Hybrid SharePoint Scenarios & Followed Sites

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Rick Zeleznik - Hybrid SharePoint Deployment Tips

As with any SharePoint implementation, maintaining the perception of an intuitive & enabling tool is critical. When considering hybrid scenarios, you have to think about (and try to mitigate) an assortment of technical realities that may make the environment less intuitive or more complicated for your users.

Your users don’t (and shouldn’t) care about “why” you have more than one SharePoint implementation or all of the various technical or business drivers that led you to a hybrid approach. However complicated the system may be under the hood, from an end-user perspective, it’s simply a tool to help them get their job done.

One of the common pain points that folks hit when faced with a hybrid SharePoint environment are limitations regarding the (followed) Sites interface. When the environment involves a single farm, it’s incredibly intuitive, works great and gives users a centralized & personalized location to view & access the sites that they care about.

Unfortunately, when you have content & functionality spread across on-premises farms and SharePoint Online tenants, the Followed Sites interface is limited to which ever environment they happen to be in when they click the link. All of the sudden, this feature that your users may be increasingly reliant upon gets a bit less intuitive and you run the risk of frustrating & confusing your user community.

While it can be a bit gimmicky, one of the things you can do to help mitigate this is to leverage the Promoted Sites feature in each of your environments to seed each farm with important/high usage sites from other farms. It certainly won’t get you to the point where you have dynamic 1-to-1 mappings between environments, but it can help bridge the gap, providing jumping point(s) in a place that they may be instinctively going to in order to move around the system.

From your SharePoint Online Admin Center, click “user profiles” in the left menu.


Next, under “My Site Settings”, click “Manage Promoted Sites”.


Once you have arrived at the Promoted Sites management screen, click “New Link” from the menu above any existing promoted sites that you may have.


Next, you will enter the information for a site from your other SharePoint environment. In this case, I have added the information for an internal HR site so that it will show up for SharePoint Online users.


Once you click the “Ok” button to save the promoted site, it will now show up in the promoted sites management dashboard.


Now, when users of this SharePoint Online tenant click on the “Sites” link, they are presented with the HR site located in the on-prem farm.


Lastly, reproduce these steps in your on-premises environment (creating promoted sites links to sites in SharePoint Online).  You can manage promoted sites in your on-prem farm by going to Central Admin > Application Management > Manage Service Applications > User Profile Service Application.  Once at the UPS management page, click “Manage Promoted Sites” (under My Site Settings)


This isn’t a great or universal solution and should be used with caution. Particularly since it puts administrators back onto the manually managed navigation treadmill.

That said, its pretty quick and easy to implement if used sparingly.  The key word here is “sparingly”.  As you create more promoted sites for this purpose, the increased difficulty in keeping it maintained and visual complexity of cluttered links will work against you and hurt overall UX.







Last modified: June 10, 2014