Simple Project Site Creation and Automation

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February 2, 2018     |   Peter Carson, President and​ Logan Guest, Sales Associate​​

Your clients are important to you and your business, and ensuring they have a simple way to gain access and contribute to your on-going projects is incredibly important. All projects have many key stakeholders and trying to manage all the content that flows back and forth between stakeholders within email simply does not scale - even with the smallest of projects. All too often, organizations do not have an established governance plan in effect which can lead to a collaboration mess. Employees may use shadow IT that is very simple for end users to gain access to, without them understanding the ramifications of sharing secure items. There are also other scenarios where it is too challenging for the client to receive the secure documents. Whether they are hung up waiting to receive proper access or they simply get lost in the onboarding process, these issues lead to inefficiencies and delays to the core project.

The approach that we take at Envision IT, the parent organization of Extranet User Manager, is that we manage our sites in a way that is very simple for us to administer and for our clients to receive the important information they desire. We have created a Client Site Template that is based on a Modern Team site. We provision client sites utilizing the Office Development Patterns and Practices (PnP) template. The result of this provisioning process is a fully launched project site tied to an Office 365 Group that has access to Outlook, SharePoint, Planner, Teams, etc.

The way the site structure works is there are Shared Documents and Private Documents folders. Shared Documents contain anything you would like your clients to have direct access to. Often these versions of documents are PDFs, however in certain instances if you're working on a joint agreement, it may be a word document. The great benefit to collaborating with your clients in this form is you're truly working on the same word document, and there is no confusion with multiple versions scattered throughout your email inbox. The Private Documents are working documents that you only want your internal employees to have access to.

The site template includes the following project based fields;

  • Title – Client name
  • Alias – Provide client alias which will create a site URL and an exchange mailbox for the team members
  • Parent URL – Input parent URL if the client site already exists and you are provisioning the site for a specific project under the client
  • Site Template – Choose modern project site
  • EUM Group – Insert client name (this will create an EUM group automatically)
  • EUM Permission – Select contribute or read depending on the required permissions applicable to the group of users

This client site provisioning process is open to various automation components. You could build in rules, such as stating a site must be approved before it can be provisioned to ensure that there are no duplicate sites.

You may have noticed at the bottom of the template that I mention both an EUM Group and an EUM Permission field. EUM stands for Extranet User Manager, ​which is a product that specializes in managing identities external to your organization. As EUM is a fully exposed REST API, it can be built in as part of the client site provisioning process. An EUM Group is created specific to the client and then the EUM permission determines external client's abilities once they have successfully authenticated. EUM allows for simple external user management and onboarding. In this context, EUM works in parallel with Azure B2B. Azure AD B2B allows clients to utilize their existing Azure AD credentials to access your Office 365 client sites. If a client does not have Azure AD credentials, they will be prompted to create a Microsoft account during the invitation process. Azure AD B2B is crucial as it allows access for external users without incurring additional costs to license those external users. This, paired with Extranet User Manager's enhanced account management, fully customizable self-registration, and the ability to delegate external user management to the business, is a great scenario for these types of collaborative project/client engagements.

We have created a PowerShell script that goes to find new sites that are waiting to be provisioned in the queue. Once found, the script will then provision the client site. It will also call the EUM API to create the related groups and setup permissions accordingly. All you have to do now as the project administrator is add those users to Extranet User Manager and assign them to the groups of projects they are supposed to be working on. Once created and assigned, the user will receive an EUM welcome email including the Azure B2B invitation that will route them to the site after being successfully authenticated. They will then be able to consume or contribute content as required for the specific project.

[Insert Peter's Technical Bit]​