SharePoint Governance – buzz…buzz… what to make of it

Post Date: 10/03/2011
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​I have been working in the Enterprise Content Management space since 2003, but unusually split between two roles: .NET development and ECM consultant. This involved me developing solutions that integrated custom .NET web applications with ECM platforms such as Interwoven, Hummingbird and HP TRIM in Australia. When SharePoint 2007 was introduced to me at a Microsoft partner service integrator I immediately saw my two worlds combine. Having the experience with other ECM platforms over the years has always been beneficial and maintained my realism with the SharePoint platform.

Each ECM platform that I’ve worked with had varying degrees of community involvement; SharePoint is definitely the most prolific, mainly due to the support Microsoft gives to its community via MSDN, TechNet and the MVP program among many others it facilitates. Other ECM vendors seem to hide communities behind closed doors and encourage knowledge is power which really doesn’t benefit anyone. I believe this is one huge advantage for the SharePoint ecosystem for Microsoft.

The buzz factor
One particular area that the community is involved in is ‘SharePoint Governance’. Now ‘Governance’ exists outside SharePoint, but the ratio of content within the community is at an unprecedented scale compared to any other ECM platform out there. Corporate Governance is the upper echelon within organizations and IT have a subset of this focused on IT Governance. SharePoint Governance is yet another subset of this, much like you would expect SAP Governance, Interwoven Governance and OpenText Governance within organizations.SharePoint Governance has become a little bit of catch-all within not just community content but also content written by Microsoft, analysts and vendors alike. This has led to many definitions and different boundaries to Governance depending on what content you consume. There is nothing remotely wrong with this of course, as everyone’s opinions give a more rounded take on the subject.

Experts in the field
I believe it is useful to reference a few experts in the field of SharePoint Governance from my own research over the years:

· Christian Buckley - Axceller, US - - @buckleyplanet
Christian has focused on this topic based on his experience in Microsoft being involved in launching a hosted SharePoint platform · Virgil Carroll - High Monkey, US - - @vcmonkey
Virgil is often seen with his partner in crime, Richard Harbridge presenting on his consultancy experience around Governance with great anecdotes to help you relate to your own organization problems. · Ant Clay - 21 Apps, UK - - @antclay
Ant Clay writes great posts on governance based on the consulting and training experience he has in the UK. His definitions of the principals of SharePoint Governance really set him apart. · Paul Culmsee - Seven Sigma, AUS - - @paulculmsee
Many don’t know this, but when I first moved to Perth, AUS in ’03 I worked with Paul, I was a developer and he was the IT Pro who had our hands tied around IT Governance. We both ended up on the SharePoint path and Paul recently released a course on Information Architecture and Governance that is bbeing trained throughout the globe. · Susan Hanley[#SPC11 Speaker] - Susun Hanley LLC - - @susanhanley
Susan co-authored Essential SharePoint 2010 with Scott Jamieson which heavily features SharePoint Governance and is often found presenting at conferences on the subject. · Richard Harbridge - Allin Consulting - - @rharbridge
To say that Richard is passionate about SharePoint Governance would be an understatement, he blogs and presents animatedly on the subject regularly alongside Virgil and Ruven among others. · Dan Holme (MVP) [#SPC11 Speaker] - AvePoint Inc., US - - @danholme
Dan has a wealth of knowledge on SharePoint Governance from the various large enterprise roll outs he has been involved with in the SharePoint space including Olympic Games events. · Scott Jamieson (MCM) - Jornata, US - - @sjam
Scott co-authored Essential SharePoint 2010 with Susan Hanley which heavily features SharePoint Governance and is often found presenting at conferences on the subject. · Ruven Gotz (MVP) - Navatis, CA - - @ruveng
Ruven has an easy reading writing style where he tells it straight and can often be seen presenting with Richard Harbridge at events. · Mike Rian - Microsoft IT, US
Mike presented on how Microsoft IT internally set up SharePoint Governance and the issues they had. It is a worthy web cast to start with for their perspective. · Dux Raymond Sy (MVP) [#SPC11 Speaker] - Innovative-e - - @meetdux
Dux is a unique addition to the SharePoint community bringing his energy to each and every one of us. He has a formidable ability to take in everybody’s opinions and replay them to everybody in language that we can all understand.

· Jeremy Thake (MVP) [#SPC11 Speaker] - AvePoint Inc, US - - @jthake
Jeremy…err…that’s me…you can make your own judgement based on this blog post ;-)

· Linc Williams - I3 Solutions, US - - @SharePointLinc
Linc has probably the most experience in this field focused solely on SharePoint Governance in the Washington DC Government arena. His presentations are rich full of case study information that you can relate to.Fundamental principles There are some fundamental principles that all this content can be summarized by. The first principles I believe are that there are four main components to SharePoint Governance: the people involved in writing the policies, that are enforced by the processes that are underpinned by technology. Each of these four components has requirements from the organization that influence the overall governance model. One key thing that all the authors establishes is that no two organizations governance models are the same.

All the experts agree that the people involved in the governance model, that form a governance committee, should include not only representatives of the IT department but also representatives of the organization. These business representatives should be those with investments, or potential investments, in the SharePoint platform that have business requirements that align to the organizations strategies and goals.

The processes that are often documented within the governance model can be defined by five key pillars, original posted by Ant Clay of 21 Apps, that I have yet to find a policy that won’t fit to this model. These pillars are:

· IT governance – focusing on IT infrastructure, disaster recovery plans, service level agreements, operations and support · Project governance – focusing on project management, communication plan and stakeholder management · Information governance – focusing on information architecture (security model, taxonomy, navigation, content types, configuration) and information management (compliance, accountability, quality, discoverability, life cycle management) · Technology and business alignment – focusing on adoption, training, application usage, branding, service request process, and strategy · Continuous improvement – focusing on return on investment, qualitative and quantitative measurement of defined success goals, and user feedbackAnother key message that comes across in all of the content is that it is important that the policies that the governance committee agrees on can be enforced by the organization. Governance enforcement can come in many ways but typically can be divided into: manual processes, semi-automatic processes and automatic processes. These processes can be reactive, based on elements within the SharePoint platform that no longer complies with the policies. They can also be proactive, based on setting up boundaries and restrictions via the mechanisms built into the SharePoint platform such as the security model, user interface and underlying infrastructure configuration. The underpinning technology, and its business requirements, can heavily influence the governance model. One of the influences is from the perspective of limitations of the infrastructure, skill sets, management and maintenance within the organization for provisioning of the SharePoint platform. Another major influence is the approaches of technology to enforce these policies.The overarching goal for SharePoint Governance is to enable the business to achieve its strategic goals set out in the Corporate Governance model by leveraging the SharePoint platform. This in turn will also make the SharePoint platform, as a service to your organization, easier to engage with for business divisions. With more business divisions engaging, your organization will be getting increased value out of the SharePoint platform and optimize the value of it to business users. In future posts, I will focus more on the fundamental principles introduced here with anonymous case studies from customers I have worked with over the years.

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