I don't believe in "SharePoint governance"

By Christian Buckley posted 10-10-2011 20:47


There is this crazy idea out there that there is somehow a defined model (loosely defined, at best) for governance within SharePoint. By that I mean a generally accepted view of what it is, who owns it, what it means to manage it. At the SharePoint Conference in Anaheim last week, Microsoft VP Jeff Teper even stated that "governance is not an issue in SharePoint 2010." When he said it, I felt a sharp pain in my temporal lobes, and experienced a short-term impairment to the organization and categorization of verbal material. In short, I flinched.

SharePoint is just a tool through which we achieve certain business outcomes. Don't get me wrong -- it's a fairly powerful platform, into which more and more critical business systems are being directed. But it's still just a tool, a platform.  Trying to make decisions about managing SharePoint without the perspective of the larger ecosystem makes about as much sense as thinking the world is at the center of the universe, with all other celestial bodies orbiting around us. SharePoint is not at the center of the universe, but is just another piece of the celestial fabric (an increasingly important part of it, yes) and the means to delivering your business solutions.

Before SharePoint existed (for those who can remember, I'm talking about those heady days of pre-dot com bust), we achieved these same results (relatively speaking) through various ECM platforms, custom-built intranets and websites, and various third-party solutions. Going back even further, these technical solutions were replacements for process and paper, meetings and people. Crazy stuff. Way back then, in the midst of the primordial soup of the late 80's to early 90's, governance had absolutely nothing to do with technology. Governance was meant to ensure that our projects and systems and processes somehow tied back to the business, helping us to (gasp!) get more value out of our time and people and investment. Governance helped us figure out the decisions that needed to be made, who needed to make them, and to help track and measure the decisions we implemented.

Clearly, I went with the provocative title to this post to get your attention, and its more or less a semantic argument. But there's some truth there: "SharePoint governance" is more or less a tactical realization of your broader governance strategy. Managing your policies and guidelines around content, storage, security, and performance are all real issues, and SharePoint provides some degree of control over these things. Around some of these things it does well, others it does not. The partner ecosystem fills in many of the gaps. But tools improving tools does not a governance strategy make (feeling the Yoda vibe here). Technology simply enforces the governance policies and guidelines, and enforcement of SharePoint policies and guidelines is lower on the totem pole than ensuring your SharePoint project fits into initiatives that move the business forward (in the grand scheme of things).

I don't believe in "SharePoint governance" but in enforcing governance within SharePoint. I do believe there is a difference. While the former may help you manage what is happening in SharePoint today, the latter has more to do with fitting your SharePoint solutions into the big picture, the long-term, the whole kit and caboodle, and any other euphemism that fits your fancy. 

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