Simplifying SharePoint Governance

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the_lord_of_the_rings_tribute_by_silentrageleonI work with a lot of SharePoint clients, so I’ve seen sites that were well-governed and others that look like the wild west. SharePoint is a platform that can do a lot of different “stuff,” but a well thought-out governance plan is undeniably important. But SharePoint governance has become more of a buzz phrase, and it’s bigger than it needs to be. (If you’ve been assigned a SharePoint governance policy, then you might feel a little like Frodo carrying the burden of the Ring.)

Everyone talks about how important SharePoint governance is, but no one explains how to create a workable policy that fits a unique organization. How can a governance policy that delivers what you need and can grow as your needs evolve be created?

Getting started by building a governance plan

If we want to create a governance plan, we need to understand exactly what it is and what purpose it serves. Microsoft’s SharePoint governance site, for instance, offers a good summary for a governance plan:

Governance is the set of policies, roles, responsibilities and processes that control how an organization's business divisions and IT teams work together to meet organizational goals.

That’s right! Microsoft has dedicated an entire site to SharePoint governance. Now, I’m not saying you should refer to this site exclusively since there is a lot on the site to absorb. However, I do recommend at some point forming a small group of users into a committee.

This ensures you have a good cross-section of perspectives and also fosters buy-in since the users are also helping to shape the solution. The group that writes the governance policy can look at the stage their organization is in and start small, making use of other good resources as needs evolve.

The power of a wiki

Writing a big honking policy of do’s and don’ts will ensure your governance policy is read by only the author and the few who care. That’s why I recommend creating a SharePoint governance wiki.

Wikis are easy. They are bite-sized. You can edit or easily add a wiki page to your governance plan whenever your needs dictate. Your governance plan then becomes a living, breathing artifact instead of a forgotten three-ring binder on a shelf, gathering dust.

Another advantage is that you can communicate specific wiki page links in intervals to members in your organization to feed the pipeline of microlearning.

Some best good practices

OK, so I admit you might need a bit more to get started. An effective governance plan anticipates the needs and goals of your organization's business divisions and IT teams. Because every enterprise is unique, I recommend that you tailor a governance plan to your environment by using the following steps.

Determine initial principles and goals

The governance committee should develop a governance vision, policies and standards that can be measured to track compliance, and to quantify the benefit to your organization. For example, your plan should identify service delivery requirements for both technical and business aspects of your SharePoint deployment.

For MainSpring’s own SharePoint site, the goal is to improve collaboration, communication and security at MainSpring. Objectives within this project become measurable, like reducing the number of steps and individuals required to initiate a project request from our clients.  The result, automation, time and cost savings. All measurable.

Classify your business information

    Organize your information according to an existing taxonomy, or create a custom taxonomy that includes all the information that supports your business solution. After your information is organized, you can design an information architecture to manage it. Then, determine the most appropriate IT services to support it.

Develop an education strategy

Next to the governance plan, the human element is the most important ingredient in the success or failure of a SharePoint deployment.

A comprehensive training plan should show how to use SharePoint according to the standards and practices that you’re implementing, and explain why those standards and practices are important. Your plan should cover the kinds of training required for specific user groups, and describe appropriate training tools.

For example, your IT department might maintain a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page about its SharePoint service offerings, or your business division might provide online training that shows how to set up and use a new document management process.

Develop an ongoing plan

Successful governance is ongoing. The governance committee should meet regularly to review new requirements in the governance plan, reevaluate and adjust governance principles as well as resolve conflicts among business divisions for IT resources.

The committee should provide regular reports to its executive sponsors to promote accountability and to help enforce compliance across your organization. Although this process seems complicated, its goals are to increase the return on your investment (ROI) in SharePoint, take full advantage of the usefulness of your SharePoint solution, and improve the productivity of your organization.

SharePoint governance will vary based on company maturity

SharePoint governance doesn’t need to be scary like Mordor—the one place in Middle Earth we don’t want to see any closer. Instead, it can start out small, and grow with your organization. Draft a vision, and define some goals that you want to meet with SharePoint. Above all else, remember that your governance plan is uniquely your own.