For many organizations (according to AIIM.org, over 50% of corporations) SharePoint is a critical business platform, and yet many struggle with making SharePoint scale to meet their growing end user needs. I often tell audiences that the top issues surrounding SharePoint have nothing to do with features or with the limitations of the platform, but have more to do with planning and execution. Of course, the same is true for most every other enterprise platform -- we focus so much on what the tools can and cannot do, and tend to make missteps on aligning what we know they can do with our business priorities, our existing governance guidelines, and our cultural norms.
After spending time this past week at an AIIM Executive Leadership Council (ELC) event where we discussed the state of information governance, the consensus of the group was that the word "governance" is too broad and confusing. Some organizations may have very clearly defined guidelines and processes in place, driven by government and industry regulations and standards. Others may not be required to have well-defined standards, but on their own these companies have determined that SharePoint is more manageable and scalable with a clearly defined governance strategy in place. At the end of the day, there is no set of "best practices" for governance that can be applied across every organization. However, there is a lot you can learn from others.
Some organizations may have a very strong technology assurance component within their governance strategy due to an extended planning and approval process around technology, requiring a long roadmap for all platform decisions. Other organizations may focus more heavily on business and technology alignment, which could see rapid adoption of new tools and platforms that may provide competitive advantage. The point here is that different organizations have different strengths and levels of operational maturity.
People are always asking "Where should I start with my SharePoint governance planning?" My answer is never as satisfying as they would hope -- it depends. There is no quick and easy route. Some organizations are good at change management, others have a solid foothold in their information architecture and managing data across teams. You need to take the good things you've already done, and strengthen area where you are weak. There are a number of areas that you should consider as you think about scaling your SharePoint platform which are independent of your governance methodology, or even the tools you use -- and will help to begin strengthening your weak spots. At the end of the day, you should focus first on the needs of your business and THEN select the processes and tools that will enable you to meet those business goals.
Here are five focus areas will help you to get your own SharePoint environment under control, allowing you to get the most value out of your investment. These are not hard and fast rules, but areas you should consider as you build out your governance strategy to match your own unique corporate footprint -- so apply as needed:
Standardize Policies and Procedures.
Are your policies and procedures consistent across your organization, or are exceptions the rule? Most organizations and their environments ebb and flow, reorganizing as the business grows, and as you try to be nimble and adaptive in response to customer needs. Don't let your governing policies be the reason you cannot change to meet the needs of the business. A business unit may have different information rights management (IRM) rules than the rest of the company, but the policies that govern how those rules are managed should be consistent across the organization.
You should explore the functions and capabilities that make sense to be centralized (possibly owned by the Farm Administrator), and those which may need to be managed at the site collection and site levels. SharePoint works best when management of its many functions are distributed to the people who know how the business should be run. The caveat here, of course, is having adequate (and standardized) policies and procedures, and clear roles and responsibilities.
Create Clear Roles and Responsibilities.
How is that for a segue? How can you measure the performance of a system -- or the performance of a person -- without first clearly defining the measurements of success? Be clear on what you expect from each role, so that people can be accountable for those roles. This is also central to good permissions management, by the way.
Build a Communication Strategy.
If you wait for the launch of a new project to articulate your communication strategy, you're already on the wrong track. Your communication strategy is part of a healthy governance strategy, outlined up front during project initiation/definition, and helps to get people involved, to keep them abreast of what is happening throughout the project (whether it be a new SharePoint implementation, a redesign, or an upgrade), and to give them data on what has happened once the project is completed and moved into support mode.
Focus on Execution, and Iterate.
Every healthy system, once in place, includes ongoing measurement, automation, and reporting. Not every aspect of your plan will be effective -- so build into your strategy a model to review, assess, and make changes. SharePoint is not a static platform, so neither will your governance strategy be static.
It's easy to talk about SharePoint governance in theory, but harder to put into practice. In previous consulting roles, my approach to enterprise-wide system deployments (such as CRM, ERP, portfolio management, software configuration management systems) was always from a business analyst perspective, spending the bulk of my time trying to understand, clarify, and then communicate the business goals first, and THEN to figure out how to apply technology. I found the focus areas above to be consistent across most of my projects, and hopefully will help you to further expand on your own governance model.#governance
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