atlas by clearpeople

How to improve information findability and discovery in Microsoft 365


We’ve all experienced that moment at work — you’re on track to meet the next deadline but then suddenly, you hit a wall. You need a critical piece of information, but you have no idea where to locate it. It feels like searching for a needle in a haystack. After exhausting your options, you turn to a colleague, only to find they're as clueless as you are. This highlights a fundamental issue many employees face: the difficulty in easily accessing information and identifying experts within their organization.

In this blog, I cover:

Why is it hard to find information at work?

Studies show that employees spend a significant portion of their time searching for information, leading to frustration and a loss in productivity. Below are  will explore the key reasons behind these difficulties:

  1. Information overload. Organizations generate vast amounts of data daily, from emails and documents to databases and meeting notes. According to a study by IDC, the global datasphere is expected to reach 175 zettabytes by 2025. This overwhelming amount of data makes it challenging to locate specific pieces of information when needed.
  2. Too many apps. According to a recent Gartner survey, the average number of applications a desk worker, also referred to as a “knowledge worker,” uses is 11, compared to six applications in 2019. Forty percent of digital workers are using more than the average number of applications and 5% of workers use 26 or more applications at work. This makes it more difficult to remember where information is stored as well as how to find it. 
  3. Breaking down silos, not building them: In many organizations, data is scattered across multiple systems, departments, and formats. These silos hinder the free flow of information, forcing employees to navigate through different systems to find what they need. A study by McKinsey estimates that workers spend nearly 20% of their time searching for internal information. Often, teams and technologies become isolated, creating barriers instead of fostering collaboration. This compartmentalization restricts the flow of information and knowledge.
  4. Lack of metadata and tagging. Poorly labeled files and lack of consistent metadata make it hard for search engines to understand the content of documents. Without proper tagging, even powerful search tools struggle to deliver accurate results.
  5. Context is crucial for useful knowledge: Information becomes significantly more valuable when it is contextual. Without context, even the most accurate data can seem irrelevant or confusing, making it hard to apply effectively.
  6. Access to subject matter experts.  Finding the right expert within an organization can be difficult if there isn't a clear directory structure or platform that shows who is responsible for what, especially if the organization has numerous distributed teams. This challenge prevents knowledge from being effectively shared and utilized.

Why information findability and discovery in Microsoft 365 is difficult

As mentioned above, finding information can be a daunting task due to the sheer volume and diversity of data generated in today's business environments. Documents, emails, chats, and files accumulate rapidly, often residing in disparate systems that are not always interconnected. This sprawl makes it challenging for employees to locate the specific information they need quickly.

The challenge becomes even more pronounced in environments like Microsoft 365, which, while comprehensive and robust, consists of multiple applications each serving different functions. For instance, essential communications may be spread across Outlook, Teams, and Viva Engage (formerly known as Yammer), while documents could be stored in SharePoint or OneDrive. The decentralized nature of data across these various platforms can lead to information silos where search functions are limited to specific applications rather than the ecosystem as a whole. 

Below is a summary of the common issues: 

  1. Volume of information. As organizations increasingly rely on Microsoft 365 for collaboration, communication, and content management, the sheer volume of unstructured information can make finding specific information or expertize daunting.
  2. Poor content architecture: Inconsistent taxonomies and metadata are key to poor findability.
  3. Lack of tagging: Even when content has the right structure, it is frequently missing tags or tagged incorrectly.
  4. Disconnected information that is stored in multiple Microsoft apps such as One Drive, Teams, SharePoint etc. and sometimes with limited access.
  5. Large documents: Many times, a needed piece of information is in a large document where the answer can be found only by scanning or reading the entire document.  
  6. We spend more time in meetings and therefore we are not consistently documenting our knowledge and insights. Across the Microsoft 365 apps, the average employee spends 57% of their time communicating (in meetings, email, and chat) and 43% creating documents, spreadsheets, and presentations (Microsoft work trend index).

AI is not a ‘magic’ solution

AI, including tools like Microsoft 365 Copilot, promise to streamline data discovery by offering intelligent search capabilities that understand context and user intent. While AI can significantly enhance search functionalities, it is not a panacea.

