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SharePoint Governance: Beyond the Buzzword by Dan Holme

As I documented my community outreach statistics as part of my
year-end procedures, I came to realize that I had personally
touched one in ten of the largest enterprises on the planet. In my
meetings with these companies, SharePoint teams shared their
problems, gave me insight into the solutions they had developed,
and trusted me to provide guidance and to share the lessons learned
from hundreds of other SharePoint implementations.

While the SharePoint journey is somewhat unique for any
organization, and is heavily dependent upon the organization’s
requirements, several themes were consistent. By far the most
common theme is-shocker!-governance.

In Amsterdam, I debuted a new keynote speech, entitled
SharePoint Governance: Beyond the Buzzword. It’s a popular and
highly-rated talk in which I frame the discussion of governance and
provide some structure and sanity to the noise and the hype.

I set forth my perspectives on what the various layers of
governance mean-from business governance to IT governance to
service governance, and down to the technical layer-and provide
useful tools to help organizations move forward thoughtfully and
effectively on their SharePoint journeys. I’ll be presenting the
keynote at several premier SharePoint events in early 2012, and I
will work to make the talk available online to those who cannot
attend one of those events.

But, today, I’d like to focus on one topic related to the
“buzzword” governance: Is the word being used to describe both
governance and management?

Governance is, without doubt, the buzzword of the day in the
SharePoint space.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of noise around governance, and
the word has become overloaded with perspectives and guidance that
cover the gamut from strategic management to project management to
design and architecture to service delivery and even to user
adoption. Governance has become the catch all for anything that an
organization believes it needs or is missing to make SharePoint
successful.

In my opinion, SharePoint governance is not about documenting
every setting, policy, and procedure in an attempt to define how
SharePoint will look forever and ever.

Rather it is about establishing a process that enables the
organization to move forward, with each step and each new solution
adding to the organization’s understanding of its information and
service management requirements. In my keynote, I share tools to
help establish that process and forward momentum.

Where governance ends, management begins. This is another place
where-in the SharePoint space-the term “governance” has become
overloaded.

In most IT (and other) contexts, service governance defines the
people, processes, policies, and technologies that deliver a
service such as SharePoint. Too often organizations stop when the
governance document is complete.

They discover-all too painfully-that it’s not realistic to
simply “expect” that governance policies will be followed
consistently, if at all. Therefore, it’s critical to consider how
to make the service manageable in a way that supports or, better
yet, enforces governance policies and, if possible, automates the
implementation of policies.

In order to create a service that supports enforcement,
automation, and management of governance policies, you must have an
architecture that supports such enforcement. And that is easier
said than done.

As I’ve seen even in some of the biggest and smartest companies
in the world, SharePoint’s complexity makes it difficult to
understand the close relationship between governance, architecture,
and manageability. Poor architectural choices make it impossible to
manage-let alone to automate-the implementation of governance
policies and procedures.

In my opinion, it is time for all of us-community, MVPs and
experts and consultants, vendors, and Microsoft-to tease apart the
concepts of SharePoint governance and SharePoint management.

Like other IT platforms and initiatives, management is about the
day to day implementation and support of a service. Management
should be guided by the policies and procedures established by the
governance plan.

But governance itself is quite different than management, and by
bundling the two together in our terminology we do ourselves a
disservice.

Even in the keynote at the SharePoint Conference, it was
proposed that SharePoint governance is a non-issue. I think what
was really meant is that SharePoint (especially when extended by
ISV tools) exposes numerous management controls that allow an
organization to manage SharePoint according to just about any
governance policies.

But SharePoint governance is clearly an issue-company after
company make it clear to me that it is the cause of a lot of pain.
The governance they refer to is the more standard definition of
governance-they are having troubles wrapping their heads around the
process of defining the roles, responsibilities, policies, and
procedures for delivering business solutions on a rich platform
like SharePoint.

And they struggle with moving effectively from requirements
gathering through design, development, and deployment of solutions
that are fully defined across information architecture, information
management, and service management dimensions.

Those of you who read my column regularly will know I’m a
stickler for terminology. I believe that we need to be speaking the
same language before we can move forward effectively.

So: Governance and Management. Both are important. But they are
different.

Does that seem like a fair statement to you? How can the
distinction help you communicate about and move forward with
SharePoint governance (and management) in your enterpris

Dan was a speaker at the European SharePoint
Conference 2011. Stay tuned for more information on the next
European SharePoint Conference event and keep a look out for more
content by joining our
community or by following us on twitter or facebook.

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