“I am officially the owner of the site, but I can not manage the site”, the user had written in the description field of the incident.
I asked her what exactly she was trying to do that was impossible, and she said she had wanted to make changes to the homepage of the site.
“But the menu in the gear wheel does not look like the training materials”, she said. “Please see attached screenshot”.
Now that was an interesting screenshot!
I could have asked her if she was able to go to the homepage from the Site Pages or Pages library and if she would have been able to conjure up the Page tab and do it from there, but I was so intrigued by the screenshot that I decided to do some investigation. After all, the “Edit page” option needs to be there and I could better fix that once and for all than waste her time with workarounds. Her problem was not so urgent that she needed the workaround.
And to be frank, I hoped it would turn out to be another SharePoint Holmes topic 🙂
Of course, I checked the permissions first. They looked OK. (You know the Dutch words by now, right? 🙂 )
Yes, she was in the Owners group with Full Control.
I checked the items with unique permissions. The Site Pages library was one of them.
Aha, the Site Pages library had very limited permissions – only Visitors had Read access and that was it. As the Visitors group contained a company-wide AD group, I knew she had access – but only with Read permissions.
I checked the Homepage permissions to be on the safe side, and that inherited permissions from the library. So she could see the homepage but not edit it.
I added the Owners group back to the Site Pages library with the proper permissions. I informed the Site Owner that she had removed the permissions of everyone except the Visitors.
She informed me that “Edit Page” was now in her Gear Wheel menu and she could edit the page again. Problem solved!
I suggested to think about what she wanted to do with this library – keep it like it was with only Owner and Visitor groups (to avoid unwanted edits) or to inherit the permissions from the site.
I wish I had something more deep and interesting to conclude than: “SharePoint permissions are difficult to understand and manage”. 😦
But if you ever come across a screenshot like that, you know what to do!
About SharePoint Holmes:
Part of my role is solving user issues. Sometimes they are so common that I have a standard response, but sometimes I need to do some sleuthing to understand and solve it. As many of my readers are in a similar position, I thought I’d introduce SharePoint Holmes, SharePoint investigator, who will go through a few cases while working out loud.
Many thanks for enclosing the complete email chain with all your colleagues. Apart from a good permissions puzzle, there is nothing I like more than going through a 40-message email chain, and find the hidden clues between the “FYI” and “Can you help” forwards. I am really pleased that you have tried to get help from so many people before logging a call in our incident system, and it is heartwarming to see your colleagues’ empathy and desire to help.
From this wonderful meandering narrative I understand that “editing the Monthly Forecast in the Marketing site does not work”. That narrows down the possibilities, because only 938 of our approximately 15.000 sites have Marketing in the title, so it will save me going through 14.062 sites which are definitely not called Marketing.
Now of course I assume the Marketing site has “Marketing” in its title 🙂
From the company address book I see that you work in the Dairy division, which has 297 Marketing sites, so I can increase the odds even further.
Then it is only a matter of finding a Monthly Forecast document in one of these sites and checking which one does not work. That should not be too difficult: I did a Search and found 6274 hits on Monthly Forecast – it is matter of checking URL’s against the Marketing sites to see which are eligible.
I assume you wanted to edit a recent document so will start from the most recent.
In conclusion, I will check the cross of Dairy Marketing sites and Monthly Forecast docs from the last 2 months, and see which one of them “does not work”. Now of course there are many ways of “does not work”, but do not worry, I will check them all, from permissions to document library opening behavior, checkout, and workflows to corrupted documents.
I have planned about two weeks to go through this and I am quite looking forward to this challenging quest!
However, should you be in a sort of hurry, or have a deadline, please let me know. After all it is the 21st already and I can imagine you will need to update this document before the end of the month. Sending me the URL of the site, the name of the document and the document library/folder it lives in, as well as a description of what you were trying to do and what happened, possibly even with a screenshot of the error message, will reduce the quest to an hour or so. Of course this will rob me of the fun of exploring this all by myself, but I know that this is business-critical content so I can not be selfish.
Looking forward to your information,
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
When we launched our new intranet at the beginning of 2017, we also set up a Treasure Hunt to make people familiar with the new look and feel and setup. After all, moving to SharePoint Online has been quite a large step from our old SharePoint 2007 environment.
Many intranet folks have talked about doing treasure hunts, but as far as I know nobody has ever explained what they have done in detail, so let me share our recipe.
