Most projects and programs conducted in companies with a Microsoft environment use SharePoint Online to manage their project management data and for collaboration. When setting up a new project site in SharePoint, you get one empty document library with your site. If you, as an administrator, are responsible for setting up a SharePoint site for a project, you need to make some basic considerations right from the start. By defining the architecture of libraries and lists, you are laying the foundation for how well you can manage, process, and protect data later on. Curious? Read on and learn more.
What Defines Your Site Architecture?
The main elements you work in SharePoint are document libraries and lists. Theoretically, a single document library for your entire project would be fine, and a list, e.g. for the risks and issues, and perhaps a list in which you save the contact data of your project team. However, I quickly learned that a poor architecture of a project SharePoint site would compromise many possibilities in the medium term. If you throw everything into one pot (document library) you will have difficulties later, especially when it comes to:
- keep the overview for a larger project
- Create areas of organization, responsibility or protected areas
- Organize/group documents and find them faster
- Grant read and contribute rights according to the principle of “need to know” and “need to contribute”
Example: In our program, only the user group “Program Management”, these are the program manager, the projects managers and the PMO of the program and “StC” (Steering Committee) should have access to the Steering Committe documents and the program financial documents.
The group “Members” (the project team members) cannot see these documents. Members of the group “Risk and Audit” are allowed to see all documents and information but cannot change anything on the site.
This can only be achieved if you distribute the documents to different libraries and assign specific permissions to the libraries. Only one library for a SharePoint site of a larger project is not a good solution, as well as too many libraries.
Rules for Crating Libraries and Lists
As a basic rule, create as few libraries and lists as possible. The disadvantage of too many libraries and lists is, you lose track of what is stored in which library and who has access to it.
If you distribute data over too many libraries and list, there is the danger that the evaluation, filtering, sorting of the data of these libraries and lists is maybe no longer possible as desired, because sorting and filtering of data does not work across libraries and lists. Be also careful not to store the same data more than once in different libraries and lists.
If you have too few libraries and lists, you cannot assign access rights in a granular enough way and you could lose the overview in managing the library and metadata.
More Information: How many document libraries shall I have in a SharePoint Site?
How to Protect Sensitive Data
In your project, you may have sensitive data that only certain people are allowed to see. Such data could be, for example:
- Project financials
- Stakeholder information
- Business case data
- Steering Committee Slides
- SOW’s with daily rates
Such data should be stored in separate document libraries so that they can be appropriately protected and not everyone can access them.
Recommended Libraries and Lists for a Project
For each Knowledge Area of the PMBOK, I give you examples of libraries, lists and apps that have proven themselves in my practice in several larger projects and will certainly be of use to you. In the following sections I will show you in detail how to configure some of them. You can use the examples immediately and adapt them to your requirements.
Typical Lists and Libraries for a Small Project
Example for a small project:
- 1 Site page (home page)
- 1 Document library for Project Documents
- 1 Document library for Site Pages (the homepage belongs here). This library is created by default.
- 1 Document library for Pictures
- 1 List or library for Change Requests
- 1 List for Risks and Issues
- 1 Project Calendar
- 1 List for project team Contact Information
If the project has confidential documents that not every team member is allowed to see, they should be stored in a separate library with reduced access rights.
Typical Lists and Libraries for a Larger Project
In a larger project or program, the following document libraries are typically useful:
- 1 Site page (Homepage)
- 1 Site page for each Sub-Project
- 1 Document library for the Project Office
- 1 Document library for each Sub-Project (if useful)
- 1 Document library for site pages (the homepage and the sub homepages belong here. This library is created by default.
- 1 Document library “Administration” (Time reports, NDA’s, On/off-boarding Documents, reports for portfolio management, etc.)
- 1 Document library “Finance Planning“ documents
- 1 Document library Contracts/SOW’s documents
- 1 Document library for Steering Committee documents
- 1 Document library for Change Request documents (could also be done with a list)
- 1 Document library for Work Package Descriptions
- 1 Document library for Communication Documents
- 1 Document library for Pictures
- 1 List for Risks (Risk Log)
- 1 List for Issues (Issue Log)
- 1 List for the Project Glossary
- 1 List for project team Contact Information (contact information of team members, contractors with personal data such as working area, laptop ID-number, phone number etc.)
- 1 Project Calendar
I suggest you start small and add libraries and lists with the time when needed and when your program or project grows. It’s also useful to draw a diagram of your site architecture where you can identify all elements of your site and see which one unique permission have.
Here You Can Find Even More Knowledge
This was an overview of how many document libraries and lists you need in your SharePoint Project Site. What is your experience with these two groups in SharePoint Online? Do you agree with my statements in this article or do you have a different opinion? Share your experience with the readers in the comment box below so that we can all get a broader view. Thank you!
Would you like to learn more about how to make your projects more successful with SharePoint Online? My book “SharePoint Online for Project Management” takes you an important step further!