Microsoft recently released SharePoint communication sites for Office 365 which enable organizations to quickly create great looking sites that can communicate information through a combination of images, static and dynamic content.
For many organizations, the ability to create SharePoint communication sites without the need for IT is a huge win. The hope is that features like this will help organizations use SharePoint as more than just a document repository, but a full-fledged corporate communications platform.
While I believe this new SharePoint feature will provide value, I want to caution the SharePoint community to consider one thing: Namely, governance.
Given this latest release has no review or version control mechanisms built in, without proper planning, governance and information management challenges will surely arise with the new communication sites — likely in a way similar to how organizations struggle with the proliferation of team sites.
In this article, I am going to highlight some of the governance challenges that you might experience.
Anyone Can Create Communication Sites
Currently anyone who has permission to create a team site will also be able to create a communication site, thus duplicating the proliferation of both team sites and communication sites. Furthermore, while these sites look quite authoritative in nature, especially compared to SharePoint team sites, they may contain non-authoritative information which could confuse users.
This means organizations will have to determine if they will use the same protocol for communication sites that they use for self-service site creation in team sites. Organizations will also need to clearly communicate to employees what purpose these new sites will hold.
No Review Process for New Content
Unlike the traditional publishing model, where content can be driven through a workflow or sent for approval, the new communication sites does not currently support a review cycle. This will inevitably cause concern (especially for all the corporate communication folks out there!).
As it stands, if a user has access to create a communication site, they can also author content and publish documents directly to the site without going through the formal review cycle. If anyone can access said communication site, the potential for incorrect or sensitive information being released increases.
Compare this to the traditional SharePoint publishing framework, which contains a number of different capabilities used when publishing content such as submissions, reviews and the ability to reject/approve a page before it is published:
No Ability to Target Content to Users
If a user follows a certain communication site, they will see news content appear on their SharePoint home from every communication site they follow. In theory, this seems like a great approach, but the following challenges arise:
No way to make it mandatory for users to see certain news
Since news will only appear if a user is following a certain communication site, rather than providing access, there is no way for an organization to subscribe necessary groups to a series of communication sites. In addition, users can easily go to their SharePoint home and simply unfollow the sites causing them to miss out on important information.
No way to target content to users
This issue depicts a larger issue in the way SharePoint home has been architected. As an author of news, you don’t have the ability to specify who sees your news article on their SharePoint home.
While this may not be an issue for smaller organizations, for many of the multinationals we work with, they have specific security trimming measures to control the content users can see. In fact, you don’t have any control over what appears for users since this is driven by Microsoft Graph.
While I really like the new SharePoint communication sites, I foresee a future similar to the ever present "Team Site Sprawl," but in this case organizations will face the "Communication Site Sprawl."
The lack of governance around additional metadata, content targeting and the ability to control what appears on the SharePoint home could make this a non-starter for many organizations. However, this is only the first release of SharePoint communication sites. A much brighter further for these considerations might be on the horizon.