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COMMON BUSINESS ACTIVITIES USING SHAREPOINT AND MICROSOFT TEAMS TEMPLATES

Author: Jonathan Stuckey


This article discusses the background for creating templates for provisioning SharePoint Online sites and Microsoft Teams workspaces in Microsoft 365. Covered is reference to the most commonly developed templates businesses use.


Montage of publishing solution components for intranet content
Get the right information using templates and components

What can be templated for SharePoint and Microsoft Teams

All organisations using Microsoft 365 or SharePoint have a plethora of needs, but a lot are often common repeatable procedures and patterns that every organisation does. At some point during your life using Microsoft 365 or SharePoint, someone will raise need to have a provisioning mechanism for common templated requests.


To avoid the whole discussion of "Where do we start?" we have documented the most common business and information processes people undertake with Microsoft 365 sites and workspaces ...all of which are usually based on Microsoft Teams and supported by SharePoint Online templates.


While businesses can be unique the vast majority of what organisations need to do to deliver their unique value-proposition is pretty standard. Investment in Microsoft 365 very quickly gets to the point of what workspaces and tools we need to common activities. The illustration below shows how activities ranging from team collaboration, through to Contract Management and beyond can be scaled based on complexity and sophistication of the organisations approach:


The above requirements are most frequently translated to Microsoft Teams and SharePoint site configuration, and because Microsoft 365 has severe limitations in its provisioning and lifecycle management processes the result is a constant re-hashing on the same needs in each organisation. The table below provides a summary of a selection of the easier and most common outputs desired by an organisation (based on 20+ years of delivering solutions below across 100s of organisations)


Table: List of common templates and base-definition for scope of template and associated configuration required

 

Intranet

Controlled resources

Team collab

Sales (bid)

Projects coordination

Customer portal

Community site

Type

Comms

Publishing

Collab / DMS

DMS

Collab / DMS

Collab / DMS

Collab

Privacy

Internal public

Internal public

Invite, private*

Invite, private

Invite, private

Invite, secured***

Public**

Life

Persists

Persists

Persists

Transient

Transient

Persists

Persists

Scope

Internal

Internal^

Internal

Internal

External

External

External**

Duration

Indefinite

Indefinite

Indefinite

6 - 12 months

12-months

Life of customer++

2yrs min.

External users

No

No^

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes**

Expires

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes**

Ownership

Comms and Marketing

Information Mgt

Business Units

Sales

Project Office

Client Mgt

Business Units

* depends on organisation if a SharePoint or Microsoft Teams interface will be the primary user-experience

** depends on scope and if engaging internal community of practice, or external industry communities

*** often not just enrolment of users, but range of applied access and content controls used to govern Privacy and Sharing

++ defined by organisations obligations to external user|body utilising the service. "life" can be duration of engagement, contract or person.

^ depends on if vendors, contractors etc should be able to see


At Spoke we profiled and created this model for a range of templates, as well as many additional scenarios - including: Learning management and Knowledge Base, Event management, Contract management, Service-provider engagement, Process reporting (targeted), Commitee coordination, Board management... and so on.


In each case the same basic questions and requirements can be used to provide a manageable base-line definition which can be turned into (or extend an existing) provisioning template.


The key to understanding any business need with provisioning is:

  1. what information is being generated or shared (information type, its sensitivity),

  2. who will need to access it and for what purpose (audience, access), and

  3. how to link these things together (structure, navigation)


There are a variety of layered contextual things to consider, but when you have the basics template development becomes about a consistent process for capture, build, and refinement. The process of development and creation of templates to ensure fit purpose identified incorporates regular application of Information Architecture (IA) and User-Interface (UI) configuration for the desired user-experience.


The upfront thinking vs. "making it up as you go"

Your business process or activity defines if a specific template is required for the user. It outlines what should be included, how it should be accessed, what is the presentation like for content and what actions may be applied.


Unlike a structured system or platform like SAP Successfactors, Salesforce, Oracle Netsuite, Accelo etc, the users are still largely working in a loose framework of tasks and actions - often unstructured or semi-structured processes are in-play - ones which have not been completely defined or locked-down yet. Bizarrely this can still include: Case management, Employee Staff files and Personal development processes, Contract management for service providers, Project collaboration with implementation partners, Customer portals, and Public engagement ...and so on


Example of Business Process template: Project Collaboration

Questions to uncover the basic needs always resolve to:

  • What are you doing and who owns it?

