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Self-serve site creation in SharePoint got a little more adoptable

By Eric Eaton
Updated October 15, 2023

Self Service Site Collection

Microsoft announced some changes to self-service group and site creation in Office 365 a little while ago that has some interesting governance implications - especially if you're the tenant admin. The focus of these changes seems to be making self-service site creation more attractive for organizations who may have been wary of allowing it previously.

Governance and adoption are two sides
of the same coin. Every governance decision we
make has an effect on our user adoption - for
better or for worse.

From a user adoption perspective, I'm a big fan of self-serve site creation. The ease and instant gratification of creating a new site on-demand when you need it is a powerful draw for many users. In fact, one of the better real-world metrics to measure how broadly SharePoint is getting embedded into your users' daily life is the number of sites and unique owners. Those things can't really grow effectively if you don't allow users to make new sites. I acknowledge that there are some reasons for organizations to take it away, but doing so almost always suppresses adoption rates. Because of that, you should have a clear justification for the decision, and you should be willing to revisit that decision as things change.

Here are the highlights from the announcement and some adoption perspective for each as to why it might make a difference for you.

1. Self-serve site creation now supports the selection of a default language for the site

This is the smallest change, but a welcome one. If you're in a global, multi-lingual organization you may have users and teams that prefer (or need) to create sites in languages other than your default. Previously, this task had to be done by via the admin center. If this was a frequent request, then self-serve just wasn't practical. Users would frequently create sites in the default language without having the option to pick a language, and then complain to the admins. The admins then had to re-create it from the Admin Center, migrate any existing content, and then delete the old one. Yuk.

If you are in one of those organizations, this simple change might tip the scales for you to allow self-serve.

2. Create a modern team site without creating an O365 group

There are many organizations that don't want their users to create their own groups and potentially pollute the address list and create sprawl across other O365 apps that use groups and provision workspaces for them (like PowerBI, Planner...). Previously, if you restricted users from creating groups, that meant they could only create classic sites. Now, it's possible for users to create a modern team site WITHOUT also spinning up a new group.

Warning - soapbox tirade begins here...

From a user adoption perspective, I would argue that most organizations should decide on either an Office 365 Group or a Teams-enabled Group as their 'default collaboration unit'. These options provide a flexible set of features and a great starting point for most migrated sites and new site requests. I hear some admin teams and platform owners arguing against both of those options in the name of change management. However, change management doesn't mean we prevent change. It means we plan for it and help our users through it. If we block both of these options, we have effectively cut our users off from many of the benefits of Office 365. From their perspective, you might as well have stayed on prem.

Stepping off my soapbox...

If your organization is pro-SharePoint, but hesitant about the new groups paradigm - this new option is significant. You can now allow users to benefit from modern SharePoint sites (with their more responsive layouts, support for the SharePoint framework, simplified UI...) without giving them the keys to all the other things that groups entail. If you're currently restricting the ability to create new sites, this should make you revisit that decision and see if you still have a compelling reason to restrict it.


3. Changes to the admin controls surrounding self-service site / group creation

This change is in the SharePoint Admin Center. The settings around new site creation are being simplified to reflect the new capability described above. There is no longer a 'hybrid' option that falls back to classic for users that can't create a group. If you opt to allow self-service site creation, you simply choose the default as either 'team site / communication site' or 'classic site'.

Subsites are a related topic that is also controlled by the settings in the SharePoint Admin Center. Previously, this was only an on / off toggle - and it only applied to sites that belonged to an Office 365 group. Now, you'll have 3 options (none of which have anything to do with groups).

  • Hide the subsite command altogether
  • Show it only for classic sites
  • Show it for all sites

This is a change that encourages organizations and users to move away from subsites, in favor of using the new 'hub sites'. This is a good thing in most circumstances. Hub sites are much more flexible and scalable than the old subsite paradigm.

So, what's the take-away?

Self-serve site creation is a big part of your toolbox to promote adoption of SharePoint. This is especially true in Office 365 where your previous objections from on-prem may not apply with the same force. Microsoft is working hard to mitigate IT concerns and make it practical for your organization to use it. If you're currently restricting it, you really should review that decision and see if the recent changes could allow you to open it up.


What tools are you using to promote SharePoint adoption within your organization? Watch what one VisualSP customer had to say about the VisualSP Help System being a necessary tool for National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

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Try the VisualSP Help System for yourself.



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