How Microsoft is integrating Yammer into SharePoint 2013

===update 27th May 2016===

With the demise of Yammer Conversations what looked like quite a cool initiative to bring Yammer comments into Office Docs and vice versa you might be forgiven for thinking that there’s not been much progress in integrating Yammer into the wider Office 365 suite.

I just returned from a Future of SharePoint session held at Microsoft’s London office for SharePoint consultancies. The talk was hosted by Jeff Teper, VP of SharePoint and One Drive. He’s the man with the vision when it comes to SharePoint. In the last month we’ve seen some really quite exciting announcements about SharePoint – it seems Microsoft is starting to really invest in this tool. However, what was surprising about this talk is that there was zero mention of Yammer.  I went and spoke to the host at the end and asked him what are the plans for integrating SharePoint with Yammer.

First, I was assured by the SharePoint team that Microsoft is not going to kill Yammer and that they are actively investing in it. Before any serious out-of-the-box Yammer integration can go ahead the team are rebuilding the back end of the application. This is so that it can be hosted in Microsoft’s various Office 365 data centres around the world. Once this is done they are going to look at hooking the two tools together. For example, we can expect to see a ‘share on Yammer’ button next to files in SharePoint and OneDrive. In the meantime, we are going to have to continue working with custom integrations and the Yammer app all mentioned in our original post from August 2014 below.

Dan Hawtrey


Microsoft is working tirelessly to integrate Yammer with SharePoint 2013. We take a look at the features you can expect very soon that will make your intranet more social.

Continue reading “How Microsoft is integrating Yammer into SharePoint 2013”

The Microsoft digital workplace new tools to get to grips with

The intranet is no longer one thing. While the intranet may be the foundation of the digital workplace, it is made up of several platforms and tools. If SharePoint has always been your focus, prepare for the new wave of Microsoft tools to enhance your ways of working. Continue reading “The Microsoft digital workplace new tools to get to grips with”

Top 10 Search Features in SharePoint 2013

As someone who has been focusing on Enterprise Search in SharePoint for years, I can say I now know it inside out. There are things I like a lot, there are others I dont like too much. In this blog post, I decided to collect 10 new or improved features that are my top favorites and that make SharePoint 2013 Search a real enterprise solution.

1 One, Integrated Enterprise Search Core

In SharePoint 2010, there was a Search Engine (a.k.a. SharePoint Search), but we also had the opportunity to install FAST Search for SharePoint (a.k.a. FS4SP) in order to get real, enterprise level features. FS4SP had to get licensed and installed as a separate product, as a separate farm, and then we could integrate it with SP2010.

In SharePoint 2013, the whole story is much easier: the big FAST Search engine got 100% integrated into SharePoint, therefore no separate installation and maintenance is needed. As soon as you install SharePoint 2013, you get the big engine instantly.

2 Content Processing, Entity Extraction

Content Processor is a component that sits in between the Crawler and the Indexer. It is responsible for processing the crawled content. It does all sorts of clever stuff including language detection, extracting security descriptions (to determine who in your organization is allowed to see the content), parsing, linguistic processing (to understand the real meaning of the content), entity and metadata extraction, etc.

SharePoint search - content processing and entity extraction

There are two things Id like to highlight here. First is the Web Service Callout step. This option is very useful if you need to perform custom operations on the crawled items before they are processed further.

The second step to highlight is the Custom Entity Extraction. Most organisations have specific terms (a.k.a entities) that are commonly used in everyday business. Its useful to tell the search engine to look out for some of these words because they carry particular significance for that company . For example, product names or regions where the company operates. The Custom Entity Extraction process extracts words (entities) from the content and use them as metadata in the index. This metadata can be used for filtering, ordering as well as facets on the Refinement Panel. The entities are pre-defined in a dictionary which is created by the organisation. See below an screengrab which shows how custom entities can be useful on the search results page to help the user zero in on what he is looking for.

SharePoint search - entity extraction and meta data

Both Web Service Callouts and Entity Extraction work on any type of Content Source, therefore can be used to unify and standardize the metadata in the index.

