In the previous article in this series “What Is This SharePoint Thing All About Anyway?” we discussed the various components that make up SharePoint. In the article we highlighted the primary components, and starting in this article we are going to be doing a deeper dive into each of those areas. The first one we are going to work through is the concept of Sites.

Sites are one of the most powerful components within SharePoint. In fact, they are the foundation for many of the different solutions that can be built within SharePoint. By using Sites we can quickly build many different focused solutions, including items like:

  • Team Collaboration Areas
  • Corporate Intranets
  • Public Websites
  • Blogs
  • Database Tracking Solutions (Access Templates)

A Single Platform, Many Uses

The beauty of using SharePoint as the foundation for these types of solutions is that we have the ability to incorporate many different items into various solutions. Imagine that you have a collection of pieces that you can use to build the puzzle within your organization.

If there is value in blogging internally then there is a template to start with and it is the same template that can be used when you are blogging for an external audience. The Blog template, although the same, can be used in a different context to foster different results.

The possibility of the types of solutions you can build is virtually endless. You simply need to work with your organization to determine the unique needs and then match those needs to the templates within SharePoint.

The following table identifies all of the templates that are available within SharePoint. Keep in mind that some of these templates are only available based on licensing. This is because they support features that can only be used when you have activated the Enterprise Features.

Available Site Templates
Assets Web Database Contacts Web Database Issues Web Database Records Center
Basic Meeting Workspace Decision Meeting Workspace Multipage Meeting Workspace Social Meeting Workspace
Basic Search Center Document Center My Site Host Team Site
Blank Meeting Workspace Document Workspace Personalization Site Visio Process Repository
Blank Site Enterprise Search Center Projects Web Database  
Blog Enterprise Wiki Publishing Portal  
Business Intelligence Center FAST Search Center Publishing Site  
Charitable Contributions Web Database Group Work Site Publishing Site with Workflow  

For more information on each of these templates you can refer to this TechNet documentation.

When looking at this list, keep in mind that these are all just starter templates. They are available as the foundation for your solution and are meant to be further customized to meet any specific requirements you have. But, as you can see, there are many different templates that can be associated with various common business scenarios.

Learn Once, Use Often

One of the benefits of using these templates for multiple solutions is that you can learn something once that applies to many different areas. By implementing SharePoint as a single foundation to solve a vast list of internal needs you are streamlining the amount of tools that the organization needs to be trained to use.

While the initial transition might be painful as you migrate from current systems to SharePoint, the long term pay off will be well worth the investment!

Using a single tool will allow you to develop a comprehensive training plan that will allow you to empower your organization to work wisely. Since the learning curve on using the tools will be small for each new solution, you can spend your time focusing on the core business value and less on the technology.

By doing this over and over you will be able to develop a culture that is focused more on the value in the solution and not on the technology used to create it.

A Foundation to Grow On

The final point I will make about the value of sites within SharePoint is the fact that you have a foundation to grow on. Out of the Box, each of the templates is going to be full of common features that will help you get started in your solution. As an example, the following items are included in the Business Meeting site template:

  • Document Library
  • Agenda
  • Attendees
  • Objectives

The home page is also laid out in a way that highlights these default components:

BasicMeeting.jpg

But just because the template only includes these items doesn’t mean that you are limited to these items.

If you needed to have additional libraries to store pictures you could easily create a Picture library to be included in this site. If you wanted to highlight the agenda and hide the Documents on the home page then you could simply modify the home page and remove the Document Library web part.

These changes are simple and can be completed using the browser. Small changes can have a big impact in your solutions and since you are using a single foundation for many solutions, you can simply learn how to customize sites once and then apply that knowledge to many different scenarios.

Getting Started

The best advice I can give you for getting started with all of the templates is to DIG IN!

Spend time on a test server somewhere creating sites based on all of the templates. Explore each of them and identify how they could be used within your organization. It is likely that as you explore you will find one or two templates that will be used extensively within your organization and likely also one or two that will never be used. This is fine, just keep exploring!

If you don’t have the time or resources to explore, then simply pick one of the common templates for your type of solution (most likely Team Site Template or the Publishing Templates) and then get started on customizing it to fit your needs. Over time, as resources allow, you can dive into the additional templates.

One common thing that I see as I work with organizations is that they pick one single template and never branch out and explore the other template options. They are definitely cutting themselves short and missing out on some of the valuable features within SharePoint. So, I encourage you to dive in and dig around and see what value you can get from the Out of the Box SharePoint Templates!

Editor's Note: You may also be interested in reading: