Governance, Culture, and Capability

By Christian Buckley posted 05-14-2013 23:16



No offense to all of my friends who work for consulting companies, but technical consultant are a dime a dozen. You'll find them on every social network, sharing their knowledge and professional adventures, reliving their greatest triumphs in handy top ten lists and step-by-step do-it-yourself walkthroughs. These experts are great when you know what it is you want to accomplish. They tend to focus on the "how" of problem solving. They're good folks to have around to augment your team, and to help you deliver on schedule.


The problem is that most consultants can't help you with the "what" or, more importantly,  the "why." What are you trying to accomplish? What does the business actually need? What are the right priorities? What is our first priority? Why will this solution deliver a better solution than what we have in place today?


These are not superficial questions, but get to the root of why so many projects fail. While presenting at SPTechcon in San Francisco earlier this year where I was presenting several sessions on SharePoint governance and planning, I got into an argument with a consultant friend over the opinion (his) that governance was a document, a checklist, a binder. It was something that was already defined (by someone else) and all you needed to do was go down the list and check off each question or step, and then you were done. Your governance activity, for the most part, ends with a completed checklist.


Many people have this impression that there is a guide out there, somewhere, which outlines ad nauseam every aspect of your system and controls (in this case, SharePoint) and how they can be applied to your specific business requirements. Sorry to burst your bubble if this is how you think of governance -- or how your organization treats governance -- but it is much more involved than that.


Of course, my description above does not cover all consultants -- I know many who spend the bulk of their consultative hours asking the right questions and driving toward a shared understanding of what is to be solved before moving forward with any solution. The right consultant will spend a great deal of time on understanding how your organization ticks, so that any recommendations they make are a good fit for the organization, focusing on three facets:


  • Governance framework: understand what is in place today, where there are gaps, and opportunities to leverage best practices from industry and past client experiences. There are many books written on the topic, most of which have standard themes across them. My advice is to focus less on which framework to use, but to adopt one. For SharePoint, there is ample content on TechNet and within the community that you can leverage and adopt.
  • Organizational culture: understand your culture for decision-making, and how best to gain the support of your leadership team as well as your end users. How you implement your governance strategy should match closely the organizational and cultural nuances of the people around you. Do what makes sense, and be flexible on you apply your governance framework. The better the cultural fit, the more likely people with adhere to the framework.
  • Organizational capability: understand whether or not you have the right people or the right skills to accomplish what you have designed. Nothing more frustrating than devising the best strategy with buy-in from all of your stakeholders, only to find that you don't have the people you need to execute. Temper your plans with some reality, and learn to walk before you run.

Once these things are understood, a consultant can more accurately design and implement a technical solution that fits your organization.


What is your experience? What has worked for you in getting the most out of your hired hands?

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