3 Continuous Crawl

Besides Full and Incremental Crawl, theres a new option in SharePoint 2013 called Continuous Crawl. This is a very dynamic and agile way of crawling that uses SharePoints change log to pick up the changes and enumerate the items which have to get crawled. One of its biggest benefits is in its flexibility and agility: the new and changed items can get indexed in minutes or even seconds, therefore we get a good basis for real, always up-to-date Search Based Applications.

Second, Continuous Crawl can rut at the same time as Full Crawl, therefore it can be used to keep the index refreshed or up-to-date, even if the Full Crawl takes a long time (days or weeks).

Continuous Crawl is available on SharePoint content sources only.

4 Search Administration on Multiple Levels

Due to the complexity of Search in SharePoint 2013, search administrators have complex tasks and responsibilities. Delegating some of these tasks might become essential.

In SharePoint 2013, search administration tasks can be delegated to Site Collection administrators and even to Site administrators.

5 Troubleshooting Enhancements

As Murphys Law says, If anything can go wrong, it will. Enterprise Search is really complex, and any of its components can go wrong. The better troubleshooting tools we have, the easier to fix these issues.

In SharePoint 2013, we have enhanced logs and reports on the server-side that can be used to debug and identify the causes of issue. The enhanced Developer Dashboard can be also used for debugging, and despite its name, its not for developers only.

SharePoint search - developer dashboard troubleshooting

6 PowerShell

PowerShell is Microsofts scripting technology that has modules for SharePoint administration and automation, too. A huge improvement in SharePoint 2013 is that we have more than 150 commands for Enterprise Search management, including setup and deployment, topology management, crawling, query processing, metadata, etc.

7 UI Enhancements

One of the most important UI enhancements is the new Hover Panel, where the search results metadata and related actions can be displayed, as well as its outline and preview if the result is a document. Besides the Hover Panel, I also like how easy it is to customize the way search results are displayed: Display Templates are responsible for the display of the results, the Hover Panel and the refiners. Display Templates are simple HTML and JavaScript files, with structures that are easy to understand. Customization is easier than ever.

SharePoint search - display templates and UI enhancements

8 Result Sources

Result Sources are used to define the index to be used in our queries (is it a local SharePoint index or a remote one from a separate content source such as Lotus Notes?). They also describe the subset of results to retrieve (these were called search scopes in SharePoint 2010). Results Sources can be very useful to define verticals for our Search and ultimately help the user focus her search.

9 Query Rules

Query Rules help us to define rules that are based on the users intent when searching. For example if I search for Harrods department store there is a high likelihood that I want to know the location or see a map; view opening and closing times; or to get a link to their online store. Technically speaking, Query Rules contain conditions and actions. A condition can be based on the query itself (contains one or more specific keywords, matches terms defined in a Managed Metadata Term Set, etc.) or on the user (for example the department he or she works, job title, location, etc.). Of course, these conditions can be combined.

Actions are all about promoting the right results to the user – displaying specific Result Blocks or modifying the current query.

Some examples:

  • If the user is based in Europe (condition), display a Result Block that highlights the latest documents related to the European market (action).
  • If the query contains the keyword define (condition), display the results (definitions) from the Company Knowledge Base (action).

10 Search Query Builder

Last but not least, Id like to highlight the wizard that is used in every Search Web Part in SharePoint 2013. This is the Search Query Builder that helps not only in building the query to be used, but also in choosing the result source as well as filters, ranking models, etc. It also gives us the opportunity to test the results of the current settings before saving anything. This can speed up the configuration of search dramatically.

SharePoint search - custom query builder


As you can see, Search in SharePoint 2013 has a lot of components that can be and have to be used in order to get a real, enterprise-level Search Application. In this blog post I highlighted what I consider as the top 10, but of course, there are many more, and the beauty of Enterprise Search is always in the details!

Agnes Molnar is the founder of Search Explained, a Content Formula partner.
[email protected]

Bringing the internet indoors: socialising your intranet

Most intranets are largely static sites. On its own, an intranet is essentially a shared drive, serving up centrally stored documents alongside internal articles or communications. Some organisations use words such as “communication hubs” to describe them, but for the most part that communication is one-way.