The ingredients and preparation
A News article to introduce the Treasure Hunt
A News article with clues and a direction to the next place of the hunt
More News articles or intranet pages with clues and directions – as many as you need
Emailaccount of our Founding Father
Autoreply message from Founding Father
A page where people are instructed how to enter their solution
A survey to collect the solutions
The solution: in our case a sentence that people had to create with the clue words
A thank-you page with information about the next steps
A few days after launch, a News article (1) appeared on the new intranet homepage. It explained the treasure hunt and the mechanics. You were to look for clues to the next place and for words that were written in a certain way, e.g. <word>. The words you would find during your search would form a sentence.
The first clue was to find the oldest News post on the intranet. As we had not migrated older News articles that was not so hard to find. The oldest post (2) turned out to be a post written by our Founding Father. It was full of hope for the future and predicted with remarkable accuracy some inventions we would do later 🙂
Of course there was another <word> in his post. At the end he asked to send him an email asking for guidance. As his contact details were on the page (as is the case for all News items) (3) it could be done with the click of a button.
When you sent him the email you received an autoreply (5). He sent you to the “modern watering hole Yammer”, where we were to look for a post from one of our senior management about a certain topic.
On Yammer, it was easy to look for that certain person (once you knew how to search) and the message (6) in question. Once again, it contained a <word> or two and a link to the next clue.
After sending you to a few other important new sites (with <words>) and asking you to follow those pages, the last link led to a page (7) which welcomed you to the Treasure hunt and asked you to
Set your News preferences
Make sure you had uploaded your profile picture
Click on a link
The link led to a survey (8) with two questions:
Create a sentence (9) with the <words> you have found. The sentence was one of the company values, so not too hard to compose once you had the words.
Describe why you should get the prize. (That was an easy one for me: I said this treasure hunt would not have been possible without me – as I created the pages & survey).
After clicking Finish you would go to a thank-you page (10) with more information about the publication of the winners.
All in all, by doing the treasure hunt people have been exposed to:
Setting their News preferences
Going to Yammer and finding a person’s conversations
A number of new sites with important company-wide information
Adding a picture to your profile
This was a very simple setup, but of course you can extend it as you like.
(Disclaimer: I have replicated this on my own tenant in a schematic way. Our real Treasure Hunt looked much better and the texts were created by communication professionals)
BTW, Sadly I did not win any prize as I was part of the organizing committee 😦
The <words> in my screenshots form a sentence as well…please add it to the comments if you have found it! (again, exclude <word>)
More and more intranets are promoting a section for video content, so I guess this is a new trend.
Otherwise, “simplification” and “user feedback” still play an important role in every relaunch, and so they should 🙂 .
Also, more and more intranets (but not all!) are social, and “usable on all devices” is starting to be the norm, rather than the exception.
Of course my collection is meant for your information and amusement, but I occasionally hear that people are using it as a serious starting point for their own video. In general, I can suggest the following steps:
1. Check what related organizations have done
Use the filter and see what your industry peers are doing, and what their intranets look like, if the video shows that. Most selections contains a variety of styles (talking heads, animations, demo’s, stories, serious, funny, etc. ) that may give you ideas about the sort of video you would like to create.
2. Determine your boundaries
Watch my list of rather extreme videos. Do you also want to create a full movie, a very silly video, have a hysterical voice-over, or would you rather stay on safer ground?
3. Watch metaphors for solving common business issues
If you are looking for metaphors of solving common business problems such as too many emails, or not knowing where the expertise is in your company, this selection may help you on your way.
4. When in doubt, create a demo
A well-made demo is always worth the investment, so if you have no other needs or wishes, a demo may be the best way moving forward.
you can show employees how to work with the intranet, reducing the need for extensive classroom or webinar training
you can show employees how they are supposed to work, if a new way of working is among your goals for the new intranet. In a demo video it can be done subtly and matter-of-fact.
it can be used for onboarding new employees for a long time after the launch
And finally, to celebrate, I have a very special video: the one that was made to celebrate the launch of the new intranet of my former employer Sara Lee, in 2005. It has not been added to my collection yet – you saw it here first! It is “vintage”, so please ignore the bad quality 🙂
In my latest post I showed you how you could limit the options to share the content in your site. I hope that you have made some decisions, so now it is time to clean up the mess.
Let me remind you why too many options to share can turn into a problem:
Sharing a document or list item, or using the “Get a Link” option, creates unique permissions, and that means that the permissions of a document or list item no longer follow the permissions of the site. So if you add a new group (recommended) or a new person (not recommended) to the site, this group or person will not automatically get access to those items.
This will lead to unexpected access denied messages and therefore Access requests.
Approving Access requests may lead to more unique permissions AND they give people Contribute permissions by default, which may be too much.
Unlimited sharing (especially with external users) can lead to your documents falling into the wrong hands.
So, how to take back control of your site after you have changed some of the settings?
