Policy and Procedures : Using SharePoint Search to find policies quickly

As part of an on-going series of posts illustrating how SharePoint can help manage the life-cycle of a policy, this post explains how SharePoint can meet the requirement below:

It should be possible to find a policy in seconds“. To view all of the features for a policy management system, please look at “The Ultimate Buyers Guide To Policy Management Software” on our blog.

For those considering SharePoint as a platform to manage their organization’s policies and procedures a well configured Search service is probably the most important thing that can be done. When a user can’t find something quickly, frustration sets in. This means that if they can’t find your policy in a few seconds, it’s likely not to get read, unless you have technology and organization rules that enforce users to read it. One major feature of SharePoint that greatly improves a person’s ability to find a policy is to use SharePoint search. The beauty about search is that a user doesn’t have to have any knowledge of where the document is stored. They simply need to type some keywords in the search box and a list of results will pop-out. The other great benefit is that search results are security trimmed, meaning that only results that a user has permission to see will be displayed.

Search can be also be customized in many ways to help make the process much easier, such as:

  • Adding custom properties to the search filter, meaning that you could allow users to perform searches such as ‘Show me all of the policies in the Finance team about Sox’.
  • A search scope can be defined so that only documents in a site or filtered on a property. For this project a scope of ‘policy’ would be generated which allows only policies to be returned.
  • Advanced searches can be carried out such as ‘Show me all the policies that in PDF, authored by Mark Jones, in October 2012 and have the keywords ‘Health’ and ‘Safety’.
  • Best Bets. SharePoint Search allows an administrator to a result that will always appear at the top for a particular search. For example, if a user searched for ‘Health and Safety Policy’ then a link to the actual policy can be set so it is always top!
  • Synonyms. SharePoint also allows synonyms to be set meaning that if there are many meanings for a term, then alternative meanings can be added. For example, if you want the same results to appear for ‘Health’ and ‘Wellbeing’ this is easy to configure.
  • Search Refiners. Search Refiners allow the search results to be refined and filter the results by choosing a particular piece of metadata. For example, you may wish to only show results that are Videos, or that originated from Germany.

Search in SharePoint is often a very under used area, but can be one of the cheapest and most cost-effective ways to build queries and datasets from millions of documents. A well organized and configured search can really help keep staff happy by finding what they want quickly.