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Who should you make a SharePoint Site Owner?

OK, this post is not “technical” like most of the other ones on my site. Instead, it is philosophical. I get this question a lot. You set up your SharePoint Site or Office 365 Group, add members to the members group, but who should be in the Site Owners one? An important part of SharePoint Governance is to assure that all SharePoint sites are managed properly in terms of both content and security. So naturally, you would expect Site Owners to do this. But who are those people? With this post, I would like to clarify an important distinction between a SharePoint Site Owner and Site Content Owner.

SharePoint Site Owner IS NOT the same as Site Content Owner

SharePoint Site Owner

SharePoint Site Owner is an individual/power user with Full Control privileges to the given SharePoint site.

SharePoint Site Owner

That means that this individual will be able to adjust the security/permissions of the site, be able to edit pages, add web parts, create new subsites and even delete a site if he/she wishes.  This user would not be an average end user, and it is expected that he or she would be familiar with the ins and outs of SharePoint, familiar with how information architecture works, etc. SharePoint Site Owner can be an employee of a certain department the site belongs to or be a member of an IT team. From the governance standpoint, SharePoint Site Owner would potentially be involved in the governance committee or at the least follow policies set by SharePoint governance.

Site Content Owner

Site Content Owner is usually an individual who is in charge of the site’s content and its assets. For example, if the SharePoint site is a Human Resources site, the Site Content Owner would be the HR Department manager. This individual will not necessarily be familiar with the technical side of SharePoint, but rather will be the gatekeeper of content on the site.

This is where I want to highlight a very critical distinction between the SharePoint Site Owner and Site Content Owner. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME (though could be)! Just because someone is a department manager, does not necessarily mean that he or she should be given Full Control (admin) privileges in SharePoint. To have full control, the user must have proper knowledge and understanding of SharePoint. The title itself does not do the trick. It is like you allow a five-year-old be a president. OK, bad example, but you get the idea. I have seen many instances, where department managers and executives are given Full Control privileges, by being added to the Site Owners Group, while they have no clue how SharePoint works. This will lead to severe governance and security implications, an “oops” moment when someone is granted access to a confidential site or the whole site ends up in the recycle bin (just like with one of my clients the other day).

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