Sunday, March 1, 2009

What is SharePoint Governance?

1 Introduction

One of the most challenging things with SharePoint is not user adoption; far from it. From what we have seen with SharePoint is that enjoys extremely high adoption however with most implementations of SharePoint tend to grow at an uncontrolled pace. From an IT perspective, it is reminiscent of file share. Tons of sites, more sub sites, upon sub sites and upon sub sites of content. Clients come back every time saying, we love SharePoint but we have issues. In most cases it is not having governance and program management to support SharePoint. SharePoint is not like other server products out there that IT departments purchase or support. It is not like PeopleSoft, SAP, SQL Server, whatever else that is out there. SharePoint allows everyday users to freely create and store content. If not managed or configured correctly such that SharePoint does not align itself with the goals and objectives of the organization it will grow in an uncontrolled rate.

The following are reasons why governance should be established:

  • Improve information reliability, availability, and security.
  • Address how information is shared, used and analyzed internally and externally.

2 What is Governance?

Governance is the combination of people, policies and processes that an organization leverages to achieve a desired outcome. There needs to be a measurable outcome that the organization expects to achieve through governance to obtain a desired result. To accomplish this there must be adoption by both stakeholders and users. To have high adoption the right people must be selected to craft policies and then SharePoint stakeholders must given a clear understanding of how to meet these policies.

To create these policies executive, financial, IT, department leads, compliance, development and information workers need to be selected. It is extremely important to pick people who share the common vision and work together to achieve a common goal. Once policies have been created, heavy handed enforcements are not needed. Instead policies can be enforced with education, training and communications plans. Training needs to be geared specifically to targeted audiences and cannot be in the form of a onetime push of information. Still even with training a minimal level of enforcement will be required and processes will have to be created to enforce policies. Processes can be executed through system automation or manually. Finally a governing body is needed to measure performance and continually update policy based on the evolving workplace. What should be put in place is a governance process that is scalable and flexible to meeting the demands of the business.

3 SharePoint Governance

The following is Microsoft's definition of how governance should be implemented with SharePoint ( Every enterprise is unique and should determine the best way to implement its own governance plan. The following are suggested stages of a governance implementation:

  • Determine initial principles and goals: The governance body should initially develop a governance vision, policies, and standards that can be measured to track compliance and to quantify the benefit to the enterprise. For example, at this stage, the initial corporate metadata taxonomy could be determined along with the initial IT service offerings. The initial principles, goals, and standards should be published and publicized.
  • Develop an education strategy: The governance policies that you determine must be publicized to your enterprise, and you should have ongoing education and training plans. Note that this includes training in the use of Office SharePoint Server and training in the governance standards and practices. For example, your IT department could maintain a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page on its Web site to respond to questions about its Office SharePoint Server service offerings. Your business division could provide online training that describes the implementation and use of the document management system in the enterprise.
  • Develop an ongoing plan: Because successful governance should be ongoing, the governance body should meet regularly. Ongoing activities include incorporating new requirements in the governance plan or reevaluating and adjusting governing principles or standards. Conflicts may need to be resolved as competing needs arise, such as between your IT department and one or more business divisions. Your governance body should report regularly to its executive sponsors to promote accountability and to help enforce compliance across the enterprise. Keep in mind that, although this sounds laborious, the goal is to increase the return on your investment in Office SharePoint Server, maximize the usefulness of your Office SharePoint Server solution, and increase the productivity of your enterprise.

Highlighting the last sentence of this is extremely important. What should remember is that this is not easy and that organizations should plan on understanding SharePoint governance before they start.

4 What does a SharePoint Environment without Governance?

Here are just a few things I have seen:

  • Site administrator and contributors are not sufficiently trained nor did many have strong information architecture backgrounds.
  • No governing body that understands how to use SharePoint to solve business problems.
  • No consistency in the way content is presented across SharePoint.
  • Roles and responsibilities have not been officially defined.
  • Management and staff do not always understand the level of effort involved in building and managing a SharePoint site.
  • Site topology is not actively managed.
  • There is clear line between what is considered intranet, extranet, and public content.
  • Islands of information are created in the form of SharePoint lists and not managed as enterprise business data. This analogous to having Excel and Access manage enterprise business data.
  • Custom solution development, deployment and maintenance standards were never created.
  • Content databases growth is uncontrolled.
  • No content development and integration.
  • No document discovery and impossible to find a document. Search is not always the solution.
  • Myriad of web documents stored all over the place.
  • No document retention and retirement.
  • Content security is uncontrolled and impossible to manage accounts.

The challenge that we have seen with the purchase of SharePoint is that sometimes it is positioned as an out of the box silver bullet solution when in fact SharePoint is a platform for creating solutions. Much of the out of the box functionality of SharePoint can be used to solve many business needs. SharePoint empowers every day business users with the ability to create web based solutions that can be highly integrated with Microsoft Office. This is why we have seen such high adoption of SharePoint and why Microsoft is making significant investments into the technology. However SharePoint commonly runs into problems where business users are not properly trained to create solutions nor given parameters in which they should work within. This is why governance has become a predominant issue with many organizations that have implemented SharePoint.

5 SharePoint with Governance

Creating a governance structure could possibly bring:

  • Reliable and available content.
  • Business processes that are built around the web content management.
  • Information management focusing on identifying owners of high-valued data.
  • Secure information.
  • Meets business objectives.
  • Complies with policies and regulations.
  • Carbon footprint reduced.
  • Useful taxonomy and metadata management.
  • Site topology matches the organization.
  • Managed expectations (audience, staff, and executives).
  • Roles and responsibilities identified.
  • Site continuity.
  • Processes to review site statistics to improve user experience and make most popular content readily available.
  • Continuous improvement of Search by reviewing search statistics.
  • Codified policies and procedures (management, planning, design).
  • Process within the PMO to identify opportunities where SharePoint should be used in the enterprise architecture.
  • Configuration Management policies for SharePoint.
  • Change management business processes.

As you can see, SharePoint governance is not just about managing SharePoint for a system standpoint, it also provide guidance the users of SharePoint.

All of these things can be prioritized and driven by the SharePoint Governance team. To support this team you need:

  • Business users and power users who are supportive of SharePoint.
  • Systems analysts who are devoted to supporting SharePoint.
  • Developers who create custom functionality.
  • Systems administrators who manage the SharePoint farms.
  • Technical leadership who understand how to translate business requests into SharePoint solutions.
  • Business directors who can position SharePoint.

Once governance team is put together, they can continually manage and improve SharePoint as it evolves with the organization.

6 References