an overall, smarter system. From new purchasable add-ons, like Project Cortex and products stemming from it, including the first available product, Project Syntex, leveraging AI to targeted accurate, prioritized, and relevant content for your audience, especially those working in Microsoft Teams.
Microsoft Teams is becoming more robust as global enterprises, from small businesses to global giants, embrace virtual and remote business as the pandemic has changed the face of how business interactions occur. With greater demand, comes higher expectations from users. Microsoft 365 and SharePoint are stable platforms, proven over decades of use, dynamic growth, and enhancements shaped by the users themselves.
Without any surprise, Microsoft Teams has received more attention, making it that much more welcomed in the virtual business world.
Teams – What We Can Look Forward To
SharePoint Home Sites in Teams: the new home site app brings into Teams directly, an organization’s intranet and the powerful SharePoint Home site. Available later this year, the app name and the organization’s branding icon can be pinned to the app bar.
Teams Templates: get started with Teams quicker with Teams templates that are industry-specific, representing common business scenarios. Customized templates can also be created by Administrators to reveal relevant apps, standardize team structures, and scale best practices.
Info Pane, Pinned Posts, and New Conversation Button in Channels: the channel info pain is visually organized while being easily accessible It provides information such as a summary of active members, important pinned posts by members, and other relevant channel information. There is a new intuitive conversation button in channels that makes it easier to start a conversation as opposed to simply replying to existing ones.
Share News Across Teams: news articles will be able to be shared directly to your audience’s team, inboxes, or community directly from SharePoint.
New Search Results Experience: Finding people, messages, answers, and files will be faster and more intuitive in Teams as it will be powered by Microsoft Search.
Microsoft Lists Apps for iOS (Preview): Available offline and in dark mode, Microsoft Lists mobile app not only allows you access to your lists but also the lists others share with you. Microsoft Lists Apps for iOS provides on the go features for users including the ability to create new lists, share lists with other members, and edit list items.
Microsoft Lists – Offline Mode: In offline mode, Microsoft Lists allows users to instantly view, sort, filter, group, edit, adjust items, and add items.
New Together Mode Scenes: Virtual meetings take on a whole new feeling with the New Together Mode Scenes. Bring your team into a setting that sets the mood and the tone, whether it be a coffee shop, auditorium, or a conference room.
Custom Layouts: Presenters will be able to customize layouts for a dynamic presentation and viewing experience for participants in a meeting.
Meeting Recap: Not everyone is able to attend meetings, and not every bit of information can be retained after a meeting. Hence, the Meeting Recap. With the Meeting Recap, the meeting recording, chat, shared files, transcript, and more will be shared automatically at the end of a meeting. These shared files can be found by choosing the meeting Chat tab with viewability in the Details tab. Meeting Recaps will enable teams to keep moving forwards their goals after a meeting for participants and those who were unable to attend.
Webinar Registration and Reporting: Managing attendee attendance is simple with event registration with automated emails. This feature simplifies event participant management, especially for webinars or any structured meeting. It also provides to the organizer, a detailed, viewable reporting dashboard, assisting the organizer to understand attendee engagement.
New Calling Experience & Collaborative Calling: The calling experience is simplified and streamlined with a single view that displays contact, call history, and voicemail. With a single click, returning or initiating a call is effortless. An upcoming feature, collaborative calling, will allow a call queue to be connected to a channel in Teams by customers.
25K Member Teams: In the Teams tenant, there is no set limit for the number of people. However, Team membership is currently capped at 5,000 members and this will be increased to 25,000 members per individual team later this year.
Approvals in Microsoft Teams: Microsoft Teams is becoming the central station for collaboration, and as such, approval flows will be able to start from a Teams channel conversation, chat, or the Approvals app. With the Approvals in Microsoft Teams, users will be to manage, create, share, and act on approvals directly from Teams.
Wellbeing Features and Productivity Insights: the goal of the new Wellbeing Features and Productivity Insights is to encourage remote staff to stay healthy through self-care and keeping to routines as if going into the office. By adding structure to the workday, such virtual commutes, it prepares the body and the mind for work. Incorporating Headspace, users can follow a guided meditation to unwind at the end of the day. Powered by MyAnalytics and Workplace Analytics, these features focus entirely on the wellbeing of an organization’s remote staff. The first phase begins in October with the second phase available in the first half of 2021.
Meetings Extensibility with Apps in Meetings: Integration of developer apps into Teams meetings will help to create scenarios that provide better meeting context, such as roles, permissions, and rosters.
With SharePoint, Microsoft 365, and AI powering Teams, this app’s potential has just grown exponentially and the potential of what it can do is limitless. Collaborating with Team members, whether on-site, off-site, or virtually, is a breeze. Seamless and smooth, Teams will continue to grow as it becomes the central station of collaboration.
This year, for the first time, Microsoft Ignite 2020 came together on a virtual stage. Despite not being in person, we all had an excellent time learning, experiencing, interacting, and having fun with other attendees whether we were new to each other or we were reconnecting with familiar faces. As always, Microsoft Ignite is filled with tons of new, innovative, and exciting announcements. This year’s MS Ignite 2020 did not disappoint!
SharePoint touches on so many facets within Microsoft 365, and the number of announcements to new features and products is astounding. Breaking this down into three categories, we have the following:
SharePoint is the foundation for user collaboration within and without an organization, and is super dynamic, always changing to suit user needs but more importantly, paving new roads for others to follow. Let’s start here with SharePoint’s announcements:
SharePoint Syntex: combines AI and machine teaching by augmenting human expertise, automating the processing of content, and transforming this content into knowledge. Learn more in my article SharePoint Syntex.
