SharePoint Governance: What You Need to Know to Put a Plan Together

By Matthew Bretzius posted 06-13-2013 10:06


This is a guest post by Jeremy Thake, AvePoint Chief Architect and Microsoft SharePoint Most Valuable Professional (MVP)

(Note: This is part of our series “Collaborate with Confidence”. Previous posts: SharePoint Infrastructure Management: The Cost of Doing Business

So you’ve got your infrastructure up and running, and your SharePoint deployment is complete. The hard part is over – it’s time to sit back and let your business users go to work, collaborating and sharing data until their hearts are content, right? Think again.

SharePoint is a robust tool, but it’s not a well-oiled machine that can just monitor and run itself with a little help from its users, especially when you can’t trust that your users will always do the appropriate thing. Governance is a fundamental requirement for SharePoint success. So don’t let the inmates run the asylum – implement a governance plan and ensure your SharePoint delivers on the business drivers your organization requires.

What is Governance?

Let’s start off by saying that there is no set definition of governance, and not a single company in the marketplace “owns” how to “do” governance. Governance means different things to different people. At AvePoint, governance consists of the people, processes, policies, and technologies that deliver a service. This can be broken down further into four pillars:

  • People: Governance doesn’t exist without the people who create and develop the policies and plans. The governance plan must cover people’s roles and tasks as well as incorporate change in human capital due to turnover and expansion.
  • Processes: Steps taken to achieve a business goal, with the output usually occurring in a product or service.
  • Policies: While a governance plan is about guiding people to do the right thing, there are cases – sometimes due to regulatory or statutory requirements – where policies are mandatory and users are then required to abide by them.
  • Technologies: The features or limitations of a platform or product (technology) influence how the governance plan is implemented, regardless of the processes and policies established by the people.

What Can Go Wrong?

When considering how to put together your governance plan and policies, you must identify the business requirements that your policy and plan must meet. There are a number of risks associated with not developing a sound governance plan, with negative consequences resulting if your plan does not account for the following characteristics:

  • Accountability: Think of this as content ownership for the entire content lifecycle. All organizations will have employee turnover, so it is vital to ensure constant ownership of all content.
  • Appropriateness: There is some content, like personally identifiable information such as social security numbers, which should not be on SharePoint. Having a plan in place to define which content should “live” in SharePoint is crucial.
  • Compliance: Making sure information is accessible to those who need access to it and secure from those who do not.
  • Discoverability: SharePoint content needs to be discoverable, and while SharePoint search is a powerful feature, it requires planning and regular tuning to deliver relevant results.
  • Driving Up Adoption Levels: If you’re putting SharePoint in place, you want your employees to use it, right? A governance plan can help your employees understand who should use SharePoint, and how.
  • Quality: Just because you can keep all of your content in SharePoint doesn’t necessarily mean you should. You want to ensure that only the content with the highest quality is kept, while stale content is properly archived.
  • Restrictions: Going along with compliance, not all content is created with the expectation that it should be available to everyone in the organization. Implementing content restrictions ensures information confidentiality, integrity, and availability is kept when necessary.
  • Training: Don’t just teach employees how to use SharePoint; teach them how they should be using SharePoint within your organization to complete daily tasks.

If you develop a solid governance plan, you will have your employees not only using SharePoint, but using it the right way for your organization. In our next post, we’ll talk about how much governance your organization needs, and how you can actually get started in putting together your governance plan.

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