Outlining – Step 1: Create Audiences

Define Audiences

In my opinion, this is the most important step in The PORTAL Method.  If you take your time and methodically work through the exercises mentioned in this step, you will be well-armed with all of the information you need to build a successful, productive portal with high user adoption.

Show vs. Hide:

Audiences are used to distribute contextually relevant information to an applicable group of readers.  In other words, “show me the content that I care about.”  The challenge becomes that the portal will need to know how to determine who “you” are and what information applies to you.   Currently, you might think of audiences as a way to show people contextually relevant information.   I recommend the opposite.  Think of audiences as a way to hide information from people who don’t need to see it.   The group of “privileged” audiences is much smaller and easier to manage.

When it comes to defining your audience, there are several methods from which you can choose to accomplish this task successfully.   This will largely depend on a few key factors:

  • How large is your user base?
  • Are you geographically dispersed?
  • How many departments do you have?  If you have multiple locations, are the departments the same across the board?
  • Do you have standardized roles across your organization (i.e. Executives, Directors, Managers, Specialists, Contractors/Consultants, Interns)?
  • Are there any subsidiaries (parent / sibling companies) that will also access this portal?

Any of these can be great starting points for defining “big bucket” audiences.   Remember, it’s perfectly fine to identify an audience (even document it), but choose not implemented in Sharepoint.   That doesn’t mean the exercise was a waste.   Rather, it’s more important to understand if and how you will specifically address that audience in your Portal.

Create Big Buckets

No matter how large your organization is, you should begin by taking a look at the user-base as a whole.  Is there something that they ALL have in common (besides being within the same company)?   What is the next, most logical sub-grouping of your internal users?   Is it geography, department, subsidiary, etc.?  Pick one of these and create your “Big Buckets”.  Preferably, you should choose the grouping which produces the least number of audiences.


For example:  If you’re trying to decide between Geography and Departments, ask yourself which grouping has fewer sub-groups.    Most likely, it’s Geography (or region, or subsidiary).    So let’s say “Region” and you may end up with a group of regional audiences that looks like this:

  • North
  • South
  • East
  • West

Job Role

Then, you look at your next logical grouping.    Let’s say “Job role”, for example.   Maybe you have standardized roles across your company, which look something like this (of course, feel free to adjust to your liking):

  • Executive
  • Vice President
  • Director
  • Manager
  • Specialist
  • Partner/Consultant/Vendor
  • Intern


If you have a large number of departments, I would recommend planning carefully when using this approach, as it has the ability to grow quickly.  Additionally, companies frequently re-organize and these departmental audiences can become obsolete and or tough to manage.  For those reasons, I recommend a slightly more controlled approach.

Especially if you’re regulated on any scale (such as Healthcare, Finance, Legal, etc), then you may want to use audiences to hide information from the general public and only display it to the applicable audience (i.e. Human Resources, Compliance, Legal, Security, etc).

In this scenario, I recommend a “shortcut”, of sorts.   I don’t like the idea of shortcuts in general, but this is a quick method for keeping things simple and secure, while still organized.    Using a minimalistic approach, create only the audiences for departments that require restrictions.

For example: Let’s say you’re in Financial Services.   Your Legal, Finance, Compliance, and Human Resources departments are going to have the most “private” information in play (there may be others, but you get the point).  Thus, you may create only the following audiences:

  • Human Resources
  • Finance/Accounting
  • Legal
  • Security
  • And so on…

Audience Summary:

No matter which approach you take (or combination of the above), remember that the fewer audiences you create, the easier it will be to manage.  However, in order to be effective, the audiences must be carefully planned and considered, so you get the best audience scalability.

If time and personnel resources are not issues for you and/or you have a large team to manage your SharePoint portal, you may choose to create a larger number of audiences and decentralize administration to ease the burden of maintenance.   Feel free to comment, question, and explore on this site!    I would love to hear how others approach this subject.

For now, I’ve included a basic worksheet to get you started, in my Downloads area.   I’ve filled one page in for you as an example, and left the second page blank for you do duplicate.   I hope it help to make your job a little easier!


The SharePoint Dude

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