The Group Work Site in SharePoint 2010 – "strange, inconsistent, weird, and unusable"

SharePoint 2010 ships with a number of pre-defined site templates, list templates, and library templates. One of the new site templates is called the “Group Work Site,” which is described in the creation dialog box as “a groupware solution that enables teams to create, organize, and share information quickly and easily. It includes Group Calendar, Circulation, Phone-Call Memo, the Document Library, and the other basic lists.

On the face of it, the Group Work Site could be used by a team / group in a business department, to handle much of their day-to-day workflow and coordination. For example:
– the Circulations list could be used for passing specific material to the whole team or specific people, and tracking who has confirmed the particular issue. It’s a bit like workflow-lite, and can be used for text or text plus a document.
– the Phone Call Memo list could be used to replace email messages re calls. Rather than having “Frank called to discuss the proposal – please call him back” in your email, it could be separated out in the phone call list.
– the Document Library could be used to store frequently accessed documents by the team – although not ones that are related to specific projects (which should go into a team site).
– the Group Calendar allows you to see where other people are going to be over the next few days.
– the Links list could be used to capture and store frequently used and commonly valuable links to Intranet and Internet resources.
– on the home page of the Group Work Site is an area called “What’s New,” and by default it shows individuals the circulations, calendared events, and phone memos related to them.

I explored the Group Work Site for a few hours this morning, and note the following:

1. At the home page, I could not get calendars for others to remain after I added them and then clicked away. In other words, if I wanted to see Adelaide’s calendar next to Leroy’s calendar, I would add Adelaide’s and Leroy’s names, but then when I clicked into Phone Call Memos or Circulations, and then came back, both Adelaide and Leroy has disappeared. If that’s a feature, it’s a mighty strange feature.

2. It’s very unclear what the specific calendar in Group Work Site is supposed to show. Calendared events from the calendar in the Group Work Site? From Exchange? An aggregation of everything that “Adelaide” or “Leroy” are supposed to be doing today and tomorrow? If it just shows what has been entered into the Group Work Site calendar, then it seems all a bit pointless really – given that people have other events in Outlook/Exchange, and across other team sites. Yes, I know you can overlay and add calendars from Team Sites into the Group Calendar, but if “Charles” wasn’t a member of a particular team site and yet was a member of the Group Work Site, the calendar from the particular team site would still show against him in the Group Calendar view. All I can say is, “strange.”

3. The Circulations area was pretty nifty, and I can see a lot of uses for it. There are some usability issues though – to add a “Comment” you have to “Edit” the item – you can’t “comment.” If you do open the item to comment on it, you can’t “Confirm” or “Disconfirm” at the same time. You have to open it again and then click “Confirm” or “Disconfirm.” As I’ve said in recent presentations, SharePoint 2010 offers “technically correct” options, not “usable and useful” ones. This is an example of that.

4. I accessed the Group Work Site on a Windows 7 Professional laptop and a Windows Vista Ultimate laptop – both were running Internet Explorer 8. When opening a Circulation, depending on where you click to open, will dictate whether it opens as a dialog box or full screen. When I clicked the circulation from the “What’s New” section, it opened full screen. When I clicked the circulation from the Circulations list, it opens as a dialog box. This is both inconsistent and strange. Weird even.

5. When you have confirmed a circulation or resolved a phone call memo, it still shows in your “What’s New – Personal Items” list. The item has been completed by you, you have no further action to take, and yet it still shows. At least it should display with a line through it, at best it should disappear. Double weird.

6. If you wanted the Group Work Site to become the “go-to” place for a particular business team, they could use this in the office. And surely with the inclusion of SharePoint Workspace 2010 in Office Professional Plus 2010, they could also take the site offline when they were working away from the office, and do cool stuff. Is that a reasonable assumption to make? I think so – but no go. In my tests, taking the Group Work Site from the browser to SharePoint Workspace 2010 was not supported. This severely limits the usefulness of the Group Work Site, in my opinion.

7. Within the Group Work Site is a task list, so you can assign tasks to yourself or other people. But, and I don’t get this, by default a task item that has been assigned to you is NOT displayed in your “What’s New – Personal Items” web part on the top right-hand corner of the site. If an Administrator creates an index on the [Modified] field for the task list, and then edits the web part to add tasks to display, they will show, but they don’t show by default. Call me old-fashioned, but I think a deliberate assignment of a task to an individual would be one of the key items to show in the “What’s New” section. I don’t get it.

8. Charles does not have access to a particular Group Work Site. He can’t access it, he can’t see it. But … people inside the Group Work Site can create a task and assign it to him. There is no indication to the individual doing so that Charles actually will never be able to see that task. I guess you could use this to track tasks that you are asking people outside of the project to work on, BUT as a consequence of not showing a flag / warning that Charles can not access the site, there is very high potential for doing the wrong thing. Strange.

So net-net … on the face of it, the Group Work Site could be useful. When you get below the make-up, however, it’s strange, inconsistent, weird, and unusable. I won’t be recommending it, and I scratch my head in wonderment as to why Microsoft included it in SharePoint 2010.

Have you tried the Group Work Site? Have you had a different experience to what I’ve documented above?

5 Comments on “The Group Work Site in SharePoint 2010 – "strange, inconsistent, weird, and unusable"

  1. Recently, I also reviewed the Group Work site and the Group Calendar for use by an executive team. After much effort I decided that it was only half cooked and that if I couldn’t explain how to use these tools and to waht advantage, that I shouldn’t recommend them.

  2. Thanks; timely post. I think you’ve just saved me from a bunch of R&D into this template. Customizing the blank- or team-site templates it is!

  3. I saw this now after my 1st try with these templates. Actually it is even worse:
    1- You cannot have groups confirm a circular (you have to enter 80 members one by one)
    2- You cannot have a resource reservation displayed by default on your calendar.
    That is Sharepoint, beautiful features that need completion by MS partners. They want u to pay them, their partners, their support.. and even if you do you don’t get what u planned for.
    Simply, I wish I never invested in SharePoint as it wasted my time a lot.

  4. You have saved me a lot of time. The group calendar is pretty useless, as the only way to display anything is to select a resource. Not intuitive and as a result useless. I may be doing something incorrectly, however when all my events/meetings disappear after enabling Resource Reservation, and will only show in day/week view after selecting the resource they were assigned and not in a standard calendar view, I can only say it is very unusable. What were they thinking???

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