Tag: Planning

Site Requests, Provisioning, and Governance

Yesterday I posted a link to Michael Sampson’s survey on Site Creation Rights which is intended to collect information on the process and governance around who can request new sites and how they are provisioned or “actioned.”  This is an important topic, so I’m looking forward to seeing the results.

This is a topic I have had to put a lot of thought around recently in my current organization.  Like all things Governance, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.  Instead there are topics that needs to be discussed in the context of the organization to determine an appropriate path.

 

Some items to consider:

Who can create a site; Anyone, Project Manager, Manager and above?

True collaboration doesn’t always happen based on a mandate from above.  Whenever possible, it is good to encourage and accommodate requests from anyone that will use the service.  Some of the most innovative sites I’ve seen were lead directly by information workers sometimes even without the knowledge of their supervisors.  If there is a charge to the site, this may not be possible.

Does a site request require approval?

Does a site request require approval from a manager of the requestor’s group or from IS/IT?  If so is it for financial reasons, or does the scope and purpose of the site need to be validated?

What types of sites can be created?

Are there only certain types of sites supported like Division, Department / Functional Area or Project?  What if somebody wants to setup a site to organize the Bowling League or discuss Social Media’s place in the organization?

Where are the sites placed and how are they organized?

Are all sites placed into the generic “Sites” path or are they logically grouped in containers that represent the org structure or purpose?  This can definitely have an impact on the process if sites are automatically provisioned. 

If they are logically organized, you need to make sure you have a plan on how to move the sites and content if the purpose of the site or the organization changes.  These sites need to be dynamic and adapt to change.

Does the site need to be logged somewhere like a Site Directory?

If one or more Site Directories are used, the provisioning process should include steps to list the new sites. 

Does anyone need to review the site’s Design, Structure or Security?

This question is pretty central to the Governance process.  If you establish standards or guidelines you want to ensure people follow them, but it is also a good idea to have some form of a review available so that advice and best practices can be exchanged to help maximize the value the group derives from the site and system.

The scope of this review can run the gamut, I’ll save that as a topic for another day.  I will however say that it is important to the overall success of the platform unless the capabilities and understanding of the site owners/administrators are very high.

 

Site Requests and Provisioning in the Small Organization

In small organizations it is pretty easy to handle things manually.  Site provisioning really doesn’t take that long so it is easy to help the site owners/administrators along and get things organized correctly so that it meets the group’s information architecture objectives and is easy to use.

If the process is automated in a small organization it is likely to be a pretty simple process.

Site Requests and Provisioning in a Large Organization

In larger organizations it quickly becomes apparent that manual processes cannot scale and at least portions of the process need to be automated.  Depending on some of the topics above relating to charges, approvals, and topology the process can vary quite a bit from organization to organization. 

If the Governance model is properly though through it should be easy for people to request sites, and they should be provisioned in a way that offers additional value. 

 

End Notes

Thoughts, feedback, critiques?  I’m always eager to hear other people’s thoughts on this topic and eagerly await the results of the survey.

Social Computing – Communities

I was very excited when heard that “Communities” was going to be one of the pillars for SharePoint 2010.  I think the Social Computing and Communities aspect is where SharePoint has the potential to really revolutionize business collaboration and computing.  Administrators and Developers don’t have to wait until upgrading to SharePoint 2010 though to start taking advantage of some of these concepts.  By making the adjustment now you and your end users will be better positioned to leverage these concepts sooner.

 

Key Features and Recommendations

Collect Feedback – Find ways to gather community feedback on content.  Take advantage of features like Content Rating and Comments, develop Surveys, and make it easy to access user contact information.

Notifications – Show the members how to take advantage of the Alert features so that they can receive timely notifications for relevant information.  In my experience, most know the Alert Me feature is there, but few know how to configure it to only get the notices they want to see.

Tagging – In the past few years tagging has been a popular way to describe and categorize content.  While it is not built into SharePoint 2007 (MOSS /WSS 3.0) there are a number of custom or add-on features available.

Show Related Content – Find ways to show related or relevant content.   If you are currently running MOSS, now would be a good time to dig in and learn how the filtering web parts work, as well as the search web parts.  If there is related data on the page, be sure to filter views.  Configure some search results web parts that can automatically show results based on what is being viewed.

