When working with partners and customers using Microsoft SharePoint we often see teams starting to use the software as a replacement for their file shares or wikis. This approach often results in multiple Microsoft SharePoint installations, as well as many sites being newly created. Some companies install separate instances for each project-team, to get the most flexible solution. Sometimes this happens to “work around” grown organizational processes, other times it is because of "firewall" considerations. When working on one project or in one team this approach may not pose a problem. But what if you want to look something up and you are not sure in which “island” the information was stored?
What if you need to find all projects that a coworker and you have been working on together?
Use Cases we see
As mentioned before, two typical use cases are the replacement of file shares and wikis. Creating or migrating Line of Business (LOB) applications is an additional scenario. Search is a means of navigation as well as a means of research and needs to include information from all relevant data sources. Having actionable results is as crucial to staying in the flow as having an easy way to refine your query using facets.
Searching one Microsoft SharePoint site does not pose that much of a problem, but ...
... how to search accross multiple Microsoft SharePoint installations and sites?
There are a lot of solutions to search in all sites of one installation but integrating the results of multiple installations poses a problem. One solution is the federation of OpenSearch compatible search engines which can be achieved in Microsoft SharePoint as described in the article SharePoint Federated Search by Andy Dawson. Being able to integrate results from your e-mails, Microsoft SharePoint installations, file shares and all your other data sources enriches your experience and thus your ability to act in an optimal way.
A richer "on site" experience
A Microsoft SharePoint site is often the starting place for teams if they want to look up what has been done on a project or what is to do next. Having all essential information available is key to successfully managing projects. Having your documents and data in a team repository is a huge step in the right direction, but being able to reach all the relevant data sources will boost your productivity. Web Parts allow you to customize your site according to your likings and to embed custom elements (see Getting Started with Web Parts in SharePoint 2010).
Embedding enterprise search via a Web Part is a way to speed up your information access by having search available at your fingertips while at your command center. Even better, using a Web Part automatically showing the latest updates to a project by conducting a predefined query gives you a head start. You can easily see new e-mails, files or application data without conducting a search.