Taking over an existing SharePoint Site? Getting Started as a new Site Owner

Wouldn’t it be great if ownership of a SharePoint (SP) site never changed? Reality is different. Site Owners move on, to a new position, another team, or another company all together. What stays behind is the SharePoint site that needs new ownership.

If you find yourself in the position of taking over a new SP site, here are suggestions for your first steps:

Documentation

Check if there is any existing documentation about the site, e.g. purpose of the site, lists & libraries, permission overview, workflows, etc. Check in the Site Assets folder for a OneNote Notebook. If there isn’t one, document your findings in a OneNote Notebook and save that Notebook in the Site Assets folder. Your notes will help you in the future when you need to make changes to the site.

Site Contents

Become familiar with the content of your site. Go to the gear, Site Settings, and take a look at the existing lists and libraries. If you are on a Team Site, don’t forget to check the Site Pages library to understand what pages have been built. If you take over a Publishing Site, check the Pages library.

Navigation

Understand the existing links on your site. Review the Global Navigation bar as well as the Quick Launch. Try every link to ensure they are working. Remove those that don’t. As a general rule, top (global) navigation links should link to content on other sites, quick launch links should link to existing content on your site (lists, libraries, pages, forms).

Workflows

It’s not always obvious if workflows exist for a site, list, or library. One would hope that if they do exist they were well documented. Under Site Settings, Site Administration, Workflow settings you will find which workflows are associated with the site. However, workflows associated with lists or libraries are not listed here. The next step would be to check in the settings for each list and library, or contact your SP Admin and ask for help. Your SP Admin should be able to tell you if there are any workflows. If the workflows were done in SharePoint Designer (SPD), then you have a good reason to request/download SPD and start learning about workflows.

Permissions

Understand who has access to your site and what kind of access.

  • Are there are others who have full control in addition to you? If that is the case reach out to determine who the primary and who the secondary site owner is. Be clear about who grants and removes permissions for new hires / departures.
  • Where do Access Requests go to? When a user requests access to a site an email gets sent. If that email address is invalid, the request ends up in a dark hole and the user never gets a response. Find the answer by going to the Site Settings, Site Permissions, Access Request Settings and update that email address, add two if possible.
  • Are permissions given directly or are all users part of permission groups? Hopefully the latter is the case. If not, consider creating permission groups for your site and start using them. You can start out with the three basic groups: Site Visitors = read access. Site Members = contribute access. Site Owners = full control. (see my previous post on permissions)
  • If Active Directory (AD) groups are used on your site, find out what processes are in place for the maintenance of AD groups. If a user is added to an AD group and that AD group has been added to a SP permission group, as the SP site owner you will not get any notification if a user has been added or removed from the AD group.

Documentation

Did I mention this? Document, document, document…since you will likely not spend 24/7 working on your site, your notes will help you dive back in when the time comes. Also, as an added benefit, it shows the effort you have made in your journey to site ownership.

Happy SharePointing!

Utilizing Calendar Alerts based on Views

The Out-of-the-box (OOTB) SharePoint toolbox is very powerful, and one of the many great features is the possibility to set alerts on items, lists, documents, libraries, pages, and more.

Typically an alert is being set for one of the following actions:

Change Type

An Alert can also be set for any of the following changes:

Alerts for Changes

What is often overlooked, though, is the fact that an alert can also be set on changes to a particular view.

I suspect this feature is often overlooked, because it requires creating a view first. And to create a view a user needs to work with metadata columns, which at first can be a tough concept to get across.

If no view has been created, there is no indication in the alert set-up screen that the feature exists, except for the small print, which nobody reads.

If a view has been created it would be listed below “The time or location of an event changes”.

Alert for particular view-wborder

Let’s use the following scenario to utilize Alerts with a particular view. An office with about 200 employees receives recurring visits of clients and remote employees. Those visits are recorded in the Outlook Conference Room Calendar and there is no notification to the local employees about those visits.

Local employees would like to be aware of those visits to a) meet the clients / remote employees in person; b) dress more business-like as often clients are visiting the corporate office for the first time.

To utilize Alerts on particular calendar views follow these steps:

  • Add the Calendar App to your site

Calendar App

  • The OOTB calendar contains a Category column, with the following values:

Meeting | Work hours | Business | Holiday | Get-together | Gifts | Birthday | Anniversary

  • Remove those values and replace them with:

Client Visit and Remote Employee Visit

  • Create a Client Visits as well as a Remote Employee Visits view:

IMPORTANT: When creating the view, choose the Standard View Type. It’s easy to automatically select the Calendar View Type, we are working in a calendar after all. A view generated from the Calendar View Type will NOT display in the Alert Set up form.

