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Chat with Your Own Data, Azure Cognitive & SharePoint.

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Edgar Ochieng' Read Aloud
May 13th

Imagine a world where you can have a conversation with all your documents, from personal files to business documents, the sheer volume of information, not just store this data, but engage with it in a meaningful, conversational manner. No more endless searches, lost files, or wasted time sifting through irrelevant information. Azure Cognitive Services, combined with SharePoint, brings this future to life, allowing you to interact with millions of documents in a natural, chat-like way.

From Frustration to Freedom, why Chat with Your Data?

The advantages are numerous:

  • Empowering Users: Eliminate the need for complex search queries. Users can ask natural language questions and receive relevant results instantly.
  • Increased Productivity: Say goodbye to wasted time searching for lost documents. Get the information you need quickly and efficiently.
  • Improved Decision Making: Easily surface hidden insights within your data, empowering data-driven decision making.
  • Enhanced Accessibility: Make information readily available to everyone in the organization, regardless of technical expertise.

Key Arguments for Implementation

Improved User Experience: By integrating conversational AI capabilities, organizations can enhance the user experience of their SharePoint portals, making it easier and more enjoyable for users to interact with their data.

Increased Efficiency: Chat-based interfaces can significantly reduce the time and effort required to find relevant information, leading to greater efficiency across the organization.

Data-driven Decision Making: By empowering users to engage with their data in real-time conversations, organizations can foster a culture of data-driven decision making, enabling better insights and outcomes.

Futureproofing: As AI technologies continue to evolve, organizations that embrace Chat with Your Own Data now will be better positioned to adapt to future advancements and stay ahead of the curve.

To index data from SharePoint document libraries for full-text search in Azure AI Search, follow these detailed steps:

Prerequisites:

SharePoint in Microsoft 365 cloud service: Ensure you have access to a SharePoint site with document libraries containing the files you want to index.

Files in a document library: Make sure the document libraries in your SharePoint site contain the files you want to index.

An Azure account with an active subscription

Supported Document Formats: The SharePoint Online indexer can extract text from various document formats, including Microsoft Office formats (DOCX, XLSX, PPTX, etc.), PDFs, plain text files, and more.

Limitations and Considerations:

Understand the limitations of the SharePoint Online indexer, such as unsupported file types, limitations on indexing SharePoint Lists, encrypted files, OneNote notebook etc.

Considerations include document-level permissions and handling errors during indexing.

Step-by-Step Guide:

Step 1: Enabling Azure Cognitive Services (AZURE AI SEARCH)

  1. Visit the Azure portal and sign in using your Azure account credentials.
  2. Search for "AI Search" and navigate to the service.
  3. Click on "Create" to establish a new Azure AI search Services resource.
  4. Choose a name, subscription, resource group, and location for your service.
  5. Under "Pricing tier," select Basic or Higher.
  6. After reviewing your selections, click "Create" to provision the AI search Services resource.

Step 2: Enable System Assigned Managed Identity (Optional)

Enable a system-assigned managed identity if the SharePoint site is in the same tenant as the search service. This step helps in automatically detecting the tenant.

Step 3: Create a Microsoft Azure Application Registration

Create a new application registration.

On the left, select API permissions, then add API permissions for the Microsoft Graph based on the chosen permissions (application or delegated), and select (Files.read.all, Sites.read.all, User.read) and grant admin consent.

Next step on Authentication tab, select + Add a platform, then Mobile and desktop applications, then check https://login.microsoftonline.com/common/oauth2/nativeclient, then Configure.

Obtain the Application ID and the client secret for authentication which you can create on Certificates & Secrets on the menu, then Client secrets, then new client secret. Make sure to copy the value and paste it on your notepad for future reference.

Step 4: Configuring the SharePoint Online Indexer (Preview)

Important Note: SharePoint Online indexer functionality is currently in public preview. It's offered "as-is" under specific terms and with limited support. Consider this for production environments:

Use the preview REST API (POSTMAN). Specify the SharePoint site's endpoint, application ID, and the client secret. Refer to the Microsoft documentation (link provided below) for detailed instructions on using the preview REST API

Define the document library to be indexed within the data source.

A data source defines the data to be indexed, credentials, and change detection policies. It can be used by multiple indexers within the same search service.

Step 5: Create an Index

An index specifies the structure of your searchable data, including fields, attributes, and other elements that influence how users interact with search results.

Define the fields in the index, including metadata fields such as last modified date, file size, and content type.

Step 6: Create an Indexer

An indexer connects your data source (SharePoint document library) to the target search index and establishes a schedule for automated data refresh.

During this step, you'll provide details like the data source name, target index name, and a configuration that allows you to include or exclude specific file types based on extensions.

Conclusion

By following this guide, you've successfully established a robust foundation for extracting valuable insights from your SharePoint documents. An Azure AI Search index now houses your structured SharePoint data, ready to be unlocked by the power of Azure OpenAI.

Here's where things get exciting: Azure OpenAI seamlessly integrates with Azure AI Search, empowering you to craft a unique information retrieval experience. Imagine crafting search queries that not only deliver relevant documents but also leverage OpenAI's capabilities to:

  • Summarize key findings: OpenAI can automatically generate concise summaries of retrieved documents, saving users valuable time.
  • Answer follow-up questions: Azure OpenAI can analyze the context of a search query and the retrieved documents to answer follow-up questions in a comprehensive and informative way.
  • Generate different creative text formats: OpenAI's versatility allows you to craft search experiences that return content in various formats, like poems or code snippets, based on the user's intent.

This integration unlocks a whole new level of user interaction with your SharePoint data. By combining the structured search capabilities of Azure AI Search with the insightful and creative power of Azure OpenAI, you can empower users to not only find the information they need but also gain deeper understanding and inspire new ideas.

Summary:

  • How we did it
  • Implement Cognitive Services
  • Implement SharePoint as the Data Source
  • Click, Click, Click in Postman
  • Let the indexing happen.
  • Implement Copilot

User experience

Microsoft Documentation Links:

*Remember, using the SharePoint Online indexer is currently in preview and has limitations. Carefully consider your requirements

 

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