The is the next post in the series I’m doing here on the offlinesharepoint.com blog. My last post, #4, was on re-examining how business gets done. Now let’s look at how you can leverage SharePoint templates to get more from SharePoint.
SharePoint offers many out-of-the-box capabilities for building “sites”, or places for people to do their work. There’s the document library, the calendar, the task list, the custom list, the announcements list, and many more. With such capability comes a huge degree of flexibility to create exactly what is needed by a local team to get their work done. And for those working in larger organizations, it is pretty much guaranteed that most teams will see their requirements as being “unique”, and therefore worthy of a site design that is different to everyone else’s.
Be warned: this is a recipe for disaster, because as the number of customized sites increase, the ability for an end user to seamlessly move between different sites they are involved with diminishes rapidly. In other words, what a user learns in one site (about how to work, or track tasks, for example) will be different in a second site, and different again in a third site. This means that the user constantly has to think about how to work within team one vs team two.
Avoid the problems of having a proliferation of customized site templates by standardizing on “the way we do things around here”. For example, most organizations have “projects” of various kinds that are run through SharePoint, and the flexibility of the tool means that you can do one thing in a multitude of different ways. The idea, then, is to standardize on a particular way of doing things, and make a set of standard templates for team project management in SharePoint. This means that depending on the size of the project, a team then only has to choose the right site template.
There will be some key differences between the way the site is structured for small, medium and large projects:
- Small projects will have all design elements in a single team site, and will probably have only one of each type of design element, e.g., one Document Library
- Large projects—and they are “large” because of the number of people involved, or because the project contains multiple linked stages—will probably have multiple sub-sites under the overall project site, along with say, multiple document libraries in each site, each focused on a different group or a different type of document.
One of the main aspects to design for is the ability to perform roll-up and aggregation of like assets across a collection of sites. For example, tasks assigned to a given individual should be able to be aggregated across multiple sites, giving each individual a coherent view of what they are supposed to do. To make this even a possibility, however, you will need to base the design of task tracking off a common design element.
The next step to move ahead with the creation of standard templates depends on where you are starting. If SharePoint is already in use at your firm, and you have a proliferation of custom templates already—which means that you feel the pain now—then it’s time to review current sites to look for opportunities for standardization. For example, when the same activity is being undertaken in different ways, there exists a prime opportunity to create a standard way of doing things.
If SharePoint is about to be unleashed, then now is the time to create standard ways of doing projects through SharePoint sites. You won’t get it perfect on day 1, but by starting with a small set of templates and by setting the social expectation that customizations will be tightly controlled, you create a great starting place.