Information Governance in SharePoint

By Carl Weise posted 08-27-2010 16:55


SharePoint Governance is the collection of roles and responsibilities, policies and procedures that are used to direct, guide and control the behavior of SharePoint so as to achieve your business goals.

Organizations should not adopt SharePoint on a whim. Rather, the decision to select SharePoint should rest on a detailed business case that is based on the benefits that SharePoint will provide.  In order to achieve those benefits, your SharePoint installation needs be governed – needs to have policies and procedures instituted that direct SharePoint to behave the way that you want.

Governance identifies lines of ownership and responsibility for the different areas of the installation.  Governance will allow your organization to increase its return on investment, by enforcing best practices.

Governance will help to protect your organization against the risks of regulatory non-compliance and against costly e-discovery procedures during litigation. Governance will allow your organization to identify and possibly head off attempts to use SharePoint in ways in which the organization did not intent.

Governance is best done ahead of time, rather than after the fact. It is hard to institute a system of enterprise-wide content types when your organization already has a large number of sites in use, each of which is using only the native SharePoint content types for all content.   Similarly, it is hard regain control over an environment with thousands of sites, all of which are potentially different.

Time spent on governance is time well spent.   Your governance plan must be documented.  To be effective, your plan will need to be available; possibly to the entire organization.  Once created, it should be reviewed and approved along the same lines as any other organizational policy document.  While your plan may include requirements for the development of specific items of technology, in order for it to be completely implemented, don’t  start working on that development until you have first captured the steps needed by creating a written document, either your complete governance plan, or a complete plan for that aspect of your installation.

What should your plan contain?  You should identify the main components of your organization’s SharePoint business case and note these in the plan.  You should identify several groups of stakeholders who will be collaborating to put the plan together.  You should identify how each particular component of the governance plan is to be implemented, either through technology, by a process, through policy, by direct monitoring or through some other means.

Almost invariably, the availability of a governance policy on a particular area is better than its absence.   If there is a foreseeable set of conditions, behaviors or operations in SharePoint that your organization would like to be handled in a certain way, then you should consider including these in your governance plan.

Your plan must conform to the policies of your organization.  The needs of the business must override the convenience of the plan.  When developing your plan you should research the policies that already exist and, if necessary, identify areas where additional policies may be needed in order to achieve control in areas where this was previously not necessary or not specified.

You should recognize that the nature of your governance plan is closely tied to the nature of your SharePoint environment; that the governance plan for a corporate intranet may be significantly different to one for an internet publishing portal.

Information governance is the key to successfully using SharePoint.  Your SharePoint site will certainly be better for having it. 

Tell us about your success in implementing information governance in your SharePoint installation.

What were the largest obstacles you faced in introducing information governance into your SharePoint solution?

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