Managing templates using Content Types – Don’t make it so hard for yourself!

by | 13. Apr 2021 | Change Management, Digital Workplace, Latest, News

Once again one of those days when you need to live standardized processes including defined templates. Basically a good idea, but where are the necessary templates located? And are they still up-to-date? How are they managed?

Template chaos

Every medium-sized company knows a typical template chaos. “Look at the fileshare, there used to be a template like this”, “Talk to your colleagues, they did this a few years ago”, “Just take template XY and adapt it to today’s standard!”.

Template center – The solution

To avoid exactly such issues, there are several ways to set up your own way of working with a central location of templates. In Microsoft 365, specifically SharePoint Online, you can work with content types. But what are these things and why are they not used?

Content Types

The lack of use results – as so often – from the lack of understanding of so-called Content Types. Content Types are templates of list items or documents that can be reused in different libraries and lists within a site collection. More precisely, they are site columns (properties such as title, topic, type, etc.).

The Content Types offer a crucial advantage: you configure them and the associated columns only in one place and you can basically reuse them in any list or library. If you now change a column (property) of a configured template, this change is inherited in all lists/libraries and a manual adjustment of different lists/libraries is spared. Of course, this also applies to Word, PowerPoint, Excel and other documents that are centrally linked to a Content Type. It saves time and nerves, as the constant matching of properties or documents is no longer necessary. At the same time, a central template management location is created.

Content Types & Site Collection

However, experience has shown that it is not very common to reuse the same content type (in different lists/libraries) within a Site Collection – But using it across multiple site collections can bring immense benefits!

That means a Content Type is created centrally, such as an sales order form, which has predefined formatting and content in the associated Word document. To use it in the context of the cross-site Site Collection content type construct, the so-called Content Type Hub is used: A separate Site Collection that is basically identical to any new, empty Site Collection. The main advantage over normal Site Collections is that site columns and content types can be configured within this site and inherited by all site collections. This has the charm of using a central place to manage templates, as already described, and to push changes directly to all libraries that use these Content Types/templates. Important note at this point: If the Content Types/templates are not needed, this is not a cause for concern, as a Content Type must always be added to a library/list manually. Only in this case is in use for the desired library.

This scenario for usage also needs structure & commitment, however with the right guidance and maintenance it offers a simple set screw to facilitate processes. Template chaos adé – structure olé!