AI's effectiveness heavily depends on the quality and organization of the underlying data. Poorly managed data systems or inadequately tagged content can lead to suboptimal AI performance. AI tools require well-structured, well-maintained data environments to function effectively, underscoring the need for good data governance practices.

How to improve information findability in Microsoft 365

Improving the findability of information in Microsoft 365 can transform how organizations operate, leading to enhanced productivity, more innovative ways of working and ultimately increased revenue sources.

  • Centralizing resources: Creating centralized repositories and access to frequently used documents and information, reduces the time spent searching across multiple locations.
  • Data management: Structuring information meticulously with consistent metadata and tagging strategies can improve searchability. For example, a news article about the latest technology can be tagged with terms such as "technology", "innovation", or "future trends", ensuring it appears in relevant search results. Ensuring documents are correctly labeled and stored in predictable, logical locations can aid users in navigating the vast data landscapes of Microsoft 365. Businesses need to put effort into their content architectures: taxonomies, graph structures, metadata and other standards, especially in areas with unique terminology or technical content.
  • Customize search: Microsoft 365 comes with powerful search tools that can be fine-tuned to better meet user needs. Customize search settings in SharePoint to include managed properties and result sources that are most relevant to your organization.
  • Training: Regular training sessions for employees on how to use Microsoft 365 effectively can greatly improve how they find information. Include best practices for file storage, sharing, and management.
  • Delve and Graph API: Use Microsoft Delve and the Graph API to tap into machine learning capabilities that help in organizing content based on user interaction patterns and making personalized content suggestions.

How Atlas improves Microsoft 365 in 3 steps

Looking to improve findability in Microsoft 365 and easily?

Atlas is an inteliigent knowledge platform that solves the challenges of information findability in Microsoft 365. Atlas is developed natively within Microsoft 365 and adds an intuitive user interface to Microsoft 365 so that it easier to capture, classify and find content. 

1.Capture content 

    • Drag and drop documents simply from anywhere
    • Contribute knowledge easily with an intuitive step-by-step wizard.

2.Classify content 

    • Frictionless and automatic tagging of content with metadata across various formats.
    • Maintain best practice information architecture and automatically leverage the Taxonomy Term Store in M365.
    • Govern and automate the creation, management and maintenance of workspaces across the Microsoft 365 estate including Teams with wizards for end-users or APIs to your backend systems.

3. Find content

    • Personalized and relevant content is displayed in the flow of your work. Content can be targeted based on audience, location, and more.
    • Contextualizes knowledge for specific areas like a bid or project.
    • Discover information that would normally reside in silos across the enterprise. Intuitive and consistent interface to multiple data sources with previews, source labels and other descriptors to make it easy for users.
    • Use filters to achieve desired results within and across content sources.
    • Expertise finder helps you easily identify which co-workers have the relevant experience and knowledge to help you achieve your goals.

    • The built-in SmartHub (Upland BA Insight) data source integration allows users to view documents and knowledge from multiple enterprise sources in a single experience.


The fundamental practices of effective data management to enhance findability are essential, as well as a strategic approach to data management and governance to ensure that information retrieval is as seamless as possible. By focusing on these areas, organizations can enhance their employees' ability to find the information they need quickly and efficiently, leading to better decision-making and increased productivity.

By addressing the core challenges associated with information sprawl and silos, Atlas not only complements Microsoft 365’s capabilities but also enhances them to create a more connected, searchable, and efficient digital workplace. This combination of Microsoft 365’s extensive tools with Atlas’s targeted enhancements is a powerful solution for any organization looking to improve its information management and retrieval processes.

eBook: Get your organizational data ready for AI

A guide to getting ready for Gen AI and Microsoft 365 Copilot.

What you need to know about Enterprise AI eBook Cover 3D

Download this eBook to learn: 

  • the challenges and risks associated with enterprise AI
  • how to get your data AI-ready
  • successfully implement AI technology such as ChatGPT and Microsoft Copilot.

Author bio

Katya Linossi

Katya Linossi

My job is to shape the vision, strategy, culture and performance of ClearPeople. Other than being passionate about making workplaces more inclusive, I enjoy planning our next travel adventure or trying out a new recipe.

View all articles by this author View all articles by this author

Get our latest posts in your inbox