Picture this: after rushing to roll out Microsoft 365 products like SharePoint Online or Microsoft Teams at the start of the pandemic, your organisation has successfully adapted to new ways of working even without formal operational governance. Employees enjoy working remotely, collaboratively, and with flexibility. They want to use the tools available to them, which benefits both productivity and user adoption.
It’s a great position to be in. But without strong operational governance (the rules that guide how everyone in an organisation uses Microsoft 365 applications), it’s also likely temporary. If you’re grappling with issues like workspace sprawl, users struggling to find content via search, or difficulties managing access to sensitive information, chances are your organisational governance could be improved.
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. We see it all the time, especially following fast deployments that lack time for detailed strategic planning. But it’s also possible after slower and more considered rollouts, especially if an organisation is adjusting to Microsoft 365’s less rigid permissions and controls for the first time.
Every organisation needs strong operational governance to:
- Optimise the value of its IT investments
- Maintain visibility and control
- Continue to support employees to do their best work.
The good news? Getting started is easier than you might think. Here’s how to implement better operational governance practices today.
1. Discovery – Manage and Clean Up Your Microsoft 365 Environment
The first step in implementing operational governance is understanding what’s in your environment. This is especially important considering Microsoft’s focus on removing barriers to collaboration, which gives owners more freedom to create, edit, or delete teams and workspaces compared to legacy Microsoft products.
From an administration perspective, there’s a fine line between making sure teams can be dynamic without ending up with an endless sprawl of barely-used workspaces. You need visibility across your organisation’s content (i.e., communication sites, team sites, Teams, and channels), as well as how it is being used.
Managing and cleaning up a Microsoft 365 environment has three key components:
- Creating a workspace catalogue – An inventory of all collaborative workspaces, who uses them (including guest users), and protection levels provide transparency and oversight.
- Establishing data ownership – Content owners play a vital role in ongoing operational governance activities, so every shared space should be mapped back to a business unit and purpose.
- Gaining visibility through activity, auditing, and external user reporting – There should be an audit trail for requests and changes to memberships and permissions, as well as an ability to monitor compliance status.
2. Ongoing Management – Find a Sustainable Path Forward
With new content created every day, the discovery phase of operational governance never truly ends. Working with owners to ensure that content is relevant, current, and cross-functional while ensuring permissions are working as anticipated should be done at regular intervals. Ongoing operational governance tasks include:
- Managing external sharing and guest users – Owners should have the opportunity to periodically review workspace permissions, members, and sharing options.
- Securing sensitive data – Consider crafting policies that adapt to the way employees work and block the most common risks in your environment (i.e., external sharing, ownership restriction, etc.).
Knowing how content is used also informs governance decisions and policy creation for ongoing content management. This may include sharing considerations, the sensitivity of data, and retention requirements.
3. Lifecycle Management – Consider Beginning and End of Life Practices
Implementing operational governance means being able to answer questions such as:
- Who can create teams and sites?
- Should all content have the same retention policy?
- Do we need an archive process? How will archived content be stored, and what does that mean for search results and/or server needs?
- How are workspaces deprovisioned?
While there’s no one right fit for every organisation, a robust lifecycle management approach typically includes:
- Structured, self-service workspace provisioning – Self-service abilities make provisioning, moving, and restructuring content easier, faster, and more secure.
- Continuous workspace renewal by owner – Owners need support to ensure content stays current and relevant through the review process, whether that’s directly from IT or via an automated solution.
- Automated end-of-life practice – Automating the de-provisioning of workspaces or accounts based on activity levels saves time, ensures consistency, and frees IT resources to focus on valuable business projects.
Where should you go from here?
As an IT decision-maker, you want to be confident in the systems and processes that govern your Microsoft 365 environment. Implementing strong operational governance is the first step to making this a reality. Luckily, there are many out-of-the-box features in AvePoint’s cloud governance solutions to get you started.
With that said, organisations are increasingly looking for technology partners to support them on their operational governance journeys. This is in part because managing multiple SaaS applications can be complex.
In fact, Gartner research has shown that by 2026, 50% of organisations using multiple SaaS applications (such as SharePoint Online or Microsoft Teams) will centralise their management and usage with a SaaS management platform tool compared to less than 20% in 2021.
If you’d like to extend your existing operational governance functionalities with monitoring, automation, or backups – or just want to take the stress out of managing Microsoft 365 –a trusted partner like AvePoint can help. Our solutions automate operational governance and balance collaboration with control, visibility, and efficiency.