SharePoint Syntex makes extensive use of the Term Store (Managed Metadata Services – MMS) and does so in many different ways which I will go through in this blog. When Microsoft were working on Project Cortex and before SharePoint Syntex & Viva Topics were even known, there was a big investment by the SharePoint engineering team to improve the term store. The term store when it was moved from SharePoint on-premise to SharePoint online was literally moved “as is” (I believe!) to the cloud by Microsoft. There were no significant updates when it was moved over and it came with the old slow classic UI. Adding/administering terms took ages as users had to wait for often long periods of time whilst navigating between terms, adding terms etc. It was sometimes very painful so sometimes people would even avoid using the termstore altogether. So would lose the benefit of it providing a unified set of terms to apply to content in Microsoft 365, that can be reused between sites/libraries. So it was great that in early 2020 Microsoft announced they had modernised the Term Store. I was instantly curious how this was going to be utilised in Project Cortex as little was still known about it.
The Managed Metadata Service was rebranded as the “Term Store” and was given a shiny Modern UI then moved into the SharePoint Admin center under Content Services – Term store. There were several under hood performance tweaks so now gone are the days of waiting 30 seconds between adding terms or navigating terms!. What was also significant was Microsoft increased the number of terms supported at the tenant level from 200,000 to 1 Million! This was a huge increase so suggested to me that the term store would have a big role to play in future SharePoint developments especially Project Cortex.
Below I will outline all of the improvements that have happened to SharePoint Syntex to make use of the term store and why I think everyone needs to know….
Use term store taxonomy when creating an extractor in SharePoint Syntex – synonyms
This is not strictly an update but it is part of Syntex document understanding models being able to support Taxonomy columns in a entity extractor in the model. The extracted value for the entity extractor is then matched to a term from the global term store which can have many synonyms i.e. alternative names. If one of the synonyms of a term is detected by the entity extractor in the Syntex processed document then instead of the synonym being used – the document will instead be tagged with the default label of the term.
See the image below where I have a term called Leicester City Football Club in a clients term set. The greatest football team in the world (haha) can also be known as “LCFC”, “Leicester City FC” or just “Leicester City”. If an entity is extracted in a Syntex model and it matches “Leicester City FC” then in SharePoint the value used for the client will instead be the default label “Leicester City Football Club” which is the full name of the football club.
This functionality is very powerful – many assets, locations, companies etc are known by different names or slightly different wordings i.e. Microsoft, MSFT, Microsoft Corporation etc. This can be then be used to write the value of the company as one consistent name rather than three different values that mean the same thing! The process to associate a term set to an entity extractor in a Syntex model is currently not straightforward and involves manually creating site columns in your SharePoint content centre – luckily there is some good Microsoft documentation here.
Add Syntex extracted entities to an open term set if no match found
SharePoint Syntex document understanding models can be created with an entity extractor linked to a global term set in the term store to display preferred terms for the data extracted. What this new update brings is the ability if the extracted value is not already in the term set i.e. the company name is not in the companies term set then the new company name will be added to the term set. This relies on the term set (at the tenant level in the SharePoint Admin centre) being open i.e. terms can be added and the site column linked to the term set which is then used in the document understanding model to allow fill in choices i.e. users can add terms.
Syntex may pick up a different way of naming a location for example that is already in the term set and add it as a seperate term. A Term store administrator can then go into the term set and see there are multiple terms that mean the same thing and then merge the term(s) with the original matching term so the merged term becomes a synonym.
I really like this update as terms can easily be added to a term set and then re-used to create Viva Topics, as placeholders for Content Assembly or just in plain old SharePoint columns to tag content to managed metadata values.
Use Syntex taxonomy to generate topics for Viva Topics
As previously mentioned Syntex can now add Syntex extracted entities to an open term set if no matching term is found. To accompany this update in the Term Store in the SharePoint admin centre topics for Viva Topics can be created from terms by clicking the Request topic link on the term. I have previously covered this in a blog SharePoint Syntex and Viva Topics – Working Together
Once a term has been requested to be turned into a Topic (for Viva Topics) it then takes upto 24hrs for the Topic to be created in the Viva Topics topic centre. In order for the Topic to be created at least one file needs to be tagged with term used for the new topic – then the topic will be successfully created. The status of all the requested terms for topic creation can be seen in a report for each term set in the SharePoint admin centre.
This update is useful as Topics can be created from existing terms previously in the term store or new terms that may have been added by Syntex extracting values of new clients for example. A new topic page can be created for the newly extracted client and Viva Topics will also benefit from Syntex metadata enriched documents for better suggested files.
Use taxonomy term set or term as input source in placeholders in content aAssembly templates
This update in April 2022 allowed licenced Syntex users to create placeholder in a modern (content assembly) template and link it to a Taxonomy column in the tenant level term store.
Once added as a placeholder, when a user creates a document using a modern template with content assembly they can browse the term set that the placeholder is linked to and then select a term (value). The placeholder in the document is then automatically changed to reflect the chosen term (value).
Syntex Content Assembly also now supports the the use of Managed Metadata columns when a SharePoint list/library is used as a source for the placeholder and a item with a managed metadata value is selected which then populates the placeholder.
I like this update – it allows users to make use of any organisational taxonomies they may already have in their organisation and use a value or even multiple values in a placeholder in the modern (document) template. These values can now be used when generating content with content assembly.
