Central to your SharePoint governance planning activities should be understanding what is happening within your SharePoint environment. Before you organize, you need to identify the actors and key use cases of your system, assessing and prioritizing team requirements, and figuring out measurements and monitoring of current systems — and your ongoing efforts. Your governance strategy should be reviewed and updated based on changing data, and based on any risks that you identify so that you can create policies that secure and protect, but are also flexible enough to meet the growing demands of your organization to collaborate. To accomplish this, you need a plan for reporting.
SharePoint reporting is an extremely broad topic, with different requirements based on site, site collection, and farm-level roles and requirements. For Administrators, timely and accurate reporting can help maintain governance rules and compliance policies, and to help monitor growth and scalability issues. Some data can be readily captured at the site level, but may take some effort to capture across one or multiple farms — and then normalized and tracked over time to provide valuable metrics.
Five areas that your reporting planning should include:
Most SharePoint end user issues find their root at permissions. Permissions reporting is critical to your business for a number of reasons – from regular auditing, to maintaining accurate user access, to troubleshooting functionality problems that, commonly, stem from end users trying to perform a task without having the correct permissions. Reports on permissions are not easily generated out-of-the-box with SharePoint, as the platform does not provide the ability to perform centralized management and reporting of permissions at every level of your environment. It can be a very manual process to collect and track this data, or may require custom reports using the SharePoint object model.
Usage and activity reporting is a key tracking mechanism for capacity planning, disaster recovery planning, and to help the Administrator better prioritize and manage their environment on a day-to-day basis. Activity reports are a great resource for monitoring and measuring user adoption, ensuring the business is getting the most out of their investment. Reports on Usage and Activity can be generated by Site Collection Administrators and Site Administrators.
Reports on Storage can be generated by Site Collection Administrators, and can be used to understand hardware requirements. Much like Permissions and Activity, Storage reports can be generated across many SharePoint sites at once. Analyzing storage is extremely important for planning for growth, and insuring optimal performance.
Most SharePoint performance reporting comes from outside of the platform, either through customer scripts and reporting against the farm, or through third-party monitoring and performance tools. Most performance reporting is owned by operations, not the SharePoint Administrator, however Microsoft and members of the SharePoint partner ecosystem are constantly adding toolkits and solutions to help with this gap.
Many Administrators look at alternate reporting methods to supplement what comes out-of-the-box in SharePoint. Some of these options may require advanced permissions, which may limit what most Site and Site Collection administrators can accomplish, such as custom reporting using the SharePoint Object Model, and SQL reporting. Using SharePoint Designer is a great way to build out custom reports, but suffers from many of the same limitations in scope and visibility as out-of-the-box reporting. There is also a growing interest in using PowerShell. But even so, with over 600 PowerShell commands for SharePoint, the learning curve is higher, and reporting can remain very manual with the data needing to be aggregated, formatted, and shared with the right people in a timely manner.
Out-of-the-box, SharePoint provides you with the basics necessary to manage your SharePoint environment. While this may be sufficient for some companies, others may require more robust data to help them monitor and manage their SharePoint deployments. As with any enterprise product, you need to first understand what your business requires — and then look at what the platform can provide, and where you may need to supplement. Getting the data you need may require you to be a little creative, and to either build something yourself – or buy something off the shelf.
As for your overall governance strategy, make decisions about your platform based on data, not just “best practices.” Develop a plan for tracking and measuring key performance indicators and analytics, and make people accountable for the areas that they own by giving them the data they need to manage SharePoint. You make people accountable by making the data transparent, by clarifying potential impacts, and by constantly reviewing how the data is captured and whether it provides an accurate picture of what is happening in the environment.