Have a note-taking system ready – paper, OneNote, Notepad, document – whatever is your thing. You will need to make some notes.
1. Process pending Access requests
Go to Site Settings > Access Requests and Invitations and see who has requested access.
Click the … next to each name and add people to site groups as much as possible. If you do not see the site group mentioned, note down their names with the group that you want to add them to.
2. Remediate content with unique permissions
a. Go to Site settings > Site permissions and click on this link:
b. You will get a pop-up with all lists and libraries that have different permissions.
c. The items marked as “manage permissions” are usually lists and libraries that have different permissions by design. Skip these.
d. Click on “view exceptions” for the first list or libraries that has this mentioned. You will see all documents (including pages and images) or list items that have unique permissions.
e. Using Rightclick > Open in new tab, click “manage permissions” for the topmost item. (If you just click “manage permissions”, you will have to start at a. again for the next document or list item)
f. Check if there are any people mentioned that you may want to add to one of the site groups, and note down their names + intended site group.
g. Click “Delete Unique permissions” to re-inherit the permissions from the list or library.
h. Repeat steps e, f and g for the next document or list item.
a. Go to Site settings > Site permissions and click on this link:
b. Check if there are any people mentioned that you may want to add to one of the site groups, and note down their names + intended site group.
c. Remove any individual users so you are left with only the site groups.
4. Add the new users
Add the users that you noted down during steps 1, 2 and 3 to their respective groups.
5. Review the Members group
During the time that you had no restrictions, Members may have added other Members. Review your list of Members and change their roles or remove them where needed.
6. Replace any “breaking links” on your pages
Hover over every link on every page in your site and look at the link in the bottom-left of your screen. Links of the “Can View” or “Can Edit” type will generally have “guestaccess” in their link and they will cause unique permissions.
When I did not know all this yet, I had created some Promoted Links with the “Get a Link – Can View” link to a page. As soon as I created the link, the permission inheritance for the page was broken and everyone who clicked on the link was added as individuals to the page.
Replace every one of those links with the “Restricted Link” equivalent.
Review on a regular basis if the restrictions and the cleanup work make you feel more in control of your site. Depending on your choice of measures, you may need to do more approvals from Visitors or Contributors who want to share content.
How have you dealt with the “Unholy trinity of creating unique permissions” 🙂 ? Would you like to share your frustrations or have you found a good way to deal with this that other readers can benefit from?
Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Additionally, you often add people with Contribute permissions while your normal Members group has Edit permissions (=Contribute + Manage Apps).
Plus your site members can add practically anyone to your site without informing you.
Why am I making such a fuss?
Maintenance and support
Unique permissions create extra issues with access, and provide extra work for the Site owner.
You may also need more support, although your support team might like that 🙂
People with Edit or Contribute permissions can share content with external users, who then are often able to share your content with others if given those permissions. Your information may be shared with your competitors in this way!
Having lots of unique and individual permissions may slow down your site.
Office365’s out-of-the-box functionality allows unlimited sharing. My own environment is like that, so all experiences that I have described before are done in the “unlimited sharing” default mode.
Fortunately, there are some options that a tenant administrator, a site collection administrator and a site owner can do to limit the potential damage.
1. Disable anonymous access
Disabling anonymous access lets you get rid of the “no sign-in required” options that you have when you get a link, or the “sign in required” when you share a folder or list item. While it may not reduce the creation of unique permissions too much, it will make it more obvious who has been given access. This will allow you to determine whether those people need to be added to a site group, or removed from your site.
Your tenant administrator can disable this at the Office365 Admin center for all Office365 applications, or at the SharePoint admin center for the SharePoint sites.
2. Disable external sharing
While this also will not prevent all unique permissions, it may limit them, because of sheer numbers. Chances are your colleagues will already have access to your site, making the chances of unique permissions during sharing a bit less.
Of course this will make it impossible to share confidential stuff with externals.
This will give the following results, depending on whether the external user is already in your site collection or not.
3. Change Sharing settings in your site
This will probably be in your control, so go to Site Settings > Site Permissions > Access Requests and look at the two check boxes on the top of the pop-up.
This will mostly influence what a Site member can do.
You have four options:
4a. Both checked: I have done my experiments with this setting. You know what that does 🙂
4b. Top checked, bottom unchecked
Member: Can share documents without approval from the site owner, but needs approval for sharing the site.
Visitor: Can share site and documents with approval from site owner.
Get a Link:
Member sees “Edit link” option
Visitor sees the “Restricted Link” option
4c. Top unchecked, bottom checked:
Member=Visitor: Can share site and documents but needs approval from site owner
Get a Link:
Member=Visitor: Restricted Link
This option brings another message to your Site Permissions page:
4d: Both unchecked:
Same as 4c.
