Advice for Designing O365 Sharepoint Structure

Hey all –
I would like to move content off of our two file servers to Sharepoint in 365 at some point this year. I have very little experience with Sharepoint in general, so I’m looking for some advice on how to stand this thing up. Specifically, what is the best way to design the structure of it? I’m wondering if I should approach it from a hierarchical method or if there is a better approach. We currently have three campuses. Thanks for any input you can give.

I’d highly recommend you consider actually moving more to a Teams-driven architecture and plan. Teams is a much easier platform model for most users to understand and grasp. And it integrates the file sharing experience with the full communication and collaboration experience of Teams.
Here’s the dirty little secret: All file storage for Teams is backed by SharePoint. Teams just gives it a prettier front-end. Heck, you can even access all your ‘teams’ files directly in the old-school SharePoint interface if/when you really want to. Oh, and you get the magic of local sync using the OneDrive application on Windows and macOS (yep, the app is called OneDrive but it syncs data for OneDrive, SharePoint, and Teams).

For churches, we have found creating a team for each department/ministry group to be the most logical layout. And we encourage letting the pastor/admin/director of each department be the ‘owner’ of their team so they get to add and remove members of their team. It puts them in full control of who can access their files and collaborate with them directly. More user empowerment, less IT overhead.

My last bit of advice: You should help build the structure, and provide lots of training to users, but you should make them actually move their files. They need to be tricked/forced into using the new tool and they’re the only ones who can know what old files can be left behind since they aren’t really needed any more.

If you have any questions or want some more help in this endeavor, speak up. Lots of folks here have done this and/or helped others do it. We’re happy to help too.

Thanks Travis! So, do you think it would be best not to show them anything on the Sharepoint side…would it just be confusing to them? Also, we currently have distribution lists like AllStaff…Pastors and Directors…etc. Would you recommend converting each of these old DLs to Teams? And what about departments/ministries that exist in multiple locations…would you recommend creating one team for that ministry or multiple teams…one for each location? Thanks again!!

Yep. Based on experience, if you can just show them Teams and Sync, they really don’t need SharePoint and it just adds confusion. Now, if you also want them using OneDrive, then you kinda have to show them that.

Regarding Distro lists, that gets a bit trickier. Ideally, much of that communication would shift to Teams. But the fact is, some people just won’t engage there. So if you don’t send emails ever, then some folks will be left without the info. But for ones you can convert, I recommend it.

As for multi-site and department overlap, that is really tricky too and really boils down to the culture and structure of your organization. Maybe consider having ‘global’ teams as well as campus-specific ones. Or for smaller campuses, just give them one team and let them create channels for each department. The smaller the environment, the more likely you are to have folks from all departments involved in multiple places so a single Team might work better.

The general rule is that you don’t want to solve all of this from the beginning. Teams are designed to be user-driven and organic. You set a basic framework to show ‘how it works’ and to encourage them to start using it. From there, encourage them to create their own Teams to fit their needs and goals.

Makes sense. Some users push back because they struggle with group calendars. There doesn’t seem to be an easy way of looking at a group calendar in Teams. Also, the senior pastor relies heavily off his calendar on his iPhone and there doesn’t seem to be a good way to view group calendars on iPhones. I don’t have a good answer for viewing group calendars in either case. I’m also confused over whether I should create a group first and then a Team or if I should do it the other way around. If I do it the latter, then it doesn’t seem to create a group calendar anymore. Ideas?

I agree that the calendar aspect is by far the weakest link for Teams right now. The only way to have mobile access to shared calendars is to create them inside of shared mailboxes. But those have absolutely nothing to do with groups or teams in any way. They’re a completely separate thing.
There are hacks that can allow you to show a tab inside of a team channel to display a group calendar (which is really just a sharepoint calendar). It’s hacky for sure.
And I know for a fact that MS is working on better calendaring for Teams. But I don’t know any roadmap info or timelines for it.

We like to always just start with creating a Team. We really don’t teach or rely on any of the ‘groups’ functionality any longer. But if you want the group calendar, you’re right that you’d need to create the group first, then add the Team.

You can get a Team to have a calendar but it requires some Powershell-Fu and it’s only accessible via Outlook/Outlook Web. You can also kind of hack in the calendar to be viewable in a tab but it’s very klunky.

I agree with Travis on introducing Teams instead of Sharepoint first as I feel it will be easier to adopt for your staff and get wins faster. Once the staff start investing into Teams, Sharepoint will be an easier sell later on. As for calendaring, my advice is to get the staff to update their own calendars first in O365 and then share their busy-free information with everyone and more details with their own departments; the key is to get them to invest in updating their own calendars regularly and once they see the network effect and the value of the shared calendar information everyone wins; great for arranging for meetings and booking of rooms.

Sharepoint I feel is better to start off for Finance and any other department that has lots of documents to work with. I sometimes share with new staff the benefits of Sharepoint:

  1. It is more secured as there can be the Office365 login with 2 factor, Office file encryption options and granular file permissions, as well as the fact that Microsoft Azure encrypts each file in an extreme way; the file is broken into many portions and three components are needed to assemble back each file behind the scenes; first is the file portion, second is the unique decryption key for that data portion and the third is the information that links the key with the data portion and all three components are stored separately. And inside Azure datacenter, all hard disks are encrypted and no individual Microsoft staff knows exactly where everyone’s data is stored as it is managed by a automated controller. And Microsoft maintains a Red Team and Blue Team that competes to secure Azure; Red Team hacks Azure and Blue Team fights to block any attacks.
  2. Reliability and Resiliency of data: Each piece of data stored on Sharepoint is replicated in two other areas; replicated in another area of the datacenter and then replicated in another datacenter in case of disasters.
  3. Versioning and collaboration: staff can store a file once on Sharepoint and work off that and every change can be saved in versions which can be easily retrieved. Versioning helps in scenario where staff is emailing a document multiple times and after a while it can get confusing which is the latest version.
  4. You can work off Sharepoint using your Office software like Excel and Word and save directly from your Office software. Office doesn’t work with Google Drive.
  5. And lastly you can implement Azure Information Protection that can secure all your files offline from a Sharepoint library

To answer your first question about Sharepoint structure; I usually do it by departments and within that department by projects. The most important advice I can give is to ensure the staff knows how to assign permissions. You can create the sites and libraries for them to ensure the permissions are right.

  1. Structure your SharePoint Team Site.
  2. Customize your site navigation.
  3. Keep in min cross-device usability.
  4. Include the most frequently updated pages on the homepage.
  5. Visuals! …
  6. Include an introduction and tips on how to use the Team site.
  7. Organize SharePoint Team Site using a flat structure .
  8. Be flexible - make changes as you go.

Thanks guys…appreciate the feedback