Yet another SharePoint governance article?

By Christian Buckley posted 06-15-2011 02:18


There has been an interesting dialog running through the SharePoint twitterverse today, focusing on an increasingly common theme of the role of governance within SharePoint projects. Check out #spadoptionchat to follow the thread. Out of this dialog came some great questions and comments about the origins of SharePoint governance, with some disagreements on its underlying business value, and its practical application. What does it even mean, and should you care?

I'll be the first to admit it -- the vast majority of content out there on SharePoint governance is pure fluff. Rarely is it tactical, much less practical. People want to know how to get started, what are the best practices, what are the essentials they need to be thinking about. Unfortunately, it's a much deeper conversation than can be covered in a single blog post.

Clearly, this is a topic that many are writing about, and it should play a more central role in this fall's huge SharePoint Conference to be held in Anaheim, CA in October. I have a couple blog posts in the works, but thought I'd at least add my perspective to some of the questions asked -- and open this up to the AIIM community for more feedback (and an invitation to join the conversation). I'd love to hear your questions, and will do my best to answer them in future posts.

Some immediate Q&A:

Q: Should organizations have project governance in place for all projects? If so, should this be in place before your SharePoint project?

A: Simply put -- yes. Governance is not a document that you fill out and check off a list of to-do's. It is a living, breathing set of rules and guidelines for managing your environment. An organization would be best served by having a set of governance policies and procedures in place as a decision support system, to help move projects -- whether system deployments, operational efforts, or even marketing campaigns- - from beginning to end in a way that allows the company to monitor, measure, and improve upon based on those measurements. SharePoint is simply a platform used to achieve business results. Having a stable governance model in place will only help to ensure SharePoint's success.

Q: Which comes first: project governance or SharePoint governance?

A: This is kind of a trick question, like asking which came first n -- the chicken or the egg. If you mean "overall project governance" such as at the Project Management Office (PMO) level, then it would come before SharePoint governance. When fully deployed, SharePoint will have its own set of policies and procedures to ensure that the platform is being run efficiently and effectively. And then every new SharePoint project (creating a team site with dashboard and real-time KPIs, building out an event workspace, and so forth) might also include some subset of the governance model to help guide the unique requirements of that site or team.  Three different levels, three different (possible) layers of governance. But all three should come from one over-arching set of guidelines for how any enterprise application should be managed. As I stated above, all enterprise applications should have some kind of governance model in place.

Q: Did SharePoint governance even exist before SP2010?

A: Yes. It may be more of a buzzword these days, but it was definitely around from the early days of SharePoint. As site admins (and the people building SharePoint) started to understand the scope and scale of the platform, they began sharing information with other admins and providing recommendations on things like content database size, list item restrictions, and other limitations. Some would argue that this is where the SharePoint community all started -- admins helping each other to define the governance guidelines for the platform.

Q: Isn't governance just a buzzword that opens CIO wallets and kills productivity?

A: To some degree, I do have to say "buyer beware." As with any technology, there are those who will attempt to see you services and solutions that you don't need. Do you need to hire someone to come into your company and teach you how to setup and run a healthy SharePoint platform? I don't think so. But there are some fantastic consultants and experts out there who have deep product and industry experience, and who can save you from wasted time and resources trying to figure things out on your own.

Q: Isn't governance just a facet of proper planning, i.e. how we allocate and manage resources?

A: Yes, its part of planning, but more than just allocating and managing resources. A SharePoint governance plan might also include usage scope and guidelines, storage and quota policies, security policies, maintenance schedules, information architecture guidelines, navigation and taxonomy guidelines, service level agreements, permissions guidelines, branding guidelines, and a number of other development, operational, and project management guidelines. The robustness of your governance policies may be determined by the size of your organization, your culture, and your compliance needs, among other factors. And often these guidelines shift and evolve as the needs of the organization change.

Q: Why is all this governance so important all of a sudden? Where was it when we deployed Exchange last decade?

A: Funny -- I remember having similar conversations back in the mid-1990's around other enterprise applications. Some would argue that the power and complexity of SharePoint is driving much of the conversation.  While SharePoint can be very powerful out of the box, many organizations want to quickly jump to the advanced features, adding complexity and quickly growing that initial deployment. As SharePoint becomes more widely adopted, and as more teams move from MOSS 2007 to SP2010, admins have become more aware of the need to plan and manage their deployments. I view the renewed interest in governance as a sign that SharePoint adoption is increasing, and being viewed as a business platform, not just an IT platform.

A fellow business school student shared a great quote from his father that has stuck with me these past 14 years: "Governance is a series of rules to live by, not rules to die by." My interpretation is, simply, to do what makes sense for your organization, and don't get hung up on the process.

There is much to discuss on this topic, and it will be a recurring theme for me over the next several months.  I want to thank everyone for a great (and ongoing) discussion, including @RobBogue, @SharePointBits, @Pswider, @Chandimak, @MeetDux, @SharePointNerd, @JMikeWatson, @Ianmoran, @dlairman and everyone else who jumped in! (and you can follow me at @buckleyplanet)

#bestpractices #buckleyplanet #SharePoint #governance #sharepoint