Governance is more than a paperweight

Defining governance, explaining how to prepare your organisation, arranging a governance board and answering common Microsoft SharePoint implementation questions all build towardslaunching the governance plan. As you move from the planning to...


Defining governance, explaining how to prepare your organisation, arranging a governance board and answering common Microsoft SharePoint implementation questions all build towardslaunching the governance plan.

As you move from the planning to execution phase, however, there are two important questions that come to the fore:

  1. How can organisations actually enforce governance plans?

  2. How can organisations keep their governance plans current?
First, let’s examine governance plan enforcement in greater detail. Plans are nothing if they cannot be enforced. Otherwise they’re merely suggestions - and you didn’t go through all the work to define, prepare, arrange, and write a governance plan for it to be a loosely regarded guide, did you? I didn’t think so.

While SharePoint does offer some automated policy enforcement - such as enforcing types of files users can upload into SharePoint - there are a number of areas where built-in features do not provide any type of automated enforcement. For example, you can automatically control which file types - MP3, PDF, Word or otherwise - are uploaded, there’s no automated way to limit total space used by a single user. Because SharePoint’s extremely customisable, a software developer could write custom code to supplement these limitations.

However, whenever custom code is created, it’s essential that it is properly documented and supported - which can become time and resource intensive. As such, there are several third-party vendors that offer products to help address many governance needs, and should be considered when planning governance enforcement.

Next, don’t define governance policies in areas where they cannot be enforced. Taking the previous storage usage example, unless you have a user running and monitoring custom reports on how much space each user has, you shouldn’t have a policy on it. Allow your IT department (You do have a representative on the governance board, right?) to provide input on what exact you can and cannot do with the system.

Outside of technology, look at your own organisational processes. Sometimes, limitations in governance enforcement can be due to your company’s regulations rather than the technology you’re implementing. For example, it may be a rule that Legal approves all portal content prior to publication. What happens if your Legal team is busy, and can’t approve all of the great content you are creating fast enough? It becomes a bottleneck, and is extremely impractical.

When this happens, your governance plan looks like a giant piece of red tape that masks productivity and adoption. In this case, look to address the resource problem - whether it means adding more Legal staff or empowering other stakeholders in the business to approve content.

Now, let’s take a look at keeping your governance plan fresh. A tremendous worry I often hear in terms of creating a governance plan is that it will quickly become a paperweight that keeps your unopened mail from spilling onto the floor. Business priorities change constantly, so how can a plan created in a point in time endure forever? The short answer is that it can’t - which means you must be proactive in adjusting your governance plan as those shifts take place.

Make it a point to keep your plan up to date. Also, no one gets the governance plan right on the first try. As people begin utilising it, you’ll see where maybe some policies went awry or some other areas cropped up that you never thought needed enforcement in the first place.

Business needs will evolve, but so will how your workers use SharePoint. People will find new and better ways to solve problems, and as your users become more adept with the platform, you will likely release new SharePoint features and even upgrade to new versions of the product. Keep in mind that your plan started out small (at least it should have), so you will have to grow the plan as your use of the technology grows. Make sure that your governance board is meeting at least quarterly in order to revisit and revise as necessary.

My hope is that this blog series has given you solid reasons and tangible steps for starting your journey to IT governance when deploying SharePoint. Don’t look upon the creation and execution of this plan with fear and trepidation. Instead, view it as a fantastic opportunity to take a good, hard look at your organisation to create a plan that will work today and grow into tomorrow. Your staff works hard every day to help your business be successful - give them the guidance, support, and structure they need to help them continue to achieve even greater success.

Posted by Jeremy Thake, AvePoint

Read the full series of earlier posts:
Save money with smart content storage in SharePoint
Governance: The big elephant in the boardroom
Preparing your organisation for IT governance

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