Use Content Types – Using content types will help you better aggregate and work with the data.  This also simplifies the process of identifying the data in search.

Content instead of Documents – Think in terms of content, not just documents.  Most traditional information workers still think in terms of documents, but long time users of the SharePoint platform are starting to come around. 

 

Advantages

Member Involvement – These solutions get people involved which can lead to a self-sustaining effort.

Easier to find golden nuggets – Following these concepts will let the good content rise to the top.

SMEs and Knowledge Management – This gives you an opportunity to better utilize your SMEs in a group setting instead of one on one communications.  This can also be used to identify and develop new SMEs greatly increasing your Knowledge Management capabilities.

 

2007 Add-Ons and Solutions

SharePoint Tool Basket V2 – A number of features that can be enabled for collecting user Rating and Comments feedback on all types of content.

Community Kit for SharePoint (CKS) – Templates and features that extend the standard SharePoint feature set.

SharePoint Search-As-You-Type with jQuery – Instant search results by adding in jQuery.  Always an end user favorite!

 

Things to Consider

While I think that it a good idea to leverage these features now it is important to consider the upgradability.  In some cases the features may be built into the next version of SharePoint (Content Rating, Tagging).  If you add those features in now, you will likely loose that data during the migration process.  When approaching a version upgrade for a Knowledge Management or community application it is almost always best to build a new solution and migrate the existing content anyway though.  This gives you the chance to take advantage of the new features. 

 

Wrap up

Any questions, comments, or other solutions that you would like to recommend for extending the current 2007 platform? 

 

Related Posts

SharePoint Quota Management

SharePoint ships with a decent set of Quota Management tools. Many of the people I talk to are not familiar with the tools because they do not believe they need quotas. I think the tools offer valuable information that can be used to help maintain a well run farm even if strict quota management is not needed. Without the tools, you increase the likelihood of excess content being stored which leads to longer backup and recovery times and additional storage needs.

If sites really do not need to be limited, I would advocate setting the quota limits very high as opposed to not enabling them or turning them off.

Storage Space Allocation Report
The tools are available to Site Collection Administrators from the Site Settings page at the root of the Site Collection.

The tools will list out all of the content in the Site Collection. You can review Document Libraries, Documents, Lists, and the Recycle Bin.

Document Libraries – I find it helpful to know which libraries have the most content. By reviewing this list you can get an idea of which Document Libraries to target when reviewing the information architecture and taxonomy issues. This may also provide the information needed to make decisions on restructuring sites and site collections so that they are smaller and nimbler helping to reduce recovery time during disaster recovery.

Documents – It can also be informative to know how big the bigger documents are. This report will actually roll in prior versions as well so if there are a large number of versions you can review and clean up as needed. In the prior version of SharePoint it was not possible to set a maximum number of versions to save so I used this to review and manage prior versions. I had one case where there were some financial spreadsheets with over 100 versions at 75mb each. That is just wasted space unless there is a real business need.

Lists – List size can be very difficult to figure out without this tool. The number of records is important to know, but if there are attachments the list size can grow very quickly. This report will detail both the number of items, as well as the storage space consumed.

Recycle Bin – It will also report out what is in the recycle bin. There is nothing too exciting here.

How to Manage Quota Templates
The quota templates are available in Central Administration under Application Management, Quota Templates.

If you do not really want to manage quotas you can set this to a large value. If you have a charge back system in place where groups pay for the storage they use, try to identify a few different standard categories and assign a warning and max level. Here are some categories that I have used before.

• Personal Sites
• Personal Sites – Executive
• Medium Document Storage
• Heavy Document Storage
• Light Collaboration
• Medium Collaboration
• Heavy Collaboration

How to Enable Quota Management
The screen to enable quota management on a site collection is available in Central Administration under Application Management, Site Collection Quotas and Locks.

Note: If a site goes over its configured quota it will be set to locked. Even if you adjust the quota size you will still need to remove the lock.

SharePoint Resources and Knowledge Management

Lack of “proper” training is a common end user complaint in many SharePoint environments. Hopefully training plans have been developed, but in addition to formal training I have also focused on providing online resources for task and audience based training.

Going through this exercise can also provide a great introduction to Knowledge Management concepts that can be applied to other aspects of your business and processes. SharePoint includes many core features that are very well suited for Knowledge Management and that can be easily configured to match your requirements.

