A SharePoint Site Collection is the highest level of organisation in SharePoint, a repository for all your sites, subsites and content. Depending on your business, a Site Collection may contain a variety of projects taking place in the upcoming month, or different company departments may have their own subsite. These various projects or departments could be displayed as SharePoint lists under specific sites in the Site Collection. To get a more holistic overview of projects you may want to combine these multiple lists into a single list. To do so, you need some sort of content rollup.
What is a content rollup in SharePoint?
Under the Content Rollup category—which comes out-of-the-box with SharePoint—users have two tools to help them rollup their content:
- Content Query Web Part (CQWP)
- Content Search Web Part (CSWP)
Both serve very similar functions, allowing users to search for and display information stored in a SharePoint site. The only difference between the two is that the CQWP queries lists, while the CSWP conducts a search of content.
By default, each Web Part will show recently modified items from the current site. But with a few tweaks (like changing the code for the search or query criteria) you can make the Web Part show items from another site or list and rollup your content that way.
The limitations of rolling up SharePoint content
Aside from being quite a technical task, the problem with content rollup the ‘out of the box’ way is you are restricted to a single site collection (see below for a note on the search option). And there are many good reasons you may want to use (and then indeed rollup from) multi-site collections.
Each Site Collection has its own content database that contains all the information residing in that site. Microsoft strongly recommend limiting the size of these content databases to 200 GB which, considering our modern data generation habits, might not last that long.
In such a case, you might want to create additional Site Collections, providing you with multiple content databases and more space for all your content. But the problem with this approach is that each content database has its own set of permissions, and these cannot be shared across Site Collections. And because the databases and their inherent permissions are separate, it means your content cannot be rolled up across them using SharePoint’s Content Query Web Part.
It’s worth noting that as the Content Search Web Part queries the search index, experienced power users may be able to configure it to aggregate their content across Site Collections. But this will require a lot of time, know-how and familiarity with SharePoint code.
With the right tools at hand, though, you can rollup content regardless of where it resides without having to dive into the SharePoint code.
Introducing Lightning Conductor
Using the Lightning Conductor Web Part Add-In for SharePoint Online, SharePoint users can rollup any type of content from across multiple Site Collections, not just sites or subsites. You can rollup SharePoint lists of your documents, tasks, announcements, contacts or calendars without writing a single line of code, making it far more straightforward than the Content Rollup Web Part that comes out-of-the-box with SharePoint.
Aside from content rollup, Lightning Conductor also allows users to easily configure powerful views for SharePoint lists and libraries. Each view provides Shared or Private filters, multiple levels of grouping, custom columns and the ability to export to Microsoft Excel. Enabling multiple views of rolled up SharePoint content displayed in a centralised location, your users can save hours of time that would otherwise be spent scouring their SharePoint environment.
How it works
The Lightning Conductor uses the Client Side Object Model, Search and Office Graph to provide you with a variety of ways to aggregate content. The Client Side Object Model lets you aggregate content from the current Site Collection, while using SharePoint search and the Office Graph gives you a simple interface to build your views.
For more information, take a look at these video tutorials that detail the different ways you can rollup content and combine SharePoint lists and library views.
Office 365 prides itself on its stance as a central hub for all your productivity tools, but that centralised nature doesn’t fully transfer over to a platform as big as SharePoint, especially if you’re a large organisation working with a multitude of documents and files. With Lightning Conductor—available as an Add-In for SharePoint Online or a Web Part for on-premises SharePoint environments—users can find and access their content in a single location, speeding up their content search and upping their productivity.