SharePoint Audiences

Written By: Knox Cameron -- 5/10/2011 -- join -- contribute -- (4718) comments -- printer friendly version

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Categories: Configurations, Design, Features, MOSS 2007, Permission Management, SharePoint 2010

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Global audiences

Global audiences are the original "audiences" introduced with SharePoint Portal Server 2003. These are defined and managed by farm administrators in the Shared Services Provider. Global audiences are defined by rules based around user profile properties.

This is very flexible and powerful. For example, there will typically be a profile property called "Office" with the name of the office that the user works in. This information will originate from an HR system, so it is generally accurate and well maintained. Some process will exist to push the information into Active Directory so that users can see it in (for example) the Outlook address book.

Profile synchronization in SharePoint will also read that information from the active directory and update the user's profile in SharePoint. Using that property, it's easy to define an audience for all users who work in a particular office.

Similarly, you can easily define an audience for all users based in a particular country or with a particular job grade (like 'Manager'), as long as that information is in user profile properties. You can also base global audiences on membership of Active Directory groups or distribution lists, as well as reporting lines in AD.

You can define an audience using up to 10 rules. These rules can be of an "AND" type ( where a user must satisfy all the conditions to be in the audience) or an "OR" type (where a user can satisfy any of the conditions to be in the audience).

In SharePoint 2007, in Central Administration, use the link on the left to go to the Shared Services Administration screen for the SSP. Once there, select the Audiences link.

For SharePoint 2010,  in Central Administration go to Application Management. Then select Manage Service Ppplications.  Select the "User Profile Service Application" link , then select "Manage Audiences".

To create an Audience, select "Create Audience" (2007) or "New Audience" (2010). Enter a name and description. You can optionally select the name of a user as the owner of the Audience - this seems to be purely for reference. At this point, you also select whether the Audience rules are to be of the type "AND" or "OR".

Screen to define a new audience

You are then taken to a screen to enter the first Audience rule. To define an Audience based on the Office property, you would select the 'Property' option, select 'Office' from the drop-down list of properties, select the = operator and enter the text of the Office name as it would appear in people's profiles.

Rule for audience based on Office property

Unlike using groups, you can easily create "mirror image" audiences. For example, you would define an Audience for 'Sydney users' using the rule "Office=Sydney". Then, to define an audience for 'Non-Sydney users', you would use the rule "Office<>Sydney".

For a user to become a member of an audience, there will often need to be a chain of events. For example, say a user is posted to the Sydney office. First, someone has to update the office information for that user in the HR system. Some batch process will then need to run to update the user's information in Active Directory. A scheduled job in SharePoint then reads AD and updates the office property in the user's profile. Another scheduled job in SharePoint must re-compile the 'Sydney users' global audience to identify that the user is now a member of it.

The advantages of using global audiences are:

  • It is easy to define audiences that include large numbers of users, simply by defining rules based on profile properties
  • Once defined, the audiences are self-maintaining, automatically including new users who meet the criteria and excluding users who don't
  • You can easily create "mirror image" audiences
  • Once defined, they can be used by all sites linked to the shared services provider

The disadvantages of global audiences are:

  • They are centrally defined, so a site administrator must ask a farm administrator to create or update them
  • There can be delays in users being included in an audience due to the chain of events that are required to update an audience
  • You can only create global audiences based on profile properties or AD groups that exist and are well maintained

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