These days, however, an intranet really can be a hub for your company. The intranet portal now closely mirrors employees’ expectations of world wide web functionality. Systems such as Microsoft SharePoint allow users to communicate with each other and collaborate, much as they would using social media tools such as blogging, Facebook and Twitter.

There are a number of capabilities that you can implement relatively easily, with SharePoint in particular making many of them available as standard.

Document sharing

This is the fundamental benefit of a SharePoint intranet and the simplest to set up. Document libraries offer version control features as well as configurable access levels. The Microsoft Office 2007 suite also offers on-the-fly editing of centrally stored documents.

Discussion boards

We’ve all seen discussion boards and forums on the internet, and they can be easily implemented on the corporate intranet. A discussion board can allow a regionally-fragmented team to keep in contact with each other, and to discuss issues or initiatives.

Some discussion boards particularly in larger companies may require moderation, but if a user is forced to participate using their real name, then the board is likely to be at least as polite as the actual office in real life.


We’re not suggesting that you give everyone in the company their own blog, but employees will appreciate reading short and concise announcements from high-level superiors, especially if a less formal tone is used.

Commenting and rating

Add comments or ratings to your features so that users can give their thoughts and discuss ideas online. These are measurable indicators to content editors that offer an idea of what visitors find useful and relevant.


Implement a Twitter-like ‘microblog’ on a department sub-site, such as the HR department, to keep staff updated on events in the company. Like blogging, it allows your department managers to communicate with staff quickly and easily, and the shortened nature of the ‘tweets’ makes for a friendly, informal tone.

Profile pages

A fully-fledged profile for every employee would be a bit much for an intranet site but employees would greatly benefit from a visually appealing ‘Whos Who’ for each department. As well as email addresses and extension numbers, the page might offer employees’ particular skill sets, for example. This would allow for the functionality to search for certain skills or specialties in a group.

And more…

There really is no limit to the functionality you can put on your intranet. Theoretically, if you see it on the world-facing internet, you can build it onto your site. That said, you need to make sure that the functionality you implement is worthwhile: will it improve or add to your business?

The 5 worst things you can do to your intranet

Some companies see their intranets much as they do potted plants: mainly decorative, placed with the intention of cheering up the workplace. Like plants, intranets appear easy to maintain at first glance but this is not the case. Intranets are fickle and easy to kill: too little attention and the site will wither and die; too much water or information and it will drown in a puddle of inaccessibility.

Intranets are an essential tool in the modern workplace, offering a quick and easy way to share information across a department or company. However, this information is useless if no one wants to visit the site. With this in mind, read on for the five worst things you can do to your intranet:

  • Growing an eyesore
  • Opposite extremes: under- or over-watering
  • Out of control: the importance of pruning
  • When everyone wants to look after the plant
  • A dying plant is never watered

Growing an eyesore

First impressions are everything, and this is especially true of online content. Badly edited images, clashing colours and misspelled copy can put a user off before they even start using the site.

How to avoid this:

  • Set a clear and tidy design aesthetic from the start, and stick to it. Ideally work with a designer. Map every new page out thoroughly using PowerPoint or similar before you build it.
  • Generally, people do not like scrolling, especially on the homepage. Scrolling is more acceptable on inside pages.
  • Use fonts sparingly you should only need to use one or two fonts throughout your site. Similarly, you should limit font sizes and colours. Ignore this and your site will start to look like a scrapbook.
  • Avoid the scrapbook look and feel further by having a preset size for all images and thumbnails.
  • Organisation is key! Keep your links and attachments together, and arrange them either alphabetically or in date order as appropriate. Try not to have long lists of links on your home page: if you have too many, consider creating a separate page for them.

Opposite extremes: under- or over-watering

Even if a user recovers from the shock of seeing a messy, unprofessional home page, the second factor that could make them run for the hills is a home page with outdated content. It is possible to suffer from the opposite problem: too much content on the home page looks untidy and makes searching for any single item difficult.

