Practical Limitations on SharePoint 2007 Audiences

Posted: July 16, 2010 in MOSS 2007


For many of us, audiences are one of those “cool” capabilities, with lots of possibilities that you rarely use and even more so, use extensively. Then you get a project that leans on them, and leans on them HARD and some serious limitations show up.

1.       SharePoint Audience rule creation UI – The UI itself is pretty straightforward. You create an audience, are given a choice between (members satisfy ALL rules or ANY rule). Then you create a rule and you are given the ability to test (“=”,”!=”, “<”,”>”,”Contains”, “not contain”) a single value against a single column for each rule.

For many clients this is enough. You can get creative and come up with some cool combinations. Then you go to a large bank, Insurance agency, etc where reality is not that simple. Where a person’s role in the organization is determined by a range of results from an even larger range of columns. You find this UI seriously lacking. It cannot do very complex logic. Where your audience logic consists of nested AND and OR logic, this UI will not allow you to do what you need.

For this issue my friends. There is a solution. It comes in the form of some freeware ( which extends the stsadm commands allowing you to script audience creation (nice) and build complex XML based audience rules.

2.       Limitation on the number of audience rules – This limitation is one of those painful ones. The blog listed in #1 begins to go into it a bit as I believe it is related to the way Microsoft decided to store these rules. Either way, it is painful. Add 18 rules you are fine. Add that 19th, I dare ya. If you are using the SharePoint UI to do this, you will get a REAL helpful error message, “Invalid Value”. You will dig through ULS, event logs, test and test and find NOTHING to help you. Guess what, in SharePoint land “Invalid Value” equals “Too many rules”. Using the object model, I got the real message, no more than 18 rules per audience. Seems like a lot until a healthcare based client with hundreds of facilities(Hospitals, clinics, dr offices, labs, etc), which rollup into a dozen major facilities(Hospitals) based on a complex set of rules. You blow 18 out of the water quick. This is not a limitation you can sidestep, you need to design your audiences accordingly. I found little to no documentation on this limitation and a dozen contacts in MCS had never hit this, simply because they had not had clients who implemented audiences to that extent.


I have not had the chance to test out 2010 for these limitations yet. If someone out there has or wants to give it a try PLEASE do and let me know how this turns out.

  1. Kipp Sorensen says:

    Same limitation exists with 2010….just reached the limit with a current client.

  2. Sree V says:

    Same limitation in SharePoint 2013

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