    • project description

    • stakeholders (who gets it in the neck if this goes wrong)

  • How would you manage it:

  • common tasks, procedural steps, sign-off etc?

  • who can see or access this work area (or content)?

  • do you internal as well external users accessing it?

  • how-long will it be needed for?

  • do people (or rather roles) need to know if things change or expire?

  • is there are life-cycle for keeping, sharing or getting rid of content?

  • do need to be able to show updates or reporting on progress, activities or information kept?


The answers to these questions translate to:

  • site type (process, services required, automation etc)

  • metadata used for managing the site

  • data integrity and management needs (versioning, history, recovery...)

  • task management (actions, ownership, tracking and notification)

  • access control and sharing (roles, permissions, access)

  • status and reporting (views, notifications)

  • lifecycle triggers and actions (workflow)

  • integration


Because the resulting answers have a limited set of impacts on configuration in SharePoint, and even less in Microsoft Teams, this actually means provision and templates should be really easy to start off.


Keeping the wheels on the truck

Where time and resources get consumed is during detailed drill-down and naval-gazing that internal subject-experts love - often trying to resolve - the following as you work:


  1. every possible combination of request that may ever be raised - in the form and workflow - even if this has only ever happened once, or

  2. to accommodate business process actions, stages or outcomes which have never previously existed, but could potentially ..one day.


Both of these are very common and are the modern-day equivalent of "Why? ...because we can!". What you need at this juncture is to stick to the businesses operational guidelines and delivery principles and make sure you keep engaged with the overall business owner. This is where you need someone like Spoke to make sure you don't come off the rails.


Using a proven framework, with validated and testing baseline of templates for common requests is the best way to avoid the money-pits on the journey. The technology largely makes this a lot easy to implement, but gates and sign-off requirements need to be either pro-forma or very clear up front.


Product vs. Expensive options

Ironically this has been a big industry area for consultancies in the past, building and re-building on top of Microsoft 365 and SharePoint services for essentially a commodity need, but in recent years ISVs and product vendors have started consolidating this ground.


Today the tooling to support self-service, request management and template provisioning has massively improved. Products like KWiz ProvisionPoint, AvePoint (365) Cloud Governance, ShareGate Provisioning - all provide a much lower operational risk and in a lot of cases low-cost of implementation, but not many incorporate template definitions which encapsulate the business process.


So, while the sting of IT cost is removed, the business process and information flow still needs to be understood, defined, captured and used to build your templates.


See our upcoming article on: Evaluating Provision and Automation Options


Supplemental: Employee Engagement Experiences

EE (or EX) is the latest trend to process-oriented, and role-based enablement of employees and users in an organisation. Providing access to corporate information buried in range of systems and repositories. What this does is pull back users-experience to application-based activities, procedural and form-driven interactions and consuming information in bite-sized chunks.


Does this change what we need from our information and systems? No, just how we deliver and interact with it.


The resurgence* of this model of engagement for users plays well with structured content and processes but does not detract from needing to provide guided options and consistency in implementation - provisioning using templates and workflow by any other name.


*this is a return and evolution of the applications portal model that arrived in early 2000s, and briefly returned in the transition to early cloud-apps in 2008 - 2011.


Where EE differs from traditional needs of business in creating repeatable, consistent starting-point for a process (like a project, or team-collaboration) is that the exercise is more about a dashboard type experience for specific roles and audiences.


This exercise is therefore more in-depth for development and establishment. Usually this is not geared to the sorts of user self-service options or Form requested service deployment, but more towards new solution or system setup as an infrequent or one-off activity.


What does this mean for templating and provisioning - well new tools, new presentation options and integration are more important, but otherwise these is still very much a need to ensure you've asked the questions and understand if what is being asked really warrants the effort of templating.

Need help with user self-service and repeatable templates? Give us a call.

If you want to talk about templating and provisioning on Microsoft 365 and SharePoint, without the overhead of starting from blank-page contact us at: hi@timewespoke.com


About the author: Jonathan Stuckey

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