Advanced metadata search now supports adding taxonomy fields
In every Syntex enabled library and if the logged in user has a Syntex licence they can now access an advanced metadata search flyout from the search box above the library. Users are now able to add site columns including Managed Metadata fields and other queryable columns from the current document library view into the advanced search flyout by clicking “more options”. Managed Metadata fields were not initially supported in March 2020 but are now supported (July 2022).
The advanced metadata search feature in SharePoint Syntex lets you perform specific metadata-based queries on SharePoint document libraries. You can make faster, more precise queries based on specific metadata column values, rather than just searching for keywords.
Import SKOS taxonomy into the term store
If a term store admin has a Syntex licence then they can import a term set using SKOS (Simple Knowledge Organization System) format. SKOS is a international standard created by the Worldwide Wide Web (W3C) consortium for representing semi-formal knowledge organization systems (KOSs), such as thesauri, taxonomies, classification schemes and subject heading lists. The SKOS standard is designed to be platform agnostic meaning a SKOS can be imported and exchanged between many different software applications.
The usual method for importing term sets into SharePoint is CSV files – which although they can be opened & edited in Microsoft Excel easily they are limited in the amount of metadata and functionality provided.
Some of the advantages to using SKOS rather than CSV are:
- SKOS can include all terms sets within a selected term group – so multiple csv files are not required
- SKOS includes additional metadata properties in the term store like translations, synonyms and custom properties
If you go to Import a new term set menu in the Tenant Level term store you can then download an example SKOS format template file named sample-metadata.ttl (instructions here). Opening the file in notepad shows an example import file for the old favourite SharePoint import file topic Political Geography i.e. Continent, Political Entity, Country, Province or State, County or Region etc in SKOS format (see below).This has all of the SharePoint SKOS headers but unfortunately does not open nicely in Excel for editing so has to be opened in Notepad for editing.
There is a whole page on Microsoft Docs – SKOS format reference for SharePoint taxonomy – SharePoint Syntex | Microsoft Docs with the formatting changes needed to import a SKOS file into SharePoint to benefit from the SKOS import. Up to 20,000 terms can be imported this way from a import file.
With Syntex and the term store working hand in hand together and benefitting each other this update allows organisations to import fully featured advanced taxonomies in SKOS format into the term store. SKOS import files are much more powerful due to what they can can do over the traditional CSV import format i.e. synonyms, custom properties, translations, import multiple term sets from one import file etc. These terms and the synonyms can then be used with Syntex entity extractors in Syntex Models, Topics in Viva Topics or as placeholders in Syntex Content Assembly. Organisations may already have taxonomies in other systems that are either already in SKOS format ready to be imported in the Term Store or could be converted to SKOS format ready for importing.
Add taxonomy columns from modern document library views
Earlier this year Microsoft added the ability to add Taxonomy/Managed Metadata fields (hierarchies of tags and terms) direct from Modern document library views. This update also added the ability to add Content Types (reusable collection of metadata) from a modern library view too. I loved the previous update Microsoft did to the Modern UI to empower users to add most column types i.e. Single line of text, number, Yes/No etc directly from the library headers but the ability to add Managed Metadata was a notable absentee until recently!
This was a welcome update as previously there was no ability to add a new Managed Metadata column in the modern library and users instead had to revert to the classic UI in library settings to add a Managed Metadata/Taxonomy column. This is not strictly a SharePoint Syntex update as these changes are available to all users in every library but these changes have come about due to the big improvements for SharePoint Syntex the Microsoft engineering team have made to the Taxonomy and Content Types.
Modern site-level term store
When the new modernised term store was launched with performance tweaks, modern UI and increased limits this was only done at the tenant level in your SharePoint admin centre. Term sets can be stored at the tenant level (shared between all site collections) or site level (only available in the site the term set is stored in). The site level term store (Site Settings – Term store management) was not Modernised.
In November 2021 the Site Level term store was upgraded and made available in the modern UI.
This again reinforced the motion that the termstore is very important in SharePoint and brought all the performance/UI tweaks behind the scenes to the the site level term store.
Term store reports
One of the big improvements when the tenant level Term Store was modernised was there extra reporting added to the SharePoint admin centre (Expand Reports, and then click Content services). This feature requires a SharePoint Syntex license.
There are reports on:
- Term store operations
- Term store composition
- Open and closed term sets
- Terms without synonyms
There are also not only reports – there are also links that can be loaded from the reports dashboard to “Choose keywords to add as managed terms” and “Choose term sets to convert to closed“. These links allow term store admins to make changes to the term store in response to data from the report without having to go back to the main term store page and find the term/term set to make changes to.
In the past couple of years there has been a big number of innovations from the Microsoft content services team for SharePoint Syntex, and the term store has been one of them. As mentioned previously when the Term Store was modernised back in 2020 for what was then known as Project Cortex I wasn’t sure how it would fully benefit from it. Later on that year when SharePoint Syntex was released in October 2020 it wasn’t still immediately obvious. Then as all the updates have come to SharePoint Syntex as listed above it has now become obvious and we see the power of the term store and SharePoint Syntex. My favourite two updates updates which I use daily in Syntex is being able to use taxonomy fields as entity extractors and make use of synonyms. Along with adding Syntex extracted entities to an open term set if no match found. There is also the ability to use Syntex extracted taxonomies to create Topics in Viva Topics which was the other product in Project Cortex.
This blog has been interesting to document all of the improvements that have been made to the term store, SharePoint Syntex and how they now all work together. Please let me know if you have any feedback or any Syntex questions I’d be glad to help!