Understanding SharePoint's Internal Communities, Goals, Best Practices

7 minute read
Errin O'Connor avatar

When deploying SharePoint within an organization, it is key to look at the needs and requirements of the user base. To simplify this process, I've identified three key internal communities.

When organizations implement SharePoint internally they must accomplish both in-scope business requirements as well as information technology (IT) goals and key benefits in order to launch and support SharePoint for the long term.

From the very beginning of a deployment, communities start to develop. Those related users within those communities have their own sets of goals, processes they wish to improve upon, and collaboration or increased knowledge sharing to perform in a governed and secure manner that SharePoint offers.

This is true for SharePoint implementations of any kind whether it be an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) initiative or a new intranet or increased “social” or “professional networking” related strategy the culture is striving to embrace.

This very granular path or rabbit trail could cause this type of discussion to quickly get “into the weeds” of a technical or business deep dive. To simplify there are three core types of communities that exist within any SharePoint 2013 or 2010 implementation.

There are, of course, many sub-communities and types of users that flow out of these main community types but the three that can be identified at the very top level are:

  1. The “Knowledge” community and related users whose goal is collaboration, knowledge sharing, social\professional networking, and retaining this “knowledge” for the long-term. A goal of this community is to prevent “knowledge” loss when staff members leave the organization and providing their best practices, lessons learned, and intellectual property “knowledge’ when new staff comes into the company.
  2. The “Power User”\“Super User” community who supports the “care and feeding” as well as support to ensure the “Knowledge” community continues to thrive. This group is made up of team members or users who work with both the “Knowledge” community as well as the business leaders who set these goals and the IT and “Operational” community who keeps the “lights on” and ensures security, performance, governance, compliance, and business continuity.
  3. The “Operational” community who supports both the “Knowledge” and “Power User”\“Super User” communities. This community is made of the technical staff with roles such as the SharePoint administrators, Site Collection owners, Site owners, infrastructure, networking, and security. The “Operational” community is also getting ever growing requests to support the “Knowledge” community who is knocking at the door regarding mobility, smartphones, tablets and the bigger BYOD questions.

Note: I completely agree with those who are reading this and naming off many different more granular communities or types of SharePoint Sites (Team Sites, My Sites, Community Sites, Records Center \ Management Sites, etc.) but you can draw a correlation between all of these types of communities or sites to the three main communities I identified above.

The Knowledge Community

One thing I have strived with my team members is to take the word “SharePoint” out of many conversations and focus on the business and functional goals at hand. Microsoft SharePoint is the technology you are using to accomplish these goals but think in terms of how the “technology” can meet the needs of the communities.

There is a bit of a new blurry line when talking about SharePoint Communities today with SharePoint 2013 having a new level or hierarchy of Community Sites (templates) which support specific communities but I think it's key to bring it back to thinking in terms of knowledge management and “Communities of Practice” (CoP) or “Networks of Excellence” (NoE) that initially created many of the best practices and strategies that drive “SharePoint Communities” today.

So taking a step back and using the “Networks of Excellence” or NoE concept in the knowledge management world, the following are roles, responsibilities, as well as best practices that should be taken into consideration.

Executive Community Sponsor

  • Approves and supports the business case and vision for knowledge sharing at the functional, business unit, operational and/or executive levels
  • Signs-off on the business case, vision and resources for knowledge sharing
  • Remains involved through executive briefings and communications to the organizational community sponsors

Community Sponsor

  • Sets goals and related performance criteria for the community
  • Fosters widespread interest and enthusiasm for Knowledge Sharing and community participation
  • Directs and presents the strategic input of the community to executives

Community Leader

  • Directs the activities and sets priorities of the community
  • Manages the usage and appropriation of community resources
  • Ensures the quality and timeliness of community activities/deliverables
  • Develops a team concept within the community dedicated to learning and innovation
  • Participates and leads all aspects of community planning, design, development and deployment
  • Oversees the processes, content, technology (portal administration) and people resources to increase the effective sharing of best practices and lessons learned across business units
  • Works closely with “Knowledge” Sharing leaders and staff to incorporate training and standards
  • Measures community maturity and effectiveness with accountability to business goals
  • Communicates knowledge sharing success stories and lessons learned
  • Gives recognition to community, going back to the “Networks of Excellence” (NoE), members for their contributions, and enables award or recognition submissions
  • Guides research and benchmarking projects (where applicable)
  • Encourages qualitative and quantitative benchmarking to identify new areas of improvement opportunity
  • Appoints, coaches and supports the community coordinators

Community Coordinator

  • Ensures effective content management by collecting and managing the right information that supports the community
  • Ensures that SharePoint’s content is updated and relevant to the user’s needs
  • Monitors collaborative spaces (Sites) to extract new knowledge and to identify issues that require responses
  • Builds awareness of and access to the right people and right information that supports employees’ daily workflows (day-to-day tasks)
  • Maintains processes for knowledge acquisition, storage, maintenance and dissemination
  • Facilitates community interaction and outreach to grow the number and contributions of active members
  • Links community members with subject matter experts to answer questions or provide solutions
  • Collects and packages “Knowledge” Sharing success stories and lessons-learned and champions these to other communities to keep a sense of competition within various communities to strive for excellence

Community Core Team Members

  • Actively participates in and steers network activities under the guidance of the community sponsor
  • Builds regional sponsorship for and engages regional members in knowledge sharing activities
  • Formulates and executes plans to deploy community deliverables at the regional levels
  • Provides a link between the strategies of the Community and the strategies of the regional business units
  • Develops relevant measures of success for the community
  • Engages local community coordinators and subject matter experts (SMEs) in knowledge sharing activities

In identifying these different roles, there is a best practices framework that can be followed to ensure SharePoint Community Effectiveness along with 10 Critical Success Factors.


In identifying these this framework, there is a best practices SharePoint Community operating model that can be followed to ensure SharePoint compliance as well as continued “care and feedings” of the community.

Learning Opportunities

Thumbnail image for epc_model.png

There is always the question of “the users and participants have a day-job and tasks they must manage” so how can this be “worked” into the SharePoint network and overall participation. The following image details an approach to this question:


With any network, you are going to get critical or very time sensitive issues or areas of possible improvement come to the attention of community leaders and the roles identified above. The following is a workflow or process showing an example of how these community items can be dealt with head-on but also puts a timeframe out there for resolution of issues so that they are not prolonged and the community itself does not become irrelevant because users have stopped providing or sharing knowledge because of an unresolved issue.


Lastly, you want to ensure you have defined metrics and an understanding of the maturity model as well as how relevant each community’s knowledge is to ensure it is being updated, used and ROI is being gained from the network. The following diagram compares the knowledge gained from communities to the time spend to provide you with a starting point for your organization.



We'll take a look at the Power User and Operational communities in tomorrow's follow up article.

Editor's Note: Until tomorrow's follow up you can read more by Errin in SharePoint 2013: Communication and Internal Public Relations Plan

About the author

Errin O'Connor

Errin O’Connor is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer for EPC Group and the author of three Microsoft SharePoint books covering SharePoint 2013, SharePoint 2010, and SharePoint 2007. Errin focuses his efforts on implementing Microsoft Technologies in organizations throughout the country.

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