Who are the end users in the SharePoint world? This answer differs from time to time when I poll the attendees in my conference sessions and classes. Here are the three choices for you:

  1. Readers, Members
  2. Readers, Members, Subsite Owners
  3. Readers, Members, Subsite Owners, Site Collection Administrators

What is Your answer?

Here is the breakdown of the answers I have received over the years:

  • 70% of the people answer B
  • 25% of the people answer A
  • 5% of the people answer C

There is no wrong answer of course because the answer depends on your company culture more than anything else. Following are the three types of company cultures (IMHO) that correlate to the choices above:

Profile of type A organization

Large and medium size companies who are used to the traditional ways of conducting business in which the developers and IT administrators are the ones responsible for any type of structure management (site settings, permission setting, site branding etc) in SharePoint. SharePoint end users are the ones who consume the information on the sites, manage their documents and only sometimes actually create any other information for others to see on the sites.

Profile of type B organization

Companies of all sizes who have fully embraced SharePoint as the platform where their employees would come to collaborate as well as create new application solutions. These companies have empowered their users to manage their own subsites, user memberships, and the content.

Profile of type C organization

These are usually small companies where users wear multiple hats. Business users are expected to be more or less their own IT support. In a company like this, the end users have far more rights in the environment to build their own complete application solutions and share them with each other. Thus, many of these ‘end users’ are also site collection administrators.

Now I will tell you my own definition of end users. Even though I have been teaching, consulting on and using SharePoint since 2002, I cannot claim that my answer is the correct answer that applies in all situations. Just take it for what it’s worth to you.

I firmly believe that SharePoint End Users are the ones who are readers, members and subsite owners (B). My case against (A) is that if you wish to go the traditional route to managing your intranet and internal company information then you don’t really need SharePoint – just stick with the traditional ways of creating a website using developmental technologies (which is ASP.NET in Microsoft world). Similarly, I don’t think (C) is a great idea either just because site collection administrators have tremendous amount of power. So much so that they cannot be restricted in any way within the site collection, even if a subsite owner thinks he is restricting a site collection admin by removing their access. The reality is that the site collection admins have complete rights over the entire site collection no matter what. Period! I don’t think these admins can ever really qualify as ‘end users’.

In another article, I’ll focus on potential ways to train end users for a successful SharePoint deployment.

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