Quite often, I am being asked by my clients to create a SharePoint Department Site Template. In this blog post, I would like to share an example of SharePoint Department Site, as well as explain its elements and best practices related to setup and configuration.
Some time ago, I published step by step instructions on how to create a Project Team Site in SharePoint out of the box in 10 easy steps. This turned out to be a highly popular blog post and I have received lots of positive feedback. Department Site, on another hand, is different. So let me explain major differences and best practices.
Best Practice # 1: Do not force all of your departments into same SharePoint Department Site template
Let me rephrase it: There is no such thing as a SharePoint Department Site template. Department Sites, unlike project sites, cannot rely on repeatable templates. While there might be some common elements, I doubt that your HR Department Site will want to organize the documents same way as say Marketing Department or Finance Department.
Best Practice # 2: For each department, setup 2 sites: “public” and “internal”. Let me explain.
One of the most common requests from clients looking to create SharePoint Department Site is to have some of the content (documents) available to just that particualr department, and some of the content to everyone else within an organization. As stated previously (link to IA, external sharing) – it is considered a best practice to stay away from individual library, folder or file sharing and maintain security at the site level. What that means, and this is something I recommend to my clients, is that we need to create 2 sites. One for internal (department eyes only) content and another for the “rest of employees”. Human Resources (HR) Department is a good example. You might have a public site accessible by whole organization where HR Department might share company policies and procedures, medical benefits information, forms and templates. And then of course there will be an internal HR Department site with confidential information meant for the eyes of HR personnel only. Other departments might follow same model (i.e. Marketing or Finance). If you think about it, the behavior is really no different from what is currently being done by all those departments with folders/file shares, except now we control security and content at the site, and not an individual folder level.
Best Practice # 3: Keep the content, navigation and organization clean, intuitive and simple
Nothing says “our department is a mess” more than poorly organized SharePoint Department site. The SharePoint Department Site is a face of a department and one thing you probably want employees to do is to find the content quickly and easily.
Below is an image of a sample HR (Human Resources) SharePoint Department Site meant for all employees. As you can see, I organized content logically and in separate document libraries. I also added an introductory text at the top to remind the users the site they are visiting and to provide contact info for site owners. I have also added 2 other modules to help with navigation and user adoption: Promoted links to quickly access most frequent content and video. Embedded video (if applicable) is a great way to enhance visual appeal of the site. Such an example of a one-stop-shop site will definitely improve findability of the documents as well as improve user adoption and overall success of SharePoint in your organization.
As far as “internal” SharePoint Department Site, content organization can be less “strict”, as the site will only be used by Department personnel. Think of an internal SharePoint Department Site as a staging area for Employee SharePoint Department Site. You might store older revisions of policies in there, as well as completed forms and other confidential information meant for the eyes of that particular department.
Hope this blog post makes sense, let me know what you think! How do you approach SharePoint Department Sites in your organization?
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