In SharePoint 2010, there is a little know feature that enables self-service site creation by end-users. It’s turned OFF by default but in can be activated through the Central Admin:
When this is turned on, anyone with Contributor or above access can create a site themselves using a simple form. The link to the form shows up as an announcement in the default announcements list (a fairly obscure spot to find it) and the Self-Service Site Creation form looks like this:
Turning on this feature creates some serious security risks – a Contributor is someone who is supposed to be just updating content, uploading documents, etc. and not making changes to your site structure. Now they can create sites at will. The other challenge is that the site creation business rules are weak – sites always are created at the top sites level, can be any site template available, and there is no built in approval or workflows.
In general, we tend to recommend to leave this feature turned off in SharePoint 2010 in any but the most open environments as it causes enterprise security issues by allowing such openness in self-provisioning.
Improvements in SharePoint 2013
In SharePoint 2013, the end-user experience to create a site now is built into the sites page of their personal page instead of being buried in an announcements list:
When I click on this site, I can create a site easily:
Interestingly, I don’t get a choice of the site template – I just get a default site template (looks like the standard team site template).
The site that is created puts me as “FULL CONTROL” of this site, which means I can now do ANYTHING to this site…a big challenge if I was originally only a contributor or designer.
From a management perspective, there are a few improvements in being able to better specify where these sites are created:
You can now specify where sites are created, whether they are hidden from other users and as in SharePoint 2010 you can specify your own custom form.
So Is This Feature Useful Out of the Box?
If you want to support a very open collaboration environment (e.g. a free for all) then this will work for you out of the box. However, in any real enterprise scenario there are some key missing pieces to achieve a more mature site provisioning workflow:
- Approval workflow so that sites are approved by IT or Business Units
- Ability to add sites to more than one location (e.g. maybe I want them provisioned in the IT department instead of the communications department area)
- Ability to set access rules on who can self-service provision
- Ability to specify rules around what templates are used
We have in the past built these self-service provisioning tools as automated forms/workflow solutions – it looks like we will still need to do this in the future to meet our customer’s enterprise needs.