Understanding SharePoint & Office 365 Internal Communities, Related Goals, and Proven Best Practices
When SharePoint Server 2013 and/or Office 365’s SharePoint Online is implemented within an organization there are both business requirements that are in scope to be accomplished as well as the information technology (IT) goals and key benefits that are embraced by IT to deploy SharePoint and support it for the long term.
From the very beginning communities start to develop and those related users within those communities have their own sets of goals, processes they wish to improve upon, and collaboration or increased knowledge sharing in a governed and secure manner that SharePoint offers.
This is true for SharePoint implementations of any kind whether it be an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) initiative or a new intranet or increased “social” or “professional networking” related strategy the culture is striving to embrace.
To simplify this very granular path or rabbit trail that could cause this type of discussion to quickly get “into the weeds” of a technical or business deep dive, there are three core types of communities that existing within any SharePoint 2013 or 2010 implementation.
There are, of course, many sub-communities and types of users that flow out of these main community types but the three that can be identified at the very top level are:
- The “Knowledge” community and related users whose goal is collaboration, knowledge sharing, social \ professional networking, and retaining this “knowledge” for the long-term. A goal of this community is to prevent “knowledge” loss when staff members leave the organization and providing their best practices, lessons learned, and intellectual property “knowledge’ when new staff comes into the company.
- The “Power User” \ “Super User” community who supports the “care and feeding” as well as support to ensure the “Knowledge” community continues to thrive. This group is made up of team members or users who work with both the “Knowledge” community as well as the business leaders who set these goals and the IT and “Operational” community who keeps the “lights on” and ensures security, performance, governance, compliance, and business continuity.
- The “Operational” community who supports both the “Knowledge” and “Power User” \ “Super User” communities. This community is made of the technical staff with roles such as the SharePoint administrators, Site Collection owners, Site owners, infrastructure, networking, and security. The “Operational” community is also getting ever growing requests to support the “Knowledge” community who is knocking at the door regarding mobility, smartphones, tablets, and the bigger BYOD questions.
Note: I completely agree with those who are reading this and naming off many different more granular communities or types of SharePoint Sites (Team Sites, My Sites, Community Sites, Records Center \ Management Sites, etc.) but you can draw a correlation between all of these types of communities or sites to the three main communities I identified above.
The Knowledge Community
One thing I have strived with my team members at EPC Group, the SharePoint and Microsoft consultancy I founded about 14 years ago, is to take the word “SharePoint” out of many conversations and focus on the business and functional goals at hand. Microsoft SharePoint is the technology you are using to accomplish these goals but think in terms of how the “technology” can meet the needs of the communities.
There is a bit of a new blurry line when talking about SharePoint Communities today with SharePoint 2013 having a new level or hierarchy of Community Sites (templates) which support specific communities but I think its key to bring it back to thinking in terms of knowledge management and “Communities of Practice” (CoP) or “Networks of Excellence” (NoE) that initially created many of the best practices and strategies that drive “SharePoint Communities” today.
So taking a step back and by using the “Networks of Excellence” or NoE concept in the knowledge management world, the following are roles, responsibilities, as well as best practices that should be taken into consideration.
