If you follow SharePoint news, you undoubtedly would have heard about SharePoint Hub Sites. They were announced at Ignite in 2017 and have been causing a ripple of excitement ever since. Why? A big reason is that many people have often felt that SharePoint lacked tools as standard that helped to build a true Intranet. Rolling up news, connected sites, common navigation – all these things were possible in SharePoint but required a good bit of customisation to function well. Vendors filled the gap in the past with some great digital workplace products, but many organisations did not want to make the additional investment required to customise sites. With the roll-out of SharePoint Hub Sites there is now a common, centralised interface available to solve this.
All about the Hubs and Spokes
Hubs and spokes are important in the digital workplace. They allow people to work in the way that they want, whilst connecting them to all the services that they need. Microsoft Teams was a new hub, but departments of an organisation still looked for their own hubs. That is where Hub Sites play into this new world.
HR wants to show where they can provide assistance to staff and help people to help themselves. Finance wants to give access to key reports and data to those who should be allowed access to it. Project Management wants to have a single place to show the status across their portfolio of projects. In that last case, each project would often have its own site but there can be the need to link those with a common navigation and have news from each roll-up. This is where Hub Sites adds value.
A Hub Site is not that different from the modern team site or communication site, and getting started with a hub site requires you to first create one of these. At this point, we hit one of the bigger snags currently with Hub Sites – you need to be an admin and comfortable with a little PowerShell in order to elevate a site to be a Hub Site. It’s a pretty simple command (shown below) but this closes it off to a smaller set of people who can do this.
Associated other sites to a hub site is a much easier affair. From the cog menu, select Site Information and you will see a new option appear – as an aside, this has also been the easiest way to check whether hub sites are available in your tenant.
The associated site will inherit a navigation bar with a common logo and the same navigation items. Sites that are associated do not get automatically added to the navigation and links must be manually added. There is also some time taken from adding items to the menu before it appears on the other sites; from experience, it is up to 10 minutes at the moment.
News will also roll-up from other sites on to the hub site. There isn’t any control of approving the news and you can’t filter using the standard News web part at all. But to bubble up news automatically, it works well.
So are SharePoint Hub Sites living up to the excitement? Yes, partially. They look great and are starting to bring some much-needed functionality. However, it feels a little early to get too excited. They will evolve and the release cadence that Microsoft is on means that they will improve rapidly. This feels like a start rather than a fully-featured product, and if that is the case then it is a good start. Giving some more control to what goes where and allowing end-users control without PowerShell would be a great improvement. There are some hints as to what is coming with cross-posting and pinning of news suggested in the Hub Sites AMA, which took place last week and there will be even more being announced in May at the SharePoint Conference North America.
So it is a thumbs up for what is there now, and a confidence that there is much more to come
Want to know more about Hub Sites?
Now that Hub Sites have landed it is a good time to look at how they would best work within your organisation’s SharePoint. For other great tips on SharePoint, subscribe to our newsletter or contact us today.
By Kevin McDonnell, Senior Technical Architect at Ballard Chalmers
Kevin McDonnell is a respected Senior Technical Architect with a Master of Engineering (MEng), Engineering Science degree from the University of Oxford. Specialising in .NET, Azure and the Office 365 development suite as well as a broad understanding of the wider Microsoft stack, he listens to what clients are looking to achieve and helps identify the best platform and solution to deliver on that.