So, this setting will help you to “tame” your site members, and give them the same sharing options as your site’s visitors. You will have more approvals to do, but are more in control.
But beware hitting the “Accept” or “Approve” button in sharing requests for documents or list items!
4. Remove access request email
If you can not get access requests, you can not break permissions when accepting them!
This can work in formal all-company sites with official content and little collaboration.
On the other side of the spectrum, it is also an option for sites with a strictly defined and controlled audience, e.g. a management team.
It will however be very clumsy in a project site!
But…your visitors will get a nasty error message when they try to share a document or site, and when you are combining this with options 4c or 4d, your members will experience that too.
Realize that all of these settings have been developed with a reason, so you may want to ponder what is really important for you and if you need to lock down everything or just a few features.
While you think about this, I will go and write how to check and fix the permissions, where needed, after you have taken your measures.
Image courtesy of winnond at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
In my most recent post I focused on sharing documents and items by the Site owner, demonstrating that the Site owner him/herself can easily create lots of unique permissions by sharing folders, documents and items.
But what happens if a another user of your team site shares? Can a Member or Visitor create unique permissions as well, and does the Site owner know what the Site members are doing?
Once again, we start out with a team site with the standard permission sets (Owner, Member with Edit permissions, Visitor with Read permissions) and no unique permissions.
Durian Grey is a Visitor and Mystery Guest is a Member. We also introduce Kimberley B, who has no access at present.
Document 1 does not change permissions since Durian already has Read access to this site.
Documents 2, 3 and 4 get unique permissions after clicking the “Share” button in the Sharing screen.
The persons are added as individuals to the document
Documents 3 and 4 have the individual added with “Contribute” while Members in this site have “Edit” permissions. (and the Share option is called “Can Edit”) So, a new role is added.
These following results were a surprise for me:
The documents shared with Kimberley B generate an External Sharing Invitation (access request) but the Site owner does not get an email notification.
Kimberley B can only share the document with existing site members when she has View permissions. but she can share the document with ANYONE, including new externals, when she has Edit permissions.
When Kimberley B shares with another external user this creates an External Sharing Invitation for the new person.
Sharing documents/items by a Visitor
Durian shares document 5 with Mystery Guest. He can not select Can View or Can Edit. When he clicks “Share”, he sees a message that this request is being sent to the Site Owner but that does not happen; the message goes straight to Mystery Guest. She can access in her normal role and no unique permissions are created. Phew!
Durian then shares document 5 with Kimberly B.
When he clicks “Share” the following things happen:
The Site owner receives the normal “someone wants to share” email, Durian gets a copy
An access request in Pending Requests appears. By default, the request is for Edit (not Contribute), as an individual. The Site Owner can not select one of the permissions groups, so has to give individual permissions. 😦
As soon as the Site owner selects a permissions set and hits Approve, the item has unique permissions.
Durian receives an email that the sharing request has been accepted.
Kimberley B receives an email that a document has been shared.
Kimberley B can share the document with only existing members or anyone, according to her permissions.
Sharing a site
Since Mystery Guest has found that Kimberley has no access, she shares the complete site with Kimberley. She is not a Site owner, so she can not select a permission set when she shares the site.
As soon as Mystery Guest clicks “Share”
Kimberley B receives an email.
She is added into the Members group (even without having accessed the site).
Durian has the same thought.
He shares the site with Kimberley B.
His request is sent to the Site Owner and an Access Request is created.
The Site Owner goes to the Access Requests list and selects the Visitors group of the site and clicks Approve. (Members is the default, btw)
A confirmation email is sent to Kimberley B and Durian.
Now Durian wants to share the site with another external person, who has never been invited before. He can not do that.
What to think of this?
It is complicated!
Although a number of things are understandable this can turn into a messy site:
Get a Link, Share and Access Requests can all very easily create unique permissions for documents (including pages), folders and list items.
Members can use Get a Link and Share, create unique permissions, and add new Members, without the Site owner knowing.
Visitors can do less and generally need approval from the Site owner; this is better for the Site owner’s overview, but can create a lot of work because of the approval requests.
External users can share your document with anyone, if they have Edit permissions.
Before you start panicking, please be aware that my tenant is almost out-of-the-box and all the sharing options are turned on by default. Tenant admins can take measures to reduce the unlimited sharing Microsoft thinks we need.
I will share those measures with you next time.
I have also found a few differences with regards to users who are mentioned in my tenant (with and without license) and who are not. When I have recovered from my current identity crisis, juggling 4 accounts and 3 browsers, I will try to find out more. 🙂
Image courtesy of marcolm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net