One to How Many When Collaborating Externally


Whether you are sharing with a handful of people versus hundreds of people will determine what is the best way for you to share externally

All organizations, regardless of their size, rely on external parties to support their daily operations. Whether it is volunteers supporting your charity mission or a third-party contractor approving your civil engineering drawings, these individuals are crucial to your organization. Consider the different ways you currently collaborate with these external user groups. Is it managed through a combination of email, File Transfer Protocol, or shadow IT like DropBox? You often end up with multiple versions of the same document, which can become confusing and time consuming to ensure that you are working on the correct version, or worse, error prone if you are not.

Beyond considering how you currently share, you also need to think about how secure the process is. Is the information you are sharing confidential and how detrimental would it be to your organization if this is not managed properly.

Now that you recognize there may be a few failings with your current external strategy, we can talk about improving it. Here at Extranet User Manager, our team is an expert in developing strategies that are going to simplify your collaborations with these external user groups. We feel very strongly that Office 365 and SharePoint Online are great places to have this take place. We like to break these strategies into two different buckets: One to Few and One to Many. Now let's dive deeper into what this really means.

One to Few

For the first scenario, you are sharing ad hoc documents with a small number of users external to your organization. In this case using the out of the box external sharing features included with Office 365 makes a lot of sense. As the sole administrator of your documents, you can determine who to share with, how long the document will be available, and be notified if the document is then re-shared on your behalf. External sharing gives you the ability to pre-set whether you want to share a document to a specific set of users, people within your organization, or anyone who has access to the link.

This tool is very useful for ad hoc sharing scenarios with a limited group of users, and if you're interested in learning how to configure external sharing, please read our article on Sharing is All About Control. As a warning, we recommend that you proactively gauge the size of your external user group and whether that is going to increase drastically. As it increases, governance can become a challenge. The good news is that we do have options to accommodate a larger audience.

One to Many

In the One to Many scenario, where you have a large number of external users, you want to ensure you have a governance plan in place prior to turning on external sharing capabilities for your organization. Additionally, understanding who should be the administrator of these external users is a focus point. We feel strongly that the individual who owns the business relationship knows best who the external users should be, but may not be the right person to manage permissions. By separating user management from permissions, we can provide much stronger governance.

Let us introduce you to Azure Business-to-Business and Extranet User Manager. These two solutions combine to enable a simplified management of a large set of users, while offering a seamless and secure onboarding process for those external users. A business user can add a user in Extranet User Manager which then creates that user in your Azure AD as a Guest User.

As an organization, depending on your user audience, you may want to extend this by adding in the ability to self-register, and potentially some additional approval check points a user must progress through before being added as an extranet user.

The other side to this is the permissions management. Extranet User Manager is all about empowering the business owner to decide which external users should be in the groups they own. Governance controls can then define what permissions those groups have, and what they can do in the SharePoint sites. This is best managed through a site request and template process that provides standardized SharePoint site templates with the appropriate permissions pre-defined. For ideas on how to implement this, you can find details on our open source solution in our Site Provisioning Whitepaper.

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