Microsoft has many good resources available on their Office Online website. I’ll frequently identify specific content that is especially helpful and provide links to that content.

A good place to start is to include the following content:
• SharePoint Contacts
• Video Tutorials
• Task Based Instructions
• Training and Event Calendar
• Helpful Links
• Frequently Asked Questions
• General Discussions

When identifying content, try adding custom properties to help organize it based on the Audience (User, Power User, Site Owner, Developer, Administrator) and maybe some categories (Documents, Lists, Wikis, Blogs, Security, etc).

Identifying the content is a good start, but in the second phase look for ways to deliver that content targeted to the specific audiences or categories. For example if you provide a filter web part with the list of Audiences you can connect the filter to each of the list views. It is also a good idea to try and keep the content fresh. Add additional information as needs arise and try and get involvement from the user base.

I would like to thank Laura Rogers a.k.a. @WonderLaura for inspiring this post after a brief tweet this week about updating a SharePoint Resources site in her org. The mere mention of this topic opened the creative floodgates.

Supporting Multiple Active Directory Domains

In many environments there is more than one Active Directory forest with users that need access to the SharePoint farm. Setting up support for users on multiple domains is pretty easy and can provide new collaborative features for users throughout the extended organization.

Trust Relationship
The only prerequisite is that there has to be a trust relationship between the forests. Users from the other domain(s) will need to be able to authenticate and access resources on the host domain.

If that trust is not in place, here is a good resource: Support for Cross-forest deployments

Setting up the Import
The Profile import settings are in the Shared Service Provider’s User Profile section. Setting up the primary domain, the domain the server is on, is pretty straight forward and the default settings should be fine.

To setup an import for additional domains click on the “View import connections” link from the main User Profiles and Properties page followed by the Add Connection item in the toolbar. Fill in the domain information and click the Auto Fill Root Search Base button. If the SharePoint Administration account does not have access to read from the target domain you will need to supply an account to read the directory.

People Picker Control
If there is a one way trust, or there are duplicate accounts (display names) on different domains it may be a good idea to set some additional properties. In the article Select user from multiple forest domains it provides a path to specify which forests to search, and allows the passing of credentials if the SharePoint Administration account does not have the required privileges.

Summary
The platform does a good job of supporting cross domain collaboration, and it is a lot easier to setup than many enterprise systems. In one environment I had to support over thirty domains so the information included above really came in handy.

Managing SharePoint Customizations and Change Log

In previous posts I wrote about SharePoint Customization Policies and Change Control. That post was pretty high level and at its root questioned the position of some environments that set a No Customization policy. It then gave a brief overview of the types of customizations and how they differ from content changes.

I wanted to follow up with a post that goes a bit more in detail how to manage an environment that does allow customizations along with some suggestions on how to document and manage those customizations.

Packaging Custom Code
Most SharePoint developers start out as regular .NET developers. It is a natural progression and there are a lot of similarities. One big difference comes in deploying solutions. Most try to manually deploy their solutions, not understanding all of the implications. In order to gain all of the benefits of the SharePoint platform code needs to be bundled into packages. Simple, stand-alone web parts can be packaged and deployed via cab files and more sophisticated apps, templates, and timer jobs can be deployed via SharePoint Solution files.

By packaging and deploying these customizations through supported interfaces they will be easier to manage during updates and when adding additional Web Front Ends to your farm.

Targeting Custom Code
Not all solutions or web parts have to be deployed globally throughout the farm. If your solution or web part is used to support a specific application then only deploy it to the site(s) that need it. That will reduce clutter in the solution listings or Web Part catalog.

Tracking Installations and Deployments
It is a very good idea to keep a running list of the patches, components, and customizations installed. This can make troubleshooting issues a lot easier, and help make migrations or farm changes easier. I keep a site within my SharePoint farms to manage the change log and documentation.

Some data elements that I would recommend tracking include:
• Title
• Description
• Requester
• SolType (WP, List Tmpl, Site Tmpl, WF Actions, Timer Jobs, Sys Patch)
• Source (Custom, Community, 3rd Party)
• Install Date
• Current Version
• Scope (Farm, Application, Site Collection)
• Scope Detail
• Additional Details

Related Articles
SharePoint Customization Policies and Change Control
Managing SharePoint Solutions and Extensions

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