When Implementing SharePoint: Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail


Benjamin Franklin is reported to have said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

I’ve seen this scenario – the failure to plan – play out at many companies, especially when implementing or upgrading SharePoint environments.

Implementing or upgrading a product like SharePoint, that is designed to empower information workers to do things for themselves, requires detailed planning.


Empowerment does not come from a “one size fits all” product or solution.

SharePoint can be used to tailor a product or solution and deliver the greatest business value to an organizations’ technical environment. And that kind of tailoring requires careful planning. Otherwise, an organization will end up with a product that is implemented well, but does not fulfill the strategic goals they’ve set for the business.

There are many reasons why an organization may not spend enough time planning before implementing SharePoint. Some of the most common are as follows:

  • “We don’t know enough about the capabilities of SharePoint. We need to do a pilot to find out what’s possible.”
  • “People are excited now about the new environment. If we spend a lot of time planning that enthusiasm will subside.”
  • “Planning is important, but we don’t want to succumb to Analysis-Paralysis. We’re afraid that planning will just go on forever and we’ll never implement anything.”
  • “We hired a consulting firm to do our implementation.  They are experts, have done this before and already know how it should be done.”
  • “We’re just doing an upgrade.  We did our planning when we originally implemented SharePoint.”

All of these statements have a kernel of truth in them. However, all of the above overstate the case and can lead to significant problems. Here are the issues raised by each statement:

  • Often, pilot environments become indispensable production environments when no one is looking. Once an environment is in production it’s difficult to go back to the beginning and plan, even if you learned important lessons.
  • Planning tasks that don’t involve a broad cross-section of the user population can lead to a decrease in user acceptance, and users look for alternatives to fulfill their business needs. But a poorly planned environment will also lead to a lack of user adoption and a failed implementation.
  • Planning is not important to success, it’s critical to success. But if planning seems to go on forever it is poor planning. Planning should be a well-managed and scheduled part of an implementation project. It should have goals and deadlines.
  • Seeking professional help can be an asset and save time. But every implementation is different and planning for those differences is a critical success factor.
  • Upgrades always involve change and new feature sets. Otherwise why would you upgrade? Planning is not just a task done up front. It’s a task that needs to be incorporated into the life-cycle of SharePoint.

Now that your organization is convinced that planning is a critical to success and to strategically implementing SharePoint, you need to know what tasks to plan.

In part two of this blog series, we’ll discuss common planning tasks that are overlooked when companies fail to plan their new SharePoint implementation.

Read Part 2

Managing Default Permissions in SharePoint Online (Office 365)

I stumbled across an interesting difference between the Enterprise and Professional level plans of Office 365 recently.  If you subscribe to a Microsoft Office for professionals and small businesses plan (Plan P) then any non-admin user added to SharePoint online automatically has Enhanced Contributor permission in all your sites.  But if you subscribe to one of the midsize businesses and enterprises plans (E plans) then adding users gives them no rights in SharePoint online.  You must add the users to SharePoint online sites just like you would add users to an on-premise SharePoint site.  Since most administrators only have access to one Office 365 plan this difference often goes un-noticed. 

But the more important question is how do you change the default behavior in the professional level plan.  Its actually quite simple once you know what to look for.  In your Office 365 admin page there is a link to change permissions on your Team sites and documents (see screenshot below)




Clicking on that link will take you to the Site permissions page for you default Team Site. 

NOTE:  Another difference between the two levels is that in the professional version you only get one Team site collection and one public website.  In Enterprise you can create multiple internal site collections but you are still limited to one public website.

On the site permissions page you will see a Domain Group named Tenant_Users (see screenshot below).  This is the group that contains ALL the users you create in Office 365.  You can see that the group is given the Enhanced Contribute permission level.  So every user that you create and assign a license to is automatically given permission to log on to your SharePoint online site.  This is very convenient, but causes a problem if you want most of your users to be limited to Read Only access to the site.



But once you recognize that this default group exists the solution is fairly simple. 

  • Select the checkbox next to the group
  • Click the Edit User Permissions button in the ribbon.
  • In the dialog that appears clear the check box next to Enhanced Contribute and select the check box next to either Read or View Only depending on how limited you want the average user’s permissions to be.  (see screenshot below)
  • Click OK



    User’s will now default to either Read Only or View Only access to the site.  If you want to give them more permissions than that you’ll need to add them to an appropriate group or assign them rights individually.

    I’m sure there are other differences between the different plan levels that aren’t well documented.  This is just the first one I ran into.

    SharePoint Saturday: Denver – Nov. 11-12

    spsDen_logo_smallNext week I’ll be headed for Denver to speak at the Denver SharePoint Saturday event.  I will be presenting two sessions.  One will be an overview for users, admins, and developers who are just getting started on SharePoint online in Office 365.  The other is a more in depth talk for developers and admins on managing the various places that SharePoint stores user information.  I’ve reprinted the abstracts for my talks below:

    Intro to Developing for SharePoint Online: What Tools Can I Use? – The introduction of Office 365 drastically changed the SharePoint development landscape. As a managed online service the rules for developing customizations for SharePoint Office 365 are radically different from the ones for an “on-premise” installation. They are also slightly different than developing sandbox solutions. In addition many companies who currently use dedicated SharePoint installations are beginning to consider eventual migration to the Office 365 cloud environment. That means even current “on-premise” development is often constrained in new ways. No matter what kind of development you currently do you need to know how to develop for Office 365. In this workshop/session we’ll cover the following topics:

    • Setting up an Office 365 development environment
    • Developing sandbox solutions for SharePoint Online
    • Building reusable workflows in SharePoint Designer 2010
    • Why the Client Object Model is even more important in Office 365

    Users, Profiles, and MySites: Managing a Changing SharePoint User population – Every company has some level of employee change and turnover. The question is how do you manage the graceful removal or modification of user information from SharePoint? If everything is perfectly aligned SharePoint will automatically process and delete the user account, permissions, profile, and MySite for users that are deleted from Active Directory. Updates to user information are also automatic in many cases. But most SharePoint installations don’t have all the necessary components aligned for automated removal of old users and some profile properties refuse to update. In this session we will examine the underlying processes controlling user accounts, permissions, profiles and MySites and how they interact. We’ll look at what works, what doesn’t work, and how to work around it. Along the way we’ll recommend Best Practices for managing users, their profiles, and MySites in a SharePoint environment.