Bureaucracy and corporate life seemingly go hand in hand, as evidenced by largely embraced movies such as "Office Space" and "Horrible Bosses" as well as popular television series such as "The Office".
In today’s economy, there isn’t time for bureaucracy. With less people doing more work, those traditional office hierarchies are shrinking away and boardrooms are constantly looking for ways to allow their employees to continue completing their daily tasks while improving the bottom line and reducing overhead.
As I’ve spoken about before, Microsoft SharePoint has quickly become a leading collaboration platform to help organisations increase productivity by granting quick access to the business information workers require; lower costs with a unified platform and infrastructure for companies’ portal, document management, intranet, extranet, and internet sites; and rapidly respond to business needs with out-of-the-box applications and a highly scalable and customisable platform.
One of the main draws to SharePoint is how easy it can be to implement and get started. SharePoint deployments are generally grass-roots, bottom-up initiatives that pick up steam as more and more workers get used to sharing the content and assets they need to successfully complete their projects. With that said, SharePoint can then quickly spiral out of control - with management burdens such as site sprawl as well as lack of corporate security policy and IT governance enforcement.
And herein lies the conundrum: How can an organisation implement and enforce governance plans that live up to Microsoft’s definition of the term - “
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
” - without completely handcuffing workers from completing their daily tasks?
Governance plans should be a top-down initiative, which flies directly in the face of SharePoint’s traditional adoption path. However, these plans should not be so overbearing that it completely grinds productivity to a halt. Business disruption is a very real fear in a hyper-competitive economic landscape. Is it possible to have the best of both worlds? Sure, but it is vital that the right planning goes into it.
Here are a few general guidelines I’ve found to be successful in organisations of all sizes implementing governance plans that check the compliance and organisational policy checkboxes, but give users the freedom and latitude they need to continue delivering great work.
- Start Small: Let’s not boil the ocean - enable a small subset of a governance plan first, tackle one business need at a time, and then plan to grow and evolve with business plans for SharePoint.
- Evaluate Readiness: You wouldn’t expect first-year university students to be able to write a doctorate dissertation after two weeks, would you? The same idea applies here: It is vital to create governance plans that match the readiness and maturity level of your company’s SharePoint environment and people.
- Form a Governance Board: Remember Microsoft’s definition of governance including both business units and IT teams - make sure everyone that has a stake in the success of your SharePoint deployment is involved. This cross-functional board will be able to take into account all the needs of their respective units, so that the governance plan can be accordingly comprehensive and inclusive.
- Answer Common Questions: Think through what typical SharePoint users would want to do in your deployment, and provide guidance so that they have a guide to follow. A writer’s worst fear is a blank page, and SharePoint’s ease of customisation can keep many a business user up at night. Lend a helping hand so that while not every single site may be exactly the same, it’s consistent with your company’s branding and organisational policies.
- Enforcement: Don’t hope that people will do the right thing, just because it’s “the right thing to do”. People will do whatever they deem necessary to get their jobs done - it’s human nature. Make sure to only define governance in areas you are confident you can enforce. Otherwise, you run the risk of creating more bureaucracy and red tape you thought you were finally ridding yourself of with the SharePoint deployment in the first place.
- Revisit Governance Plans: The plan started out small, if you started at the aforementioned Step One. As you learn more about how SharePoint can grow to meet your changing business needs, your plan will need the same attention so that it properly grows with you. There is no one cadence that works best for everyone, but I suggest at least a quarterly meeting to revisit and revise as necessary.
There is a way to bridge the business and IT divide, where the former needs to continue increasing productivity and the latter is concerned with ensuring that technology does not become an inhibitor, rather than an enabler to that productivity.
By following these six steps, start creating governance plans that can satisfy everyone’s needs and give room to grow. Could this have helped David Brent, Gareth Keenan, and Tim Canterbury? We’ll never know - but taking the time and effort to create an incremental, comprehensive plan that involves all an organisations’ major stakeholders will help cut some of the red tape common in many enterprises today.
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