Understanding SharePoint site structure- what’s inside, by Benjamin Niaulin

Slide show from last week’s ShareGate Webinar!  Click here for the recorded version.

Mind the [Knowledge] Gap

Never pass up a chance to leverage work for the next time. Use SharePoint to make less work for yourself, not more.

Mind the Gap

As stated in my introductory post, I help users at all levels. I try not to over- or under-assume anything about their skill level, instead focusing on “meeting them where they live” and building an overall perception of how much or how little tech-speak or deeper SharePoint complexity to introduce into the conversation.

One might think it safe to base such a perception on the user’s permission level- meaning, it’s OK to assume a deeper level of skills & knowledge are present the higher the permissions go. Guess what? NOT TRUE. At least, not in my universe.

This particular user was owner of a SharePoint 2010 site collection (full control permissions, not a site collection admin) managing projects, which includes tracking a lot of contacts from outside the company.

I noticed six individual links to contact lists in the Quick Launch, and assumed that those links were to different views of the same list. WRONG! He’d created 6 separate contact lists. (You probably heard my head explode at that point.) Here was a person who I never would have thought needed to be educated about why what was such a bad idea. He was a site owner!!

When I explained my reaction, he replied, “Are you KIDDING me? All the time I wasted…” I felt terrible but again- this person had Full Control permissions, had recently attended a week-long Site Administrator training course, etc… he should have known better, right?

You may ask yourself, what’s inherently wrong with creating 6 separate lists? A result was achieved and the contact information got created, so what’s the big deal?

Well, the big deal is that it took him all day to create those 6 lists. When a new project site gets added, that site will also need to track its contacts. Will he have a full day to devote to this again, every time, for each new project? I think not. 

Had he called me before starting, I would have recommended: Create one contact list, configure views based on columns in the list and link those views from the Quick Launch. Even further- I would have recommended he build a Project Contact List Template- a reusable, preconfigured blank slate to allow creation of “his” Project Contact list each time one is needed, already set up to facilitate the way HIS team wants to track and present contact data for THEIR projects. We could then re-deploy it across the whole site collection as many times as needed.

  • Start with your data, which leads to development of site columns, which leads to a Content Type, which leads to list design, which leads to the List Template.
  • You get standardization, consistency and a single point of maintenance going forward.
    • If you decide a new field needs to be tracked, all you do is update the content type and that change will roll out to every single contact list where it’s in use.
    • Contrast that with going to every one of those previous 6 Contact Lists and adding the new column. Ugh- who needs that?

What – How – Why

In the course of a typical workday, I help people at points across the entire SharePoint skill spectrum. Some days I forget that SharePoint is just one tool they use to do their real job. They are not regularly exposed to basic SharePoint knowledge many of us take for granted. Many of these “forgotten” users also tell me that there is plenty out there to show “how” in SharePoint but very little showing “why.” They want more “why” and they want it presented in an easily understandable way. The goal of this blog is to bring “what,” “how” and “why” together in response to this need. I hope it finds an audience who can benefit from it!

Call for topics!

Help me make this blog helpful for you, the reader. Topics may include: permissions, content types, weaning off folders, views, versioning, content approval, leveraging reusability features (site columns, list/library/site templates), best practices. Whew.

Any suggestions? What are the things that you are having trouble finding good info on when it comes to SharePoint?