Executive Community Sponsor
- Approves and supports the business case and vision for knowledge sharing at the functional, business unit, operational and/or executive levels
- Signs-off on the business case, vision and resources for knowledge sharing
- Remains involved through executive briefings and communications to the organizational community sponsors
- Sets goals and related performance criteria for the community
- Fosters widespread interest and enthusiasm for Knowledge Sharing and community participation
- Directs and presents the strategic input of the community to executives
- Directs the activities and sets priorities of the community
- Manages the usage and appropriation of community resources
- Ensures the quality and timeliness of community activities/deliverables
- Develops a team concept within the community dedicated to learning and innovation
- Participates and leads all aspects of community planning, design, development and deployment
- Oversees the processes, content, technology (portal administration) and people resources to increase the effective sharing of best practices and lessons learned across business units
- Works closely with “Knowledge” Sharing leaders and staff to incorporate training and standards
- Measures community maturity and effectiveness with accountability to business goals
- Communicates knowledge sharing success stories and lessons learned
- Gives recognition to community, going back to the “Networks of Excellence” (NoE), members for their contributions, and enables award or recognition submissions
- Guides research and benchmarking projects (where applicable)
- Encourages qualitative and quantitative benchmarking to identify new areas of improvement opportunity
- Appoints, coaches and supports the community coordinators
- Ensures effective content management by collecting and managing the right information that supports the community
- Ensures that SharePoint’s content is updated and relevant to the user’s needs
- Monitors collaborative spaces (Sites) to extract new knowledge and to identify issues that require responses
- Builds awareness of and access to the right people and right information that supports employees’ daily workflows (day-to-day tasks)
- Maintains processes for knowledge acquisition, storage, maintenance and dissemination
- Facilitates community interaction and outreach to grow the number and contributions of active members
- Links community members with subject matter experts to answer questions or provide solutions
- Collects and packages “Knowledge” Sharing success stories and lessons-learned and champions these to other communities to keep a sense of competition within various communities to strive for excellence
Community Core Team Members
- Actively participates in and steers network activities under the guidance of the community Sponsor
- Builds regional sponsorship for and engages regional members in knowledge sharing activities
- Formulates and executes plans to deploy community deliverables at the regional levels
- Provides a link between the strategies of the Community and the strategies of the regional business units
- Develops relevant measures of success for the community
- Engages local community coordinators and subject matter experts (SMEs) in knowledge sharing activities
In identifying these different roles, there is a best practices framework that can be followed to ensure SharePoint Community Effectiveness along with 10 Critical Success Factors.
The “Power User” \ “Super User” Community
The “Power Users” \ “Super Users” who supports the “care and feeding” of SharePoint communities where I mentioned earlier “keep the lights on” and ensures security, performance, governance, compliance, and business continuity should follow the following high-level as well as more granularly listed best practices:
The “Operational” Community
- People (Permissions, Active Directory, Groups, etc.)
- Roles & Teams
- Process and Policies (Enforcement)
- Communication and Training (From a technical level)
It is also key to have these permissions and responsibilities in the operations roles persistent throughout all communities (SharePoint sites \ farms). The roles and responsibilities defined below are specific to SharePoint Communities used for operations and maintenance of SharePoint 2013 and SharePoint 2010.
Note: These will vary based on your specific requirements as well as the site templates and technology versions you have implemented but is a very strong “core” list to pull from…
|Role||Responsibilities and Tasks||Group||Permissions||Trustee|
|SharePoint Team Manager|| ||SharePoint Team|| ||Application Manager/Infrastructure Architect|
| ||SharePoint Team|| ||SharePoint Team Manager|
| ||SharePoint Team|| ||SharePoint Team Manager|
|Active Directory Manager|| ||Infrastructure Team|| ||SharePoint System Architect|
|Network Engineer|| ||Infrastructure Team|| ||SharePoint System Architect|
|SharePoint Solution Manager |
| ||SharePoint Team|| ||SharePoint Application Architect |
SharePoint System Architect
|SharePoint System Administrator |
| ||Infrastructure Team|| ||IT Manager |
SQL Database Administrator
| ||Infrastructure Team|| ||IT Manager |
|SharePoint Solution Analyst |
| ||SharePoint Team|| |
|SharePoint Application Architect |
SharePoint System Architect
Local Group Roles in the Operational Community (End-User Roles)
- These community (site) roles will be managed by the Farm Administrator.
- Community (site) users may belong to more than one group to add additional permissions.
- Community (site) users may also be removed from lower level roles as higher level roles permissions may encompass the permissions of the lower level role.
|Roles||Responsibilities and Tasks||Training||Permissions||Trustees|
|Site Collection Manager (IT) |
(Top Level Communities or Sites)
| ||Instructor led with good understanding of site administration, security, content creation, feature deployment||Access defined at the SharePoint application level. No access at the system level.||Farm Administrator |
|Site Collection Owner (Solution Manager in Development, IT in Production)|| ||Instructor led with good understanding of site administration, security, content creation||Access defined at the SharePoint application level. No access at the system level.||Site Collection Manager |
|Site Owner(Solution Manager, IT and End User)|| ||Instructor led with good understanding of site administration, security, content creation||Access defined at the SharePoint application level. No access at the system level.||Site Collection Manager |
|Developer (IT Dev is the SharePoint Team). This group exists on all sites at time of creation but is removed prior to go-live.|| ||Instructor led training with CBTs. MS training for Visual Studio, and SharePoint Designer “Developers”||Full control of non-production systems. |
Access defined at the SharePoint application level. No access at the system level.
