Teamsite without subsites

Not applicable

Hey, I could really use some advice, because I have no idea what to do..


We are a huge company so we have an intranet that works on SharePoint. Within the company we have several locations with several expertise. As an internship I have to create a SharePoint-site for one of these locations where about 200 people work. Herefor I'm using a teamsite. The IT people told me to not use subsites and if I did, they wouldn't help me anymore. There are about 11 departments who would like to share their documents on SharePoint.


How do I create a clear site to share documents with each other without using subsites? Creating a site collection for each department seems like a lot of work so at the moment I'm just creating site pages for the departments with a link to the libraries. Can you imagine what the site content will look like if I use this method. So I have seriously no idea what the best structure is.


I hope someone can help me :)

16 Replies

Even without your IT department's mandate not to use subsites, you still have some options that could work out better than site collections would have anyway.


I would propose you use a modern Team site and create as many document libraries as you have departments, with all departments having access rights to the Site but different rights per library as desired by your user group. If your location is fairly open with its documents, you could conceivably have a situation where all departments have Read to all libraries and only Contribute to their own department's library. If some or all of your location's departments want to stay private, the unique permissions on each document library will protect those privacy requirements as long as your permission structure is set up correctly.


*EDIT* Alternatively, you could give each department its own Modern Team site and wait for Hub Sites to roll out. If Hub Sites aren't on the immediate horizon for rollout, or if they don't accomplish the everything Microsoft promises they will right away, you would need to have some fairly redundant permissions structures across each of these Team site/collections to grant whatever permissions are required department-to-department.


Hope that helps!


A couple of questions, in order to understand better your requirements:

  1. Do your 11 departments need the features that come with Modern team sites (i.e. conversations, notebook, Planner, Teams etc.) or they just need to share files?
  2. Do you need different permissions for the 11 departments, or every user can access every file of every department?

I would always create site collections when it makes sense that seems to be your case so every department should have its own site collection....being said that, it might happen that for each department subsites could be required too...what I see is that you are manually creating all the stuff so the amount of work to be done for creating all the sites is going to be quite high. This can be solved Today by using some automation, but here is where I see you could have some issues since I'm not sure if you have a technical background to make use of PowerShell, PnP and other stuff that allows you to automate site creation based on a template

@Matt Coats I really like this option, thanks! I'm just afraid it's gonna be hard to manage this.


@Salvatore Biscari The important thing I have to do right now is to make sure they can share the files with each other. And some of the information within a department is classified and other files are available for everyone.


@Juan Carlos González Martín I don't really have a technical background so doing this automatically isn't an option. It seems like more work to create site collections instead of different libraries or am I seeing this wrong?

If you cannot automate Site Collection creation and you have to do it manually, yes it is going to imply more work...that's the reason we automation is something basic here

Ah okay, got it!


SharePoint is a complex environment, so I think that before doing anything you should have a clear idea of your present and future requirements, if possible. Otherwise, you could end with a structure that is too difficult to change in order to fulfill future requirements that you have skipped today...

Anyway, I will try to shortly list some points:

  • If you need Groups features (conversation, notebook, Teams, Planner, etc), then create a Group for each department. Each Group corresponds to a site collection and hence to a Modern team site and to a main document library with its own permissions, which is easy to understand and easy to manage.
  • Creating a single Group with multiple libraries having different permissions is not recommended, because, as a rule of thumb, it is better to not manipulate permissions in Groups.
  • If you don't need Groups features, you could create a classic site collection (i.e. without an associated Group) for each department. In such a way, you will have anyway a separate team site, a separate document library, and separate permissions for each department. In practice, it is the same scenario as having multiple Groups, but of course without the additional Group machinery.
  • Creating a single classic site collection with multiple libraries, having different permissions, is viable, but you should be very careful in managing the unique permissions for each library. I have seen too many times data leaking due to sloppy permissions management...
  • The current trend is to not use subsites, so if it is not strictly necessary, avoid them in any case.

Just my two cents...

@Deleted you mention some files are classified. If this is the case your business should also look at Information Protection within Office 365. This isn’t solely the provenance of SharePoint so your Office 365 global administration should work with you on this. By applying labelling and classification your company’s documents will be protected and permissioned correctly. You have been given a significant responsibility and both your IT function and business governance needs to assist you. Two hundred users is a high number of users to manage and I’m assuming you will have joiners/movers/leavers in your org too. As everyone else has said planning is key. Hope this assists!

Thanks for your input!


I looked more into the Groups, but this isn't in any way related to the main site collection. This way it's going to be a lot of work to make it work for all the departments. The same thing with several site collections.


I would like to use the site colums with metadata, navigation and site templates for multiple sites so it's going to cost me a lot of time to create the same thing over and over again.


See my latest reaction to the post to see which option I chose.

Thanks! All the advice is welcome :)

I would like to thank all of you for your help! Again, I heard so many different things and I looked into all the options and I made my conclusion:


Even if my company doesn't prefer it, I'm going to make subsites. I think building a site on my own for a whole company is really hard and I'm not that experienced. The people who work here aren't that experienced as well so whatever I tell them, they believe it. So I'm thinking about making multiple employees administrator and just give them some subsites to manage. This way the job can be devided and it's not going to be a lot of work for just one person in the end.

With great power comes great responsibility someone once wrote. Two things Natascha: think twice about subsites but MOST of all think carefully who becomes an administrator. You really do need a plan for SharePoint to succeed. It needs a village but you have been elected leader. Read up what you can and find someone locally, in real life, to reach out to with your SharePoint issues.
Thank you. A lot of sites are talking about subsites so to me this seems logic. I honestly don't really understand what the problem is with subsites, there's a reason they excist right? Creating about ten site collections for departments with no more than fifteen employees each, seems like a lot of work.
Very briefly subsites are now quite legacy. They are there for backward compatibility but there are now better solutions in SPO. I can’t really comment on the information architecture for your company but ten site collections is not huge for around 150 users. You may find a local SharePoint group who can give you a little more advice. My experience is that what seems like a lot of work now has a huge payback later. If you’re staying for any time with your company I’d take the effort upfront. Honestly, the very best of luck and I hope all goes well!

@Deleted, while I am a user of subsites in specific situations, I would encourage you to consider this: if you intend to grant each department control of their subsite and they adopt SharePoint well, that they all exist under one site collection to begin with will limit what they are able to do and may prevent them from "growing" their SharePoint environment because they are restricted to the rules of that site collection.


While this is not necessarily a bad thing for an organization learning how to use SharePoint (less of a functionality flood), it does present a situation where your power users are running into walls almost immediately that wouldn't be there if they did have a site collection available to them. For example, handling external users--if any one of your departments sees a need to allow external users and another sees a need to completely prevent external access, resolving those requirements and enforcing those security needs in one site collection is far more difficult (and may actually be impossible, would require creating very specific security roles at best) than setting up multiple site collections. Navigation is another limiting factor--if there are two competing visions of how navigation should be at the "global" level, somebody loses that battle when they might not if they had their own site collection.

@John Wynne I just figured out it's for about 100 users. Not that it'll make the difference, but I thought I'll let you know. But maybe those 50 users less do make a big difference? I'll look for help. Thank you!


@Matt CoatsThank you so much for your input! The users are really not enjoying they have to use SharePoint at all and their knowledge is really low so they won't make more use of it than necessary. It's just a replacement for the network drives so they just want to use it to share files with each other, no more, no less. Also, there's no interest in sharing the files with external people.