Governance for Dunces

By Marc Solomon posted 12-08-2010 10:56


Governance -- you can't come within a custom webpart of a SharePoint best practice webinar without the presenter drumming the governance refrain into every PMO ("program management office") slide. Problem is, SharePoint teams get performance reviews around lots of critical success factors. Governance ain't one of them.

No one gets compensated on it. It's not measured in adoption cycles. It's not delivered in shipments. In fact you'd have to peel back several layers of abstraction to connect governance to revenues, let alone a concrete outcome. But if it's the reigning champ of SharePoint ingredients, how do you treat it as more than a check-box on a lengthy deployment list? If it's not a quantifiable benefit, how do you treat it as more than an organizational gut check against the building of unused, unloved, and unproductive ECMs?
Governance is what a consultant tells you to apply lest you need the same consultant to unravel the virgin workflow they leave at your firewall door in glistening, mint condition. Governance is an invitation to break free of the tyrannical grip of individual wills so that the greater good is liberated from the need to:
1. Play mental charades around how to tag their outputs
2. Add their own flourishes to something as mechanical and perfunctory as a document upload
If it sounds like governance is another way of piling on a thick undercoat of procedural layering then the boredom and disinterest will settle in long before the paint ever dries. One way of ushering governance into the routines of your operational realities is to to teach it some shop talk.
That's right -- become the ESL ("English as a Second Language") instructor so that governance can speak your organizational lingo like a native. Language is how to get personal and systemic at the same time. But don't think of Governance as a student. Think of Governance as the knowledge transfer you pull off in training the trainer. Once the model is built there is no internal conversation between units, districts, or departments that can't be bridged and unified through a capable channel for governance.
Still on the abstract side, huh? What does it look like in the day-to-day progression of rolling out SharePoint? Well, here’s one example of how we deal with governance in my shop. There are no sacred cows. But there are some sturdy tenets that reinforce our metadata foundation (and by extension the baking in of our metadata building blocks in both content types and soon-to-be term stores):
These principles are based on…
1) Consistency: Keep the tags as similar as possible with our other systems – primarily project records or however your accounting team documents the life of your receivables. However ECM governance does not mean parroting your financial systems. For instance a line entry like "Portugal LLC" is meaningful as a legal designation, It's bogus for finding IP.
2) Business-focused: Classify materials according to your revenue recognition structure and new business priorities or go-to-market segments. Follow the money and the attention of your users is not far behind. For instance in our case “Consumer Packaged Goods” is not a new business pipeline – it’s actually 4-5 discrete segments (all of which contain their own industry tags).  
3) User-based: Due to our reporting structure both Europe and MENA ("Middle East North Africa") are now combined with Europe as a super EMESA region. But the blurring of this distinction is no reason to treat our regional tags the same way. These categorical boundaries withstand the whims of any reporting changes or structures.
The result is that no two systems are perfect matches of each other. Otherwise what's the justification for having two, right? What governance does is build on what your organization already does (and does well we hope)? That puts the persistent variations, new initiatives, rechanneling of lesson learned, and scaling of best practices not only in reach but routinely dealt with through a common governance model.
How will we know it's working? Governance is absorbed into the workstreams, team structures, and collaboration practices that dwell inside our ECM walls. If we're still talking about it years from now the only victors will be the 2010 consultants we'll be over-paying to rework the same fixes in the future.

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