ViewType

  • If the Create View page looks like this, you have selected the correct View Type:

StandardView

  • Under Filter, select Category and Client Visit. Repeat the steps to set up the Remote Employees view, selecting Remote Employee in the Category column.

Category

  • Once the views have been created, select your calendar, the Calendar tab, Alert Me, Set alert on this list

SetAlert

  • You will now find the option to set an alert when Someone changes an item that appears in the following view:

AlertWithView

All that’s left to do is send instructions to all local employees on how to set an alert based on the type of visit they are interested in.

A few more thoughts about the SharePoint Calendar:

It is possible to connect a SP Calendar to Outlook. Updates to the SharePoint Calendar will automatically sync to the SP Calendar in Outlook and vice versa.

Once the SP Calendar is connected to Outlook, if a user drags an appointment from the SP Calendar to his/her own calendar, the dragged appointment will not be updated if there is a change made to the original appointment in the SharePoint Calendar.

Another great functionality is Calendars Overlay. Unfortunately, views created from the Standard View Type cannot be used in Calendars Overlay. To utilize Calendars Overlay views have to be created from the Calendar View Type.

Alerts on views and Calendars Overlay can be used in the same calendar, but a separate set of Standard Type views for the Alerts, and a separate set of Calendar Type views for the Overlay would have to be created.

Introduction to SP – from a BA’s Perspective

When a team asks me to create a SharePoint (SP) site for them, I happily oblige and ask immediately “and what are you looking to do on the site?” Most of the time a new site owner has been introduced to SP through other team sites, but they struggle with the getting started part. And it makes sense. SP seems easy to use at first sight, but I have noticed that the first excitement can wear off pretty quickly.

After all, SP is a pretty big animal and there is so much content on the internet on how to do specific tasks, but it’s hard to find simple content on “how to get started”.

Following is my approach to introducing SP to new site owners.

I start a new engagement with a 1:1 meeting with the new site owner. I have a few high-level slides that cover:

  • What is SP? A collection of many different products and technologies. It makes web sites and you don’t have to be a programmer or web designer.
  • What are the elements of SP? Site collections, sites, lists, libraries, pages, web parts; user interface; automation processes.
  • How do we use SP within our organization? A simple graphic provides an overview.
  • What type of sites are there? Collaboration sites (everyone joins in), publishing sites (small group of content creators, large group of content consumers).
  • How do permissions work? Driven by the business need, managed by the site owner, inherited from parent site.
  • Where can I find Training resources?

After I am done presenting the 6 slides, I navigate to the SP Homepage and review Navigation basics:

  • What is the Quick Launch? Review what type of links you can add there (site internal vs. external, or based on your organizations’ practices).
  • What is the Top Navigation Bar? Review what type of links you can add there (sub sites, pages, etc.)
  • Site Contents: Most content on a site is NOT shown on the home page. Understand what else there is.

Next I move into the SP sandbox for a demo, by building out a site with the new site owner watching. I navigate to new out-of-the-box (OOTB) team site, and I review the basic content of the team site. Then I start building.

Let assume the new site owner is part of a Finance Team. If the initial goal is to make policies and other documentation available to employees, I ask how they would categorize the files: examples are Expenses, Travel, Purchase Orders. Next I ask who the audiences are: examples are employees and contractors.

At this point, I usually notice surprise in my new site owner: Why are you asking about audiences? Can’t I just move my files to SP and then I’m done? Well yes, but no. Moving on.

I still haven’t used the word metadata (and will not do so), but here I am diving into the Document Library, showing the File/Library Tabs and of course the Library Settings. I demonstrate how to create columns and explain how they enable us to create views. I tie this back to my question about what the file categories are and who the audiences are, which I tie back to the fact that SP makes web sites. Not every audience wants to see the same content. Plain and simple.

Next I create a few views, one for employees and one for contractors. Then I create the pages, for employees and for contractors. My last few steps are adding to both pages a brief welcome message, a web part looking into the document library that displays the respective views, and then adding the page links to the Top Navigation Bar.

Oh wait, we forgot the home page. This is easy. I add meaningful headline, add the Summary Links web part displaying the Finance team members, and then a few bullet points about current Finance projects and objectives. Part of my main objective is to create a visual that reflect how a real site could look like.

