Governance is a hot topic in SharePoint lately. Many observers and new adopters have asked me if there is anything inherently untamable in SharePoint, wondering why governance has become “trendy.” To follow this line of reasoning, they suppose, why shouldn’t SharePoint be self-governing?
But the truth is that governance for SharePoint is necessary and proper. It’s an outgrowth of its runaway adoption and success. SharePoint continues to see double digit growth year in year out. That number of new users surging onto the platform requires care, channeling, guidance and oversight.
Even after two centuries, a gaslight on Beacon Hill still shows the way between old and new
Every organization defines governance differently. In my consulting experience, some companies focus on documentation. Others begin with required training. Still more focus on rules and regulations for usage. All this elements may be essential parts of your governance plan. And others might be completely wrong. What matters most is each organization’s culture. Culture should reflect preferred modes of action and interactions in any group. SharePoint governance should never stand in opposition to culture – rather, it reflects, and even enhances any team’s mission.
Governance plans should never begin as encyclopedic rule sets about everything SharePoint. They should start small and grow. Governance is an ongoing program for most SharePoint installations. For example, here are two actual SharePoint governance questions – one is technical, and one is principally business focused:
- “Our sales force is going through a lot of turnover – can we minimize the risk of information leakage from offline access to our product literature in SharePoint Workspace?”
- “Our security team usually deploys patches to servers. Our DBAs recently built their own SharePoint system to learn more, and we just hired a new SharePoint engineer. Who should install SP1?”
These questions are rarely posed at the outset of a SharePoint project. There are no stock responses to these questions. I’ll offer answers that have worked before:
- We should look at all their rights to determine what makes sense – SharePoint Workspace is only one piece of the puzzle.
- It depends, but SharePoint patching is different from other Microsoft updates. Let’s figure out a plan for communications and deployment that fits with other systems.
But someone else will likely observe that those results didn’t work in their organization. Dialog and evolution are essential elements of sustaining your governance program. Regardless, any governance plan should reflect the following core values:
- The clarity and consistency of system permissions and authorization
- Transparent documentation of systems configuration and usage
- Systems performance and availability to match business needs and resources
- Simple ways to gather information for end user support and self-service support
- Most importantly, clear guidance about what to do in SharePoint and how to do it
I’ll be writing a lot more about governance in the coming months. Governance can be many different things – but at its most elemental level, governance is really guidance. Governance keeps things on track. Guidance is an essential response to widespread adoption, and a necessary part for fostering sustains growth and usage. It lights the way from what came before to all that lies ahead. I’ll do my best to help keep that light shining.