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Advanced Content Targeting using SharePoint Search

There are various ways to achieve content targeting in a content management system. In SharePoint, some common terms which are associated with this feature are Audience Targeting, Security Trimming, Metadata etc. Today I am going to share an example which we recently implemented for our customer and which required advanced targeting rules.


An internal portal accessed by employees and contractors in three dozen locations comprising of countries and/or regions. Authoring takes place in a separate content site and content is rendered on a publishing site. All content is targeted with three important profile attributes -

a. Location (comprises of country and their region)

b. Role

c. Business Unit

Each piece of content or even a link takes user to the publishing site keeping authoring unexposed to the end user. What this means to search is

a. Customizing search results URL to point to publishing

b. Customizing hover preview to display publishing pages

c. And most importantly the results should be targeted based on user profile properties (mentioned above)


In order achieve the above, we designed a custom solution extending content by search web part. This solution inserts a query token into the content search web part which filters the indexed content with logged in user’s profile attributes (Location, Role, Business Unit). (Credit goes to my colleague Ryan Selley for developing this robust solution)

First we’ll map managed properties to crawled properties for the taxonomy terms used to tag content.


Then we’ll create the custom web part in Visual Studio by extending content by search.


Then we’ll Generate a custom query variable to insert in the search query box.


Build this custom query token with logged in user’s profile properties in the BuildTAQuery()


This is how the query text looks in the search web part


With this token in place your content is now targeted on the user’s profile attributes. The logged in user will now only see content which has been tagged to their location, role, and business unit.

Happy targeted coding!

Office 365 – Microsoft’s “Cloud-First” Strategy In Action

For the past year, we’ve heard Satya Nadella’s “cloud-first, mobile-first” vision from Microsoft. Some joke that they both can’t be “first” but let’s just call it priority “1A” and “1B”.

I see it every day in Office 365. Exchange Online has nearly a bi-weekly addition of features while the on-premises version lags behind. It makes sense too that at some point, Microsoft will have to decide that “feature X” will go into the next version of Exchange as there needs to be some incentive to purchase the next version. Meanwhile, the “evergreen” service of Exchange Online continues to receive updates.

In the past 24 hours, two examples popped up demonstrating this priority.
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Posted in Office 365

Free Microsoft Training with the “Know it. Prove it.” Challenge

Know It. Prove It. 28 days to rock your tech skills.Microsoft Virtual Academy held the “Know it. Prove it.” 28-day challenge during the month of February 2015. The challenge was a month-long learning binge with 8 challenge tracks to choose from. Along with more than 55,000 people around the globe; I rocked the challenge during the month of February and leveled up my skills. As an overachiever, I actually completed 2 challenges and learned a lot. Even though the challenge is technically over, you can still commit to and complete these challenges, so there’s still plenty of time if you haven’t started one yet. Read the rest of this post »

Office 365 – Azure AD Sync: Did You Know?

brain_gears_shutterstock_wordpressIt’s been about six months since “Azure AD Sync” (often called “AADSync”) was made generally available with the intended purpose to replace the previous DirSync tool. In addition to an overhaul under the hood, AADSync brought with it new features such as support for multiple Active Directory forests.

If you’re configuring Directory Synchronization for the first time, it is recommended to use AADSync instead of DirSync. If you have an existing DirSync environment, you might find that AADSync fills some requirements that DirSync does not.

Below are 10 quick little tidbits you might not have known about Azure AD Sync.
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Posted in Office 365

Webinar: How the Microsoft Cloud Helps @PIH Improve Global Health

Many nonprofits (and cerpihtainly other organizations as well) would likely share the same sentiment as Partners In Health (PIH) – due to the mission at hand, resource allocation, more often than not, prioritizes the needs of people over systems. It’s not all that surprising that this can lead to disbanded communication systems. Systems that, over time, become expensive to maintain and increasingly deficient.

This was the situation Partners In Health faced, and they are solving it by migrating to Office 365. PIH is a Boston-based nonprofit that delivers high-quality health care and serves impoverished communities around the world. Through the move to Office 365, they now have a single, reliable platform for colleague interactions and can more effectively focus on the mission, improving the quality of health and meeting the needs of underserved populations.

More from a recent news release:

Deployment of Office 365 across sites in Africa, Haiti, Mexico, Peru, Russia and the U.S. will further Partners In Health’s mission to provide a preferential option for the poor in health care. It will also enhance cross-site communication and collaboration as the organization responds to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Cloud-based storage allows documents to be accessed at any time from any device in any setting, including those where bandwidth is limited. With a common email platform, information may be shared seamlessly among colleagues, partners and all others involved in the fight against illness and poverty.

This migration included including a transition to Exchange Online for company-wide communication, Azure-hosted ADFS for identity management, and SharePoint Online for document storage and collaboration.

We’re fortunate to have assisted PIH with this deployment, and are excited to host a webinar next week, on Wednesday, March 4 at 1 p.m. CT, How Partners In Health Is Using the Microsoft Cloud to Improve Global Health.