How to avoid this:

  • Be sure to remove outdated content from the home page it will free up space for new content.
  • Create and maintain a busy pipeline for new content. This content should cover two to three months worth of upcoming content.
  • Dont be afraid to hold new content back. It is far better to publish regularly and often than to release everything in a burst.
  • Content should contain clear, meaningful titles (and perhaps summaries), and should have a date of publication. Images are also good they provide a quick and instant cue for a user to see that the content has changed since her last visit.
  • If links must click through to downloadable attachments, use an icon to denote this and provide the file size in order to manage expectations. Avoid massive presentations, and do not open PDFs or Word documents if users are just expecting an article.

Out of control: the importance of pruning

Having a lot of information available on an intranet is not a bad thing, unless that information is difficult to find. Users who have to trawl through eight pages of links to find an attachment will quickly look elsewhere for information.

How to avoid this:

  • Offer a variety of ways to navigate round a site. Make use of search functions, drop-down menus and menus on the page; people operate in different ways, and it is best to cater for all of them.
  • Ensure users know what will happen if they click on a link. If they are going to download something, tell them what and how big it is. If they are going to open a new page, make sure they know which page. Dont assume a user will guess from an abbreviated link.
  • Use an ordered hierarchy when building your site: Users pay attention to URLs, using them to see where they will end up if they click on a link. Avoid coded URLs if possible: keep them in plain English.
  • Open new windows for attachments and links to other sites: users may not be finished with your site. However, if you are linking to another page on your site, load in the same window.
  • Link to neglected areas of the site on the home page: write an enticing blurb and use an image to draw in readers. Make use of newsletters to advertise new or recently updated areas.

When everyone wants to look after the plant

Many intranets have more than one person responsible for content: each department in a company may have their own dedicated page, for example. This means that it is harder to keep the site focussed and tidy; individual pages lose their coherence and the intranet begins to look like a collection of random documents being stored for convenience.

How to avoid this:

  • Put together a representative board of people responsible for looking after the intranet, assigning members of this board to individual pages. All content for these pages should go through the page owners.
  • Document a clear and concise set of standards that the intranet team should work with: these standards could include house style, link styles, image sizes and any of the other tips discussed in this article.
  • Having other people wanting to produce content is not a bad thing, so assign your site owners to chase them. Nevertheless, check and edit the content especially if you are working for an international audience.
  • Perform regular site reviews, weeding out sections where the content has gone out of date. Incorporate traffic reports into these reviews to find out which sections are popular and which are not.
  • Put together site overview documents to map out the purpose of each section, how often they should be updated and who is responsible for this. This will make management of the site much less of a chore.
  • Whenever a section is updated, make sure you update the home page too. Users will not automatically click around the site looking for updates you will need to tell them.

A dying plant is never watered

Intranet users are not just the audience for a site they should also be the primary donors. However, if they feel that a site is out-of-date and unvisited, users will be less inclined to provide new content themselves. It is a vicious circle, and can be very difficult to fix.

How to avoid this:

  • Again, build pipelines for upcoming content well in advance. Make sure the pipelines have plenty of material: not every article will end up be suitable for the site, and some may never be written.
  • Keep a comprehensive list of good sources of information for the site. When your pipeline is looking thin, begin doing the rounds of people you know have contributed in the past. Ask for specific types of information or content; dont simply ask, Have you got anything good for the site? as this always yields very little.
  • Be sure to credit users by name when they submit content or assist in writing articles. This creates a personalised touch and appeals to the users competitive streaks. Everyone likes to see their name in pixels!
  • Again, keep the home page up-to-date: any changes, updates, modifications or new content on the site should be reflected on the home page.
  • Newsletters are key drivers of traffic, and can alert users to new content even if they have previously lost interest in a site. Keep comprehensive mailing lists and send out a regular newsletter to keep people coming back to your site.

These five sets of tips are central to building and keeping a good intranet. To stretch the potted plant analogy just a little further, failure to acknowledge these points will kill the intranet before it even has a chance to grow. Take these factors into consideration and your intranet will flourish into something that will benefit you, your staff and your business.

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