How to Implement an Effective SharePoint Governance Plan

Are you thinking about deploying SharePoint in your
organization? You won’t have to do much research before you come
across the big “G” word – governance. Just the word itself is
somewhat imposing and definitions for it will vary. In fact, if you
ask three different experts what governance means, you’re likely to
get four different answers. And while I have yet to find that one,
perfect definition of governance, I can accept this one from
Microsoft: “Governance is the set of policies, roles,
responsibilities, and processes that guides, directs, and controls
how an organization’s business divisions and IT teams cooperate to
achieve business goals.” In short, it is a “how to” guide.
What about an Effective SharePoint Governance Plan?

Why do we need governance? Because we want to ensure (or even
better, assure) that the IT solution achieves the business goals.
With complex systems like SharePoint, users need help. Users need
guidance on what they can do and how they do it. Trust me, they
aren’t going to just “figure it out.” You may also have content
that must comply with legal regulations such as HIPAA or Sarbanes
Oxley-without a governance plan, you may be in legal jeopardy.

Moving past the “what” and “why” of
governance, an even harder question to answer is how to implement
SharePoint governance. Part of the challenge here is that there is
no one way, no right way. How SharePoint is used varies greatly,
and for that reason, you’ll never find a master template on
implementing SharePoint governance. Nonetheless, there a number of
suggestions I’d like to share on how you can effectively implement
a SharePoint governance plan.

There are many reasons why
organizations avoid governance altogether. Since governance is so
overarching, it seems overwhelming and many don’t know where to
start. For others, they dive in and start setting policies on
everything and never finish. In overly optimistic companies, they
assume or expect end users will somehow collectively develop the
plan over time. Avoid these traps.

One of the best practices for a SharePoint deployment also applies
to your governance plan: start small and grow it incrementally. For
example, we wouldn’t recommend turning on every SharePoint feature
starting on day one. SharePoint does way too many things. Turning
on everything confuses users and makes governance planning
impossible. Start by enabling a small subset of features to match
only some of your business goals. Maybe you only start with social
collaboration or enterprise search. Then, have the governance plan
focus on
just this area. As SharePoint expands, you revise the governance

Be sure to recognize that the degree of governance will vary
depending on what your business goals are. For example, if you plan
on using SharePoint for informal team collaboration, you’ll need
fewer rules than if you’re a hospital managing sensitive patient

Consider the organization’s readiness

Assess your company’s culture and
determine what I like to call governance readiness. Do you have
clearly defined policies and procedures in other systems? Are users
comfortable with these policies? Governance policies you create
should match the readiness or maturity level. For example, if your
company has been lenient on how expense reports are approved, you
don’t want the new process to be rigid and tightly managed. People
adapt slowly and your governance plan must keep that in mind.

If this is your organization’s first attempt at governance, you
might consider holding off on some of SharePoint’s advanced
features such as records management as it does involve complex
governance planning. And, even if you can articulate the ideal
governance plan, the users won’t be ready for it. As time passes,
the organization and its staff will adapt and evolve. When it does,
you can tackle the more complex business problems.

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