Access does not exist in the production environment.
|SharePoint Application Architect |
|Member|| ||CBT with good understanding of document libraries and lists||Access defined at the SharePoint application level. No access at the system level.||Site Owner|
|Approver|| ||CBT with good understanding of content approval and workflows||Access defined at the SharePoint application level. No access at the system level.||Site Owner|
|Reader|| ||N/A||N/A||Site Owner|
End User Community Permissions
The following is an example of “end user” community permissions based on the user roles for the community (sites) are listed below.
|Community (Site) Permissions||Site Collection |
|Manage Lists – Create and delete lists, add or remove columns in a list, and add or remove public views of a list.||Y||Y||Y||N||N||N|
|Override Check Out – Discard or check in a document which is checked out to another user.||Y||Y||N||N||N||N|
|Add Items – Add items to lists, add documents to document libraries, and add Web discussion comments.||Y||Y||Y||Y||N||N|
|Edit Items – Edit items in lists, edit documents in document libraries, edit Web discussion comments in documents, and customize Web Part Pages in document libraries.||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||N|
|Delete Items – Delete items from a list, documents from a document library, and Web discussion comments in documents.||Y||Y||Y||Y||N||N|
|View Items – View items in lists, documents in document libraries, and view Web discussion comments.||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Approve Items – Approve a minor version of a list item or document.||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||N|
|Open Items – View the source of documents with server-side file handlers.||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||N|
|View Versions – View past versions of a list item or document.||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||N|
|Delete Versions – Delete past versions of a list item or document.||Y||Y||Y||N||N||N|
|Create Alerts – Create e-mail alerts.||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||N|
|View Application Pages – View forms, views, and application pages. Enumerate lists.||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Manage Permissions – Create and change permission levels on the Web site and assign permissions to users and groups.||Y||N||N||N||N||N|
|View Usage Data – View reports on Web site usage.||Y||Y||Y||N||N||N|
|Create Sub-sites – Create Sub-sites such as team sites, Meeting Workspace sites, and Document Workspace sites.||Y||Y||Y||N||N||N|
|Manage Web Site – Grants the ability to perform all administration tasks for the Web site as well as manage content.||Y||N||N||N||N||N|
|Add and Customize Pages – Add, change, or delete HTML pages or Web Part Pages, and edit the Web site using a Windows SharePoint Services-compatible editor.||Y||Y||Y||N||N||N|
|Apply Themes and Borders – Apply a theme or borders to the entire Web site.||Y||Y||Y||N||N||N|
|Apply Style Sheets – Apply a style sheet (.CSS file) to the Web site.||Y||Y||Y||N||N||N|
|Create Groups – Create a group of users that can be used anywhere within the site collection.||Y||N||N||N||N||N|
|Browse Directories – Enumerate files and folders in a Web site using SharePoint Designer and Web DAV interfaces.||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|View Pages – View pages in a Web site.||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Enumerate Permissions – Enumerate permissions on the Web site, list, folder, document, or list item.||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||N|
|Browse User Information – View information about users of the Web site.||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||N|
|Manage Alerts – Manage alerts for all users of the Web site.||Y||Y||N||N||N||N|
|Use Remote Interfaces – Use SOAP, Web DAV, or SharePoint Designer interfaces to access the Web site.||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Use Client Integration Features – Use features which launch client applications. Without this permission, users will have to work on documents locally and upload their changes.||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||N|
|Open – Allows users to open a Web site, list, or folder in order to access items inside that container.||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Edit Personal User Information – Allows a user to change his or her own user information, such as adding a picture.||N||N||N||N||N||N|
|Manage Personal Views – Create, change, and delete personal views of lists.||N||N||N||N||N||N|
|Add/Remove Personal Web Parts – Add or remove personal Web Parts on a Web Part Page.||N||N||N||N||N||N|
|Update Personal Web Parts – Update Web Parts to display personalized information.||N||N||N||N||N||N|