Most of our customers are by now aware that their SharePoint solution is not a one-off purchase, but a long-term investment into a platform that can host a variety of business tools. The growth of companies like BrightStarr is a clear indication of the increasing maturity of our customers' businesses, who are happy to spend more on the latest technology, user-centered and responsive design, certified custom development and optimal infrastructure, as ways of protecting their investment into SharePoint solutions.
However, there seems to be far less confidence and clarity about another crucial aspect of protecting that investment - governance. When they start working with BrightStarr consultants and specialists, the majority of our customers are aware of the importance of governance for the long-term success of their solutions, but very few of them can really say that they are on top of their governance strategy (although there are notable exceptions out there). The majority of businesses and organisations we work with have thought about it, but don’t quite realise the extent and importance of good governance. Others see governance narrowly and predominantly as a mechanism for policing their intranet, document management system, website or a new Enterprise Social platform (e.g. Yammer). We also see many customers who are well aware of the importance of governance but have not managed to build it into their business case and budget.
So, what do our customers ask us about governance? What is the advice we give them? What do other companies and organisations do about the governance of their SharePoint solutions? Here are some reflections of what we have learned about governance from working on hundreds of different SharePoint projects.
What should governance be about?
Governance discussions often focus on policies, procedures, policing and managing the SharePoint aspect of a solution. From dozens of projects that specifically addressed governance issues, we believe that good governance is much more holistic and positive. The main goal of governance should be about ensuring that SharePoint solutions are used to their full potential and in a more effective way. Although managing hardware, software, content and security are integral parts of governing any SharePoint solution, ensuring its success in the eyes of users and sponsors is about managing change, improving user behaviour and meeting stakeholders' expectations.
Why is governance important?
There are at least 4 reasons as to why robust and proportionate governance is vital for the long-term success of any SharePoint solution:
- Mixed and fluid ownership. Very often different departments own and pay for different aspects or sections of a SharePoint solution. For example, marketing teams own branding and corporate content whilst HR owns policies. At the same time, the IT department owns the software, physical infrastructure and security. In such scenarios there is a constant need to communicate and align the interests and priorities of different owners.
- Connectivity to multiple systems. SharePoint solutions are usually connected to other systems and platforms. As such, a single solution is subject to many influences and different corporate policies, creating a dynamic environment that requires ongoing management.
- Complex technology landscape. The recent increase in uptake of Enterprise Social platforms like Yammer, and the growing range of devices used by employees, further increases the complexity of SharePoint solutions, which increases the need for a robust governance strategy.
- Need for ongoing investment. Nowadays businesses need to change rapidly and solutions must meet those needs, as we increasingly rely on our evolving technologies. In such a fast-moving environment, SharePoint solutions require an ongoing investment based on strong evidence and thus need a governance body that has the clout to monitor the overall impact and negotiate funding and support from the business.
What needs to be governed?
In our governance framework we go beyond managing just SharePoint as a platform and recommend 4 key areas to be governed: IT, Content, People and Taxonomy. Within each area it is important to define and have a control over Roles, Tools, Policies and Processes. Depending on a particular solution, each of these key areas may require governing a number of activities, processes and/or systems. For example, under Content you would define ways of managing documents, pages, site creation, search, rich media, social media, data protection, copyright, etc.) Under People, governance would include administration roles, communication tools, adoption and training policies and change request procedures, etc). There is no one-size-fits-all answer to governance. Every organisation and every solution needs a tailored governance model, based on the solution complexity and organisational culture.
Some points of best practice
- Start talking governance early on in a project
- Include governance questions in all aspects and stages of developing your solution (requirements gathering, solution design, development, deployment, and adoption)
- Align the objectives and targets of your governance closely with the business goals and priorities
- Clearly define governance roles and responsibilities (make it a part of people's job description) and provide proportionate resources for day-to-day running
- But stay simple and lean. Tailor your governance 'model' to the complexity of your solution, your organisational structure and organisational culture. Use existing governance structures wherever possible
Our customers use the BrightStarr governance framework as a guide and checklist for deciding the scope and model of their own governance, which is complemented by consultants advice on the best practice in each area. For the full framework and advice on SharePoint governance why not contact us today.