Project Nucleus: working offline will now be possible with Project Nucleus. How you ask? You can learn more in my article Project Nucleus.
SharePoint App Bar: the SharePoint App Bar will not only be customizable in bringing relevant information to the user, but a consistent experience will be provided to every site in an organization’s intranet. One cannot help but wonder if this is a step towards the solution for the global hub site navigation menu.
Meeting Recordings & Stream Powered by SharePoint: Microsoft Teams Meetings recordings and Microsoft Stream are currently being modernized for the new innovative SharePoint storage, allowing staff to easily access their recordings after a meeting in OneDrive. Learn more in my article Microsoft Stream.
Boost News in SharePoint: with news boosts in SharePoint, important news and announcements can be prioritized to appear at the top of the Microsoft 365 news feed. The length of time of the appearance of the news and announcements can be controlled in three ways – on a set timed schedule, until the content is viewed by an employee, or the content is viewed by the employee and when the pre-determined number of views is met, the announcement or news is replaced by the next prioritized item.
Share News Across Email, Teams, and Yammer: news articles will be able to be shared directly to your audience’s team, inboxes, or community directly from SharePoint.
Built-in SharePoint Templates: SharePoint templates have been readily available, but now, templates can easily be selected and customized from within SharePoint. These built-in SharePoint Templates can be applied to any existing SharePoint site.
Communication Insights: analytics is the name of the game in understanding user engagement. Powered by AI, SharePoint analytics will provide information to help your company understand the user engagement across Microsoft 365 along with the reach and impacts automatically from analyzing user dwell time on content to heatmap views of user interaction. These insights can be combined with Live Events, Questions and Answers, and Yammer for a more detailed analysis of user engagement and impacts.
SharePoint Admin Centre Improvements: one of the improvements in the SharePoint Admin Centre are the settings for OneDrive. Managing OneDrive has just become that much easier! Other great improvements including updating of the admin centre homepage, actional insights, more options for migration, and improvements to site visibility.
Automatic Expiration of External Access: rolling out in September 2020, automatic expiration of external access becomes generally available. An expiration, like 30 days, can now be set for any external access in your organization, and the countdown begins once the external guest user is invited to a file or the site. Upon expiration of the access pass, access is automatically revoked.
External Sharing Policies with Microsoft Information Protection Sensitivity Labels: external sharing policies can be associated with sensitivity labels, making it that much more powerful to secure external collaboration.
Governance Insights for Files in SharePoint, OneDrive, and Teams: centric insights for your company’s top sites with the most sensitive documents and share sites can now be accessed. These insights provide you the ability to validate access policy settings to ensure the security policies are proficient and/or to take actions to tweak them in the SharePoint Admin Centre.
Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Policy for Blocking Anyone Links for Sensitive Content: already available to the general public, this new DLP policy rule blocks anyone with the link option for sensitive content. Using anyone with the link, administrators can configure the DLP rule to take action to block access and sharing of the sensitive content.
Endpoint Data Loss Prevention (DLP): endpoint DLP provides protection and avoids the leakage of sensitive content for all endpoints on all Windows devices.
Unified Session Sign-Out: in the Microsoft 365 Admin Centre, the administrator can sign out a user instantly from all their sessions on all devices, whether they are managed or unmanaged. Unified Session Sign-Out is powered by continuous access evaluation.
Information Barriers for OneDrive and SharePoint: To avoid conflicts of interest, communication, and collaboration information barriers can be put in place between certain sets of users in the organization.
Add to OneDrive: When a folder is shared with you from either OneDrive, Microsoft Teams, or SharePoint, a shortcut to that shared folder can now be created from either the Shared with me or from your shared libraries, all in your OneDrive so it can be easily found later.
Mobile App Improvements: OneDrive home for Surface Duo, iOS, and Android has be updated.
Move and Keep Sharing: Reaching out to a broader group of collaborators can easily be achieved by relocating the file from an individual OneDrive site to a shared library in SharePoint.
Offline Edit Support for Office Docs in OneDrive for iOS: Office documents that have been marked for Offline use on the iOS OneDrive mobile app will be editable offline by simply tapping Open in Word or tapping Edit. Editing will begin where you left off when you were online. Once back online, editing takes place where you left off offline.
Sync Admin Reports: Sync Admin Reports will provide admins the ability to monitor health and sync adoption by having access to machine syn insights, on a pay per use basis. Admins will be able to check sync app versions of individual devices and check sync status.
Known Folder Move Improvements: Update include the following:
– new policy to exclude specific file extensions or file names
– selective sync removed as a blocker
– Admins can choose specific folders to move to OneDrive. These folders include Documents, Desktop, and Pictures
Microsoft Teams in SharePoint
There we many new announcements for Microsoft Teams including SharePoint Home Sites in Teams, Teams Templates, Info Pan, Pinned Posts, Conversation Button in Channels, Search powered by Microsoft Search, and so many more exciting additions, enhancements, and features. Catch them all in my article SharePoint and Microsoft Teams.
The greatest engine created, designed, and implemented now powers search across all Microsoft 365 applications. Read more in my articles Microsoft Search – The Questions and Microsoft Search – The Answers.
As you can imagine, the excitement and the virtual buzz during Microsoft Ignite Virtual 2020 as it is packed with many new additions, features, and enhancements that touch SharePoint, Microsoft Teams, OneDrive, Stream, and Project Cortex and many more Microsoft apps.