SharePoint Site Design - Part 1

Tom Robbins Thu, 05/18/2017 - 14:40

The process of designing a SharePoint site that will be of immediate value and provide return on your investment should start very early on in the SharePoint rollout.   This is not always possible as many organizations take a “roll-out and learn-as-we-go attitude” when it comes to SharePoint.  However, to maximize adoption and to guarantee a great return on investment, it helps to understand how to address deployment and follow those guidelines from the beginning if at all possible.  That includes planning, governance, and adoption strategies.

In my next few blog posts, I will talk about how to plan for and design a Team or Project portal.  To get started with site design, you have to fully understand what your end goals are for SharePoint?  Why have you chosen this tool, and do your business requirements fit in with what SharePoint offers?  So many customers try to make SharePoint into something that it is not.  It’s first and foremost a Collaboration Platform.  While it can be made to do almost anything, OOTB, it comes with tools and apps to facilitate collaboration.  By being very creative, you can make it do anything, but that is something for later down the road.  So make sure you have an understanding of the type of solution SharePoint provides.

Next, work with your teams to pinpoint the breakdowns and pain-points in their current collaboration and processes.  Often you will hear that teams use email, and how inefficient email is at facilitating collaboration.  You may also hear that document collaboration is an issue.  It always comes down to not being able to find the types of information you need when you need it.  SharePoint, by nature of being a website, gives us a platform to address all of these pain points.  Whatever your team determines as their major issues, work with them, by sharing the capabilities of SharePoint, to pinpoint which SharePoint tools will best address those issues.  You will have to demo some real-world scenarios are show how SharePoint libraries, lists, discussion boards, newsfeeds, etc. can be leveraged to improve upon their broken methods of collaboration.  So, make sure you have a functioning SharePoint installation so you can demo things on the fly for your team.  There are some good examples of how SharePoint has been implemented for Teams and Projects.  They can be found through simple internet searches.

Next, sit down with your team and storyboard the experience you expect to have when you utilize those SharePoint sites.  Lay out the real estate and show where each tool will be placed on the page, and how many pages might be needed to address all of the specific audiences you might have.  By default, there is one home page and that page is targeted to the entire team, but there may be other team members that want to see other site artifacts displayed in different ways.  For example: the bulk of a project team are the team members.  You want to make sure the home page of a project site has content relevant to the entire team.  Things like Tasks, Project Schedule, Issues, Risks, Discussion, and the Newsfeed.  But your project managers may want to see different information on another page targeted to them.  ON that page they may want to see dashboards, KPI’s, budget information, schedules and timelines.  Different content from the same project, just on different pages.

Once you’ve laid out the pages you have to then decide how you want the content to be displayed.  You want to make sure the content on the pages is relevant, not just to the whole team, but even more detailed than that, we want it to be targeted to individual team members.  SharePoint is a website.  Each page load can update information in real time.  For example, you know you want to show the Tasks for the project, but HOW do you want it shown?  By team member, sorted by due date, sorted by priority, limited to 5 at a time (real-estate on these pages is expensive), hiding completed tasks.  Each object on the page should be customized to provide up-to-date information.  This can be down by using query or filter web parts, by creating list views, by creating BI reports.  Some web parts using audience targeting based on integration with Active Directory objects.  There are many ways to target the content, but you must plan ahead for this.

Finally, you want to test this out with your team in some kind of planned pilot program.  Make sure your team understands that it is a work-in-progress.  Call it a Beta if you like.  Make sure to get feedback from your teams through some kind of process.  I like to create a SharePoint list for suggestions, complaints, problems as well as a Discussion board for brainstorming new ideas.  Put this on a separate page so you don’t clog up the home page which will hopefully go live at some point.

In my next blog post on this topic, I will do a video blog and walk you through a real-world process of doing the site design with your team.  Deciding What and How SharePoint objects are placed on the page.  The subsequent blog post will go through customizing that content using web part properties, and views.   So stay tuned!!!!