I just built a very basic site (but specific to my new Finance site owner), and as I start clicking on the different page links, I often see the light bulb go on in my new site owner. They are starting to see what can be done in SP. And I haven’t started talking about alerts, versioning, check-out, workflows, information management policies, announcements, and the many other features SP provides!

But now comes the downer. So it was really easy to build the site and it took no more than an hour. As my new site owner starts asking more questions, and has ideas on how to use SP, I in turn ask more questions. And that’s when it becomes clear really fast, that a functional, user-friendly SP site requires Planning. Ouch. Who has time nowadays to plan?!?

Now what? What project should a new site owner get started with? I recommend to start with a project that:

  • solves a big pain point;
  • has a positive impact on a wide audience;
  • and the solution to the problem is easy to build.

I very much emphasize how important Planning is, otherwise there is a good chance that the SP site becomes just another dumping ground for files and information, or worse, will not get used at all.

My new site owner has now plenty of information to digest. I wrap up the first session with a gentle reminder that SP should support the business processes in place. It should not add complexity to existing processes.

Happy SharePointing!

Delete User from a Site Collection

Adding new users to SP Permission groups is easy. But what happens when a user leaves a company? Typically there is a process in place that removes the user from the active directory (AD). That does not mean, though, that the user gets automatically removed from a Site Collection.

I have heard SP Experts talk about a PowerShell script to do the task, but without having that option, the following steps will remove a user from the entire Site Collection:

  • Go to Site Setting / Site Permissions
  • Click on any existing permission group. Your url and header will look something like:

http://site-collection-url/layouts/people.asp?MembershipGroupId=6

image

  • Delete the GroupID, in this case 6
  • Replace the 6 with 0

The url and header will now look something like:

http://site-collection-url/layouts/people.aspx?MembershipGroupId=0

image

  • Next select the user you need to delete
  • Select Actions
  • Select Delete User from Site Collection

image

Things to consider:

  • This works only one Site Collection at a time.
  • This process is manual, but quick and easy.
  • It helps to remove multiple users at the same time. I therefore recommend getting added to term tickets and do the process once a month.

Editing the Color of a Task Bar on the Task Timeline

The task timeline is a new feature in SP2013 and is automatically displayed on the page when creating a new task list. Once a task is created it can be added to the timeline.

By default the task bars have the same color:

image

Wouldn’t it be cool to distinguish the tasks by color? No problem, it’s really easy.

On the page (without editing the page) select one of the task bars. It will activate the Timeline tab on the ribbon.

image

Then use the Options in the Font area to edit not only the color of the task bar, but also the color, font, font size of the task name.

image

This is how it could look like:

image

A few items to keep in mind:

  • Changing the color is obviously a manual task. If the color is supposed to correspond with a column, such as status, don’t forget to change the color when the status changes
  • Be gentle on the eye when selecting colors
  • Too many different colors may be confusing to the audience
  • On the other hand, related tasks could be painted with the same color

Displaying a Task List Timeline only – with the Timeline Web Part

When adding the Task List app in SP2013 it automatically displays a timeline.

image

The functionality of the Task List allows for the display of the tasks only, by following these steps:

  • Select the view you want to display without the timeline
  • On the List Tab select Modify View
  • Navigate to Style
  • Uncheck Show timeline above the view

image

As you can see, there is no option to deselect the tasks. But there is a solution to display the timeline only, and it comes in the form of the Timeline web part. And here is how it can be found:

  • Navigate to the page you want to add the timeline to
  • Edit page
  • On the top ribbon, select Insert Web Part
  • Select Content Rollup –> Timeline

image

  • After adding the web part to the page, open web part properties
  • In the first field Web URL, add the Task List url
  • Leave the Type, Source, and View Name fields as they are

image

  • Select OK on the web part and save page

And this is the end result:

image

Creating a Standard for Permission Group Names

Permissions in SharePoint can get very complicated. Here is one simple way to make it a bit less confusing for the Site Owner.

When creating a new site with unique permissions, SP will suggest the group names based on the site name.

For a new Sales site it will suggest Sales Visitors, Sales Members, Sales Owners.

SetUpGroups

 

 

 

 

 

 

The terms Visitors, Members, and Owners are associated with specific permissions:

  • Visitors – read – can view pages and list items and download documents
  • Members – contribute – can view, add, update, and delete list items and documents
  • Owners – full control – has full control (create anything – delete anything)

Including the terms Visitors, Members, and Owners in a permission group name and making it a standard for site owners across sites, will make it easier to:

  • understand what permissions are assigned to a group
  • troubleshoot a permission issue
  • add a user to a specific group

It just one little step in creating a standard that will go a long way.