Tag: Getting Started

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!

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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!