Governance needed for SharePoint survival

Governance needed for SharePoint survival

By Michael Sampson

February 27, 2009: There are three governance topics crucial to succeeding with a SharePoint rollout: organisational ownership, optimisation and solving SharePoint spread.

People at work have things to get done, jobs to carry out, and roles to fulfil. As long as each person only interacts with themselves, only gives deliverables to themselves, and ignores everyone else in their organizations, they can do whatever they want with IT systems and life will be great. But as soon as they start using IT to communicate thoughts and ideas to others, to coordinate current action and future plans with other people, and to collaboratively execute the requirements of their jobs, the rules change.

Shared agreements about how common IT systems will be used becomes essential to work effectiveness. At an organizational level we refer to these shared agreements under the term governance.

Governance means the guidelines, rules, policies and procedures that are put in place to make something work. We live under governance situations all the time—bylaws about buildings on our properties, speed limits on our roads, emission limits for our factories, and more. Governance is critical to the success of any situation involving multiple people, and organizational technology projects like SharePoint are no exception.

Consider the example of a large organisation in the United States. The IT Department was finally ready to introduce SharePoint 2007, but to its horror found the horse had bolted and there were already 15,000 SharePoint sites on unsupported servers. Talk about information anarchy, compliance chaos, and unmitigated business risk!In this article, The article does not look at what’s involved in creating a robust and secure technical infrastructure for SharePoint.

One of the first decisions for any organization considering SharePoint is who owns it. With ownership comes freedom to determine where and how it is used, financial budget to put those ideas into practice, as well as responsibility to ensure it is used well and serves the needs of the organization. Unless your firm is less than 20 people, don’t gift ownership to one person. And regardless of your organization’s size, don’t gift ownership to the IT Department.

Set up a Strategy and Steering Group for SharePoint which includes representatives from the main business functions and the IT Department.

The group will be responsible for:* Determining the relative priority of SharePoint investments in light of other business system priorities (which means that if you already have a Strategy and Steering Group for the IT business systems at your organization, SharePoint should become an additional responsibility for that current group); and* Allocating appropriate resources to the groups delegated with responsibility and authority for implementing the SharePoint strategy.

In terms of the collaboration capabilities of SharePoint, there are some policy decisions that the Strategy and Steering Group need to make. These create a set of common expectations of how the collaboration-enabling capabilities in SharePoint can be used effectively, and not lead to anarchy and chaos.

For example: * The range of site templates that will be made available for the different types of collaborative projects at the organization, along with a process for how to request a new site.* The roles and responsibilities of site owners and site users.* Guidance on when team collaboration sites should be closed.

The key applications into which content is published when a collaborative project finishes, for wider access by others in the organization, along with prerequisities such as certain metadata.

The key applications in the organization that contain organizational know-how on projects and processes, and strategies for keeping these applications current and of high value.How to encourage connections between people who have needs for expertise and expertise to offer.

SharePoint is a huge offering, with a tremendous range of capabilities covering collaboration, enterprise content management, search, workflow, portals, and more. The way to get a return on your investment in the technology of SharePoint is to have a clear strategy for linking SharePoint to business processes. For this you need consultancy and support services, and ideally you should have at least of these people on staff, rather than sourcing them from an external consultancy.

This Business Impact helps business departments gain the maximum benefit from SharePoint, aligned with both the strategic directives of the Strategy and Steering Group, and the technology available through the IT Department.

The viral spread of SharePoint is a double-edged sword: it greatly simplifies adoption processes if existing users enthuse new users about SharePoint’s possibilities, but it can lead to information anarchy.

There are two general cases when the viral spread of SharePoint is problematic:* When business information is being kept in unmanaged and hidden SharePoint spaces. If the server dies, the ability of the team, group or department to keep working will be severely hampered. Equally, there may be information contained in those spaces relating to promises to customers other types of data that are subject to compliance and archiving mandates, which are thus being left out; and* When different groups across the organization have similar needs, but multiple SharePoint development efforts are going on because one group doesn’t know about the other. This leads to duplication and wastage of expenditure to arrive at a system that could have been better built will central oversight.

At a technology level, a tool such as the Quest Site Administrator for SharePoint, can be used in an ongoing discovery program about who has SharePoint and where the various installations are currently located. Once discovered, members of the Business Impact Group can approach the business groups responsible for the rogue installation to discuss more appropriate ways of offering that content. But the Business Impact Group needs to do more than seek-and-destroy rogue implementations. They have to be genuinely helpful.

Without clear thinking and a common approach, SharePoint is doomed to fail. A governance group is a very appropriate way to mitigate the risks of SharePoint, and a Business Impact Group can assist greatly with the tailoring of SharePoint to business requirements. The latter group can go a long way to solving the problem of SharePoint spread, and thus keep SharePoint operating as an effective business platform for many years to come.

Michael Sampson is the principal analyst at The Michael Sampson Company, a firm focused on helping organizations improve the capability of teams that can’t be together, to work together. He writes at and can be reached at

Microsoft Press has just published Michael Sampson’s first book—Seamless Teamwork—which focuses on the effective use of SharePoint for team collaboration. Michael Sampson also offers a one-day workshop for business teams to explore how they can use the main ideas of Seamless Teamwork in their work, as well as a longer workshop for IT folks, to set a strategic direction for how business teams across the organization can use SharePoint more effectively for collaboration.

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