SharePoint Planning

      The centipede was happy, quite,
         Until the toad for fun
      Said, ‘Pray which leg comes after which?’
      This worked her mind to such a pitch
      She lay distracted in a ditch,
         Considering how to run.

                   -George Herbert Palmer

It’s entirely possible SharePoint offers the best out-of-the-box experience of any product Microsoft has ever released. It’s just Next-Next-Next-Next-Finish and you have a Portal to turn your webmasters loose on.

SharePoint offers a lot of power. So much power that it can often be in danger of not getting used at all. There’s a hierarchy to SPS Portals, Sites, Pages, etc. There are area pages to aggregate information, groups, audiences, topics, “Best Bets,” and so on. There is so much to do, that an organization can spend all its time “planning” how to deploy a portal and never get around to actually doing it.

There is a story about a college, perhaps apocryphal (Larry Wall seems to think it’s UC Irvine)

The college was building a large addition consisting of several buildings and a large quad area. After the buildings were completed, one of the Regents visited. He asked why there were no sidewalks between the buildings?

The college president replied that the architect had a good plan – open the buildings without sidewalks, let the students walk over the grass. Over time, trails will develop along the most common paths.

Then come back in a year and pave the trails.

Treat SharePoint the same way – lay out a basic hierarchy, some basic structure and templates, then simply let people start using it. Let them add sites, pages, content, lists, and so on. Let it build, let it grow. After a period of time, start reviewing the SharePoint reports and logs – then the areas, groups, and other aggregations you need should be apparent. If you need additional structure in the Portal, you can add it. Train the topic assistant and see what it turns up. Review help desk pain points and address those in the portal structure.

But all this time your users have been doing what SharePoint was designed to do – collaborate.


SharePoint Administrator’s Guide

SharePoint Accelerator for Intranets (good background info on SPS)

Comments (13)

  1. Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t that the intention of all portal software out there?

    To give a basic outline for which you can let your internal staff, or users change the way they would like to view the content, as well as adding their own content?

    Allowing everyone to collaborate in the addition of new areas, content, navigation?

    So perhaps by saying that’s what SharePoint was designed to do, perhaps you should be saying that’s what a Portal is designed to do?


    Matthew Cosier

  2. Philo says:

    You’re most probably correct. What I don’t know is if other portals provide the breadth of end-user configurability that SharePoint does.

    For example, look at the IBuySpy sample application – it’s a portal, but it’s pretty clunky and takes an administrator to do just about any kind of configuration. While it may be put in place as a "Portal," it takes a lot of big up front planning to make it usable.

    Now if competing portals have the capability to be deployed and usable an hour after installation, then these comments apply to them as well.

    But I can only speak about SharePoint, and it’s a powerful "info to the masses" product. In fact, one recurring question we occasionally see from some managers is how to rein in their portal – it’s become so popular that they have team sites and pages all over the place.

    How many applications prompt the complaint "our users like it too much and they’re using it more than we want them to"? (Well, except for Solitaire)


  3. Take Outs for 9 April 2004

  4. Mike Walsh says:

    I agree on your conclusions but I wish you’d say SharePoint Portal Server 2003 if that’s what you mean rather than just "SharePoint".

    Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) is also "SharePoint" but it doesn’t have areas for instance.

    I would do as you say (in fact am doing) and let users start using *WSS* and then once that has been extended as far as you can go there’ll be an automatic push for an upgrade to SPS 2003. To get areas etc. <grin>

  5. Philip Wheat says:

    Mike, actually the users don’t push for SPS to get areas, they push for SPS to get MySites and Advanced Search.

    It’s the admins that want areas – I spend a huge amount of time trying to get past the blank look of most of my clients when I start differentiating between areas and sites(webs.)

  6. Agreed. People want SPS because otherwise they don’t get cross-site (WSS) searching. And to get My Sites. One other thing is the convenient way of creating and managing WSS sites from the Sites list in the portal.

    Good post.

  7. Mike Walsh Helsinki says:

    OK. I’ll agree My Sites is nice too (and probably more in demand) – Cross-site searching too.

    I wonder about "the convenient way of creating and managing WSS sites from the Sites list in the portal". I’ve never had any problem in a (pure) WSS site of creating/managing (or even accessing) the sub-sites.

    [Aside: on the paths story, that’s exactly what they do in the Helsinki area. There was a square patch of grass and a path around it. People walked across the grass because it was the direct route. A year later there was a track diagonally across. Two years later they added lights!I’ve seen this sort of quiet improvement all over.]