Governance: The big elephant in the boardroom

The word "governance" has been making IT and business executives alike scratch their heads in wonder in organisations worldwide for some time now. Is it a system of rule? Is it a way to police the way knowledge workers utilise the technologies...

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The word "governance" has been making IT and business executives alike scratch their heads in wonder in organisations worldwide for some time now.

Is it a system of rule? Is it a way to police the way knowledge workers utilise the technologies your business employs to conduct day-to-day business?

For those considering deploying SharePoint in their organisation, governance will quickly come to the fore. Ask three different 'experts' what governance actually means, and you’ll get four different answers. The lack of a clear definition is a main driver for many organisations to ignore it until it becomes a woefully obvious pain point.

There isn’t a perfect definition for governance, but Microsoft does bring forward one that is acceptable: "Governance is the set of policies, roles, responsibilities, and processes that guides, directs, and controls how an organisation’s business divisions and IT teams cooperate to achieve business goals."

The five-word summary? Governance is a how-to guide.

So there’s the 'what' for governance - now how about the 'why'? Why do we need governance? It’s vital that we can assure that the IT solution implemented - for the purpose of this blog series, SharePoint - achieves the business goals. SharePoint can be a complex system, and it is important to give end-users in organisations the help they need to successfully use the platform. They need guidance on what is possible on SharePoint, and how they can realise those possibilities.

It’s extremely naïve to believe that users can just figure out SharePoint by themselves without any type of instruction from IT leadership. It’s also extremely unfair. Additionally, you may have content that must comply with legal regulations such as Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or Sarbanes Oxley. Without a governance plan to take those regulations into account, your organisation could quickly find itself in legal jeopardy.

Now that we have the what and the why squared away, that leaves quite possibly the hardest question of them all: How?

Helping give guidance on the 'how' aspect of governance is the mission of this blog series. Just as there is no one de facto definition of governance, there is no right way to implement a governance plan for your SharePoint deployment.

The use of SharePoint varies greatly from organisation to organisation, and for that reason, you’ll never find a master template on implementing SharePoint governance. If you do, beware. Instead, there are several common themes - or steps - that I will share that will help you effectively implement a SharePoint governance plan that fits the specific needs of your organisation.

The steps we’ll cover:

  1. Start small
  2. Consider organisational readiness
  3. Forming an all-star governance board
  4. Answering common questions
  5. Enforcing governance
  6. Keeping governance plans fresh

In the next installment of this blog series, we’ll dive into preparing your organisation for IT governance.


By Jeremy Thake, AvePoint