Troubleshooting Search in SharePoint Online – Mikael Svenson

by | Dec 10, 2019 | Reviews, Search

This year I had the pleasure of working with Agnes Molnar on a project where the client was (by default) using SharePoint Online as the search application but had absolutely no idea of how to optimize search performance. Listening to Agnes made me realise that the optimization process required a careful consideration of the SharePoint configuration itself. This is a common feature of search applications embedded in enterprise suites (IBM, Oracle, SAP, OpenText etc) and so Microsoft is no different even though the company brand is ‘Microsoft Search’ as though it is a stand-alone application.  

There are few consultants with an in-depth knowledge of search implementation in SharePoint Online but fortunately one of them is Mikael Svenson who has been working with Microsoft (and other) search applications for well over a decade. Mikael has co-authored a number of books on the topic and has now self-published Troubleshooting Search in SharePoint Online. At first glance this is a slim book of just under 100 pages but appearances are misleading. This is because Mikael has been very selective in the challenges he has chosen to write about and has focused in on what I know are some of the most common problems and misapprehensions. For example hybrid search specific scenarios are not covered.

I was delighted to find there are two very good sections on crawled and managed properties which together represent around a third of the contents of the book.  These are excellent examples of where a lack of understanding about the configuration options in SharePoint Online can have unforeseen implications for search performance. Throughout the book the quality of the writing is very high, with good illustrations and links to Microsoft documentation.

This book is not for beginners. The primary audience would be IT administrators, SharePoint developers and SharePoint consultants. However, I would add that readers of this superb book also need to be aware of the fundamental principles of enterprise search, which have remained largely unchanged since the pioneering work of Karen Spärk Jones in the early 1970s and the development of BM25 by Stephen Robertson and his colleagues in 2000 onwards.

In my view it should be on the bookshelf of any IT team working with SharePoint Online. You will find it on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk – just type in the book title.  In the UK the price is £14.99. My guess is that it will provide solutions to 80% of the problems that in my admittedly limited experience are common in making search work as well as it can in SharePoint Online. It will give the team at the very least a starting point in understanding why their implementation is failing to meet user requirements.

Martin White