Accelerating Enterprise Collaboration Using Visual Search

September 17, 2014

Collaboration software has been around forever taking on various forms along the way.  The origins can be traced to the founding of ARPANET in the 1950’s and then to the invention of email in the 1970s.  Lotus Development Corporation decided to take it a step further in the 1980’s and along came Wiki and Instant Messaging.  Once bandwidths began to improve, WebEx became a reality in the 1990’s.  Since 2000, many forms of collaboration have surfaced which include Wikipedia, SharePoint, Flickr, Google Docs, Jive Software, OneNote and Yammer.  Technology has steadily attempted to enable collaboration by tapping into the wisdom of crowds in the public Internet and wisdom of teams within corporate networks.

With all this excitement of enabling technologies for collaboration comes the sobering statistics that are impeding adoption within businesses.  Employees spend 30 minutes a day searching for information[i].  20%-40% of employee salary goes towards handling email[ii].  77% of employees in companies with enterprise social networks have never used it[iii].   Research reveals many contributing factors such as lack of integration of collaboration tools to other business applications and other social tools, cultural barriers, lack of management advocacy, lack of employee awareness, and often the damning finding that employees don’t find value day to day from these systems[iv].

Take the widely deployed Microsoft SharePoint as an example.  Most businesses are using it for collaboration and as a document repository. The more data that is loaded into SharePoint, the more important it is for an efficient search.  But the stark reality is that people are having a hard time finding information from SharePoint.  Comments often heard from users sound something like: “I can’t find anything”, “It keeps giving me old, outdated documents”, “Why can’t I get a Google-like search on SharePoint?” etc.  Far too often, we see that people are using SharePoint as a digital dumpster, putting their documents into it, but with little hope of finding them later.  This lowers the utilization and value of the whole system.

Many factors need to fall in place to improve the find-ability of content in any system, SharePoint included.  Conventional wisdom points to many commonsense things that should be done:  a) Plan your search based on what people are really looking for, b) Implement a good taxonomy to enable a solid navigation, c) Add sensible metadata that is managed, d) Tune the search often to ensure accurate and clean data is returned, e) Institute a strong governance policy and process, f) Check the system’s search performance and do necessary index tuning periodically to continually deliver results fast. 

In our experience, these are necessary elements to improve find-ability of information from SharePoint.  But this is 2014!  Is this all we have to settle for? Aren’t there more innovative approaches to help people find information faster?  Let’s imagine this a bit …

Imagine this: Regardless of the nature, scope and state of your taxonomy and metadata, search results get self-organized into meaningful topics and themes for any query!

Imagine this: Right within your SharePoint interface, you are able to visually navigate search results, not just get the 10-blue-links we’ve been seeing with search engines for decades!

Imagine this:  You can now get a visual summary of any document, right within SharePoint, along with the ability to instantly search within that document to find the sentences / paragraphs of importance!

Imagine this:  The results that other users have found useful appear at the top as social recommendations for your queries!

Imagine this:  Such a powerful system will install and plug right into your current SharePoint installation, and you have the ability to turn the visual search capabilities on or off on any given farm or site easily!

Imagine this:  You can literally bring these benefits for your users in just a day!

Imagine this:  This is budget-friendly, and any SharePoint shop can afford it!

Imagine no more! 


Ascendum has created a new innovative tool called Visual Search for SharePoint (VSS), powered by the Zakta Social Intelligence Platform™, which brings the next generation of visual discovery and social search capabilities to SharePoint 2010 and 2013 versions. It delivers on all the potential and promises above and it is available today.

We aren’t suggesting that VSS is a silver bullet or that it will fix all your search problems forever.  There is ultimately no substitute for the commonsense things we share above, to correctly architect, manage and take control of your SharePoint search.  As you plan that however, you can immediately use VSS to give an instant boost in find-ability, visual appeal, and value to your users, while benefiting from its elegant social features that tap into the wisdom of your users to make search continually better over time.  With VSS, you can ensure that your organization won’t be hearing complaints about SharePoint search anymore, and you can eliminate one of the key factors that impedes collaboration, by providing innovative visual and social search to your SharePoint user community.


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[i]  Source: Payscale, The Salary Reporter, 2012
[ii] Source: International Journal of Internet and Enterprise Management, 2011
[iii] Source: Forrester: Foresights Employee Workforce Survey, Q4 2011, November 2011
[iv] Source: Forrester Study, commissioned by VMWare, April 2012