During the session, PIH’s CIO Dave Mayo, as well as Kent Larson and David Chapman from Perficient, will share details around the challenges the organization faced prior to moving to Office 365 and how the Microsoft Cloud has impacted their ability to share information and collaborate across the globe, even in the most remote locations. They’ll also discuss how change management played an important role in a successful deployment.

For more about PIH or to make a contribution to help the organization transform global health, visit Read the rest of this post »

What To Call Your My Site

Use “Your” instead of “My” when labeling things that are considered belonging to a user! Read the rest of this post »

Office 365 – The Limitations of Alternate Login ID

Back in April of 2014, Microsoft announced a feature called “Alternate Login ID” (sometimes referred to as “Alternative Login ID”). The idea was that instead of changing the UPNs in your on-premises Active Directory, you could use a different value to authenticate to Office 365 and sync that value to the cloud as your login.

At the time of release, I wrote an article (“Office 365 – Configuring AD FS & DirSync with an Alternate Login“) that covered the necessary configuration to use Alternate Login ID. It seemed like a very viable option for organizations that had dependencies on their current UPNs and would not be able to easily change their UPNs. In the past 10 months, that article has been one of the more popular articles that I’ve written so I wanted to follow it up with an update based on information that we now know today.
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Azure Search: Scoring Profiles


When a search query is submitted to the index, each document that is returned has a search scoreazuresearch_configure1_5_searchtile which is an indicator of its relevance in the current search query and context. The higher the score, the more relevant the item and therefore, the higher it is ranked on a scale of high to low.

In Azure Search, you can tweak the calculation of a search score through an index modification called a scoring profile. A common usage of scoring profiles is Geo-search, which allows you to automatically boost items which are closer to the location of the user. You can also simply boost by pushing newer documents to the top of your search results, or in some cases boost some older documents. It all depends on what your business needs are.

You can configure as many scoring profiles as you would like in your search index, but you can only specify one profile at a time when running a query.

Scoring Profiles vs. Managed Property Weighting and XRANK

For the SharePoint Devs out there getting into Azure Search, Scoring Profiles is a lot like Managed Property Weighting combined with XRANK in SharePoint. However, I find that Azure Search gives you control that allows you too really customize your boosting in ways that SharePoint cannot. Most of your boosting control comes in how you define your scoring profiles in your index, which allows you to really clean up your query on the front end without having to use XRANK. For example, to achieve a simple Geo-search, you would only need to provide the scoring profile and the current location as parameters in your search query.

As a further bonus, you can configure as many different scoring profiles as you would like, giving you full control of how your query gets processed. While in SharePoint, you can only configure a single set of relevancy rules without using XRANK, in Azure Search you can configure as many as you would like and specify which one you would like to use at the time. This way you can specify different weights for different fields (managed properties) when your business needs change without having to completely clobber the back-end index.  Read the rest of this post »

Customer Experience Drives Digital Transformation – Webinar 2/25

Digital Transformation tenenhance-customer-experience-and-loyaltyds to have a slightly different meaning to different people, depending on how you ask.  Whether it’s cloud, customer experience, eCommerce, integration, CRM, digital marketing, mobile, collaboration, analytics or Big Data, most would agree, however, that digital transformation enables businesses to “see” their customers better and add value throughout the lifecycle.

There’s a reason that the first topic we will be covering in Perficient’s Digital Transformation webinar series (following the initial webinar which can be viewed here)  is, “How Customer Experience Drives Digital Transformation.”  The customer experience is often the driving factor, the catalyst, in digital transformations, as mentioned on i-SCOOP:

Although digital transformation is not just about customer-facing functions, it’s clear that in many transformation projects, the customer experience is a key driver and catalyst. In more IT-oriented projects, the same goes for the user experience and user adoption. Actual usage and adoption in fact is essential to make such projects succeed.

When I think of customer experience and digital transformation, I immediately think of Sitecore. Sitecore is all about customer experience management and its .NET based platform – with many integrations—including Dynamics AX, Microsoft’s ERP platform, etc. — provide a single, connected experience and allow marketers to create great brand experiences with every customer who engages digitally. Things like persona development and personalized content make them a no-brainer in reaching consumers in the digital age.

Regardless of your platform preference, join us on Wednesday, February 25, at 1 p.m. CT to learn how and why you should give customer experience more thought, no matter where you currently are in your digital transformation initiative. Read the rest of this post »

New Additions to the Office 365 Family

I’ll keep this post short and sweet in honor of Friday!

Now if you are an avid follower of Microsoft, you got to agree that the most fascinating news (other than stock news) about the company is their shift to the cloud with platforms and products like Azure and Office 365. With so much exciting features coming through it’s tough to keep track. We at Perficient here, have the privilege to work with the latest greatest and keep you updated with the same. The three new features which caught my attention last week provide a great enhancement to user experience, be it mobile or desktop. I discuss them briefly here

Office on iOS

Office 365 Message Encryption Viewer – This app allows you to open mail attachments and send back an encrypted reply. Microsoft verifies your identity to ensure you are who you say you are. Get a one time pass code on your phone.

image1 Read the rest of this post »