SharePoint Governance and The Balance

For many, SharePoint Governance is a document, a contract, between the people who support SharePoint and the rest of the organization that sets forth:

  •  policies,
  •  rules,
  • roles,
  • and responsibilities

of the system. Failure to manage these four areas could jeopardize the success of SharePoint in the organization.

 These four areas, like the four legs to a chair, provide a stable platform on which to build an organization’s SharePoint environment. SharePoint Governance can group these four areas into the following four groups within the organization.

  • Operational Management: This group defines the roles and responsibilities of those who are ultimately responsible for the SharePoint portals within the organization. This group can consist of a governance committee or simply a few of the organization’s top executives. They identify the overall features of SharePoint that will be used within the organization. Effectively, this group defines the policies related to SharePoint.
  • Technical Operations: This group defines the technical structures of how SharePoint will be deployed, any software and hardware requirements, specific features to activate, uptime availability, backups, authentication, and which classes of users can access different elements of the portal effectively defining internal and external sites. These activities largely define the rules around the SharePoint implementation.
  • Site and Security Administration: This group is responsible for the creation and destruction of sites as needed along with defining site ownership and the corresponding responsibilities of different user groups within each site or class of sites. They define best practices on defining permissions and provide support on how best to organize site collections. Security within SharePoint is established by the individual’s role within the site.
  • Content Administration: This final group defines the nitty-gritty details of how to load and display content within the site. It is responsible for creating guidelines for the use of content types, workflows, metadata, and various web parts to achieve content goals. They may also help determine life-cycles for content retention policies and policies used to enforce the archiving and deleting of older content. This group identifies and assists users with their responsibilities for building and maintaining sites.

However, failure of SharePoint to succeed because one or more of the legs of that governance chair are not stable should not be indicative of an inherent problem with SharePoint. In fact, failure to create and then follow the governance policies, rules, or recommendations is more of an indication of the failure of the organization. If an organization cannot create a governance document that manages SharePoint usage, that is indicative of a greater potential problem, one in which top management may not support the use of the tool or understand its needs or benefits in the first place. This lack of support could be an early warning sign that the project may not be valued within the organization.

Even with governance for SharePoint or for any other product in place, it remains only a paper (or electronic) document unless management establishes an infrastructure to enforce it. Once policies, rules, roles, or responsibilities start to be bent or ignored in small ways, it is a slippery slope to the point where everyone ignores the governance document and chaos begins to take over. It may not be long before top management begins looking for a new solution, one that will magically cure all the current perceived problems. It may not occur to them that simply enforcing the original governance would alleviate most if not all of the current problems. On the other hand, enforcing strict standards in the name of governance is like putting blinders on a horse that could prevent the organization for discovering that there are better tools and better ways of doing things.

Furthermore, do not interpret governance to limit when or if an organization can switch tools or processes. Switching tools should always be possible, especially if another product with significantly better features or improved functionality becomes available. Governance does not address the issues of when a tool or process becomes obsolete. It merely addresses how to use that tool while it is in use.

At the same time that governance should define specific actions or activities, it should be a living document that can change over time to satisfy new demands. If those demands can be met by making small changes to the product or the way it is used, the overall costs of meeting the organizations needs will be minimized. Thought of in another way, governance is nothing more than a roadmap in which the organization can achieve the maximum benefits from a process or tool while minimizing the costs. It keeps everyone moving in the same direction rather than letting everyone to go off in different directions doing their own thing. Governance that is too strict can strangle an organizations ability to adapt and create new solutions to problems. Governance that is too loose will prevent directed and organized progress toward a goal.

A balanced governance approach can be in everyone’s best interest but can be difficult to obtain.


A Table of Contents for Your Site

Continuing on the theme from the last two weeks, I am going to take a look at another web part that is infrequently used, at least on the web sites that I work with. We use the Site Navigation feature out of the box for navigating between pages on a site and even to add custom links to pages and sites outside of our site. We also find the Site Navigation feature lets us build pseudo-hierarchies by adding header entries and links that serve as a fly-out to the header. But there is another way to provide navigation around a site. That is with the Table of Contents Web Part.

The Table of Contents web part lets me display all of the pages and sites that branch off the current site. The key advantage to this web part is that I can display up to three site levels (the current level and two nested sub-site levels) on a single page. It also gives me some built-in formatting capabilities to change the way the Table of Contents is rendered on the page ranging from vertical orientation to a horizontal orientation and several hybrid types in between. So let’s take a look at this web part.

Like other SharePoint web parts, I have to add the Table of Contents web part to a page on my site. This may mean that I have to first create the page where I want to place the Table of Contents. Then I can edit the page and going to the Insert ribbon and select the Web Part button from the Web Parts group. In SharePoint 2010, the Table of Contents web part can be found in the Default category as shown in the figure below. However, in SharePoint 2013, it was moved to the Content Rollup category which actually makes some sense.

After select the Table of Contents web part, click the Add button on the bottom right of the dialog. After adding the web part to the page, SharePoint provides a default view of the site. This view displays pages and sub-sites off the current site as shown below or it may only display sub-sites and their pages. In either case, I can easily modify the properties to control where the Table of Contents begins.

As with all web parts, I can edit the properties by hovering over the header to display the down-pointing caret on the right side of the header. This is the web part menu. I click on it to open the menu and select: Edit Web Part. The properties panel for the web part appears to the right of the page. You may need to scroll to the right and up the page to find it depending on the size of your page. The most interesting properties and the ones I will focus on appear in the top section of the panel. There are three sections: Content, Presentation, and Organization as shown in the following figure. Each has a box with a plus sign in it in. To open each section to view and modify its properties, click on the plus sign in the box to the left of the section name.

The following figure shows the properties found in the Content section. The first property identifies the site where the Table of Contents will begin. Note that you can either enter the URL or you can select it by clicking on the Browse button.

The second property identifies how many sub-site levels you want the Table of Contents to include. The maximum is three levels. There is also a check box where you can identify whether the site where you are beginning the Table of Contents should be included or whether to only include sub-sites under the current site and their pages.

Finally, this section has three check boxes where you can select whether you want to show pages (or just the sub-sites in the Table of Contents. You can also choose whether you want to display hidden pages or hidden sites. I suppose if you need to see everything in a site, you might check these two boxes, but most times I would guess that they were hidden for a reason.

The second section lets me modify some of the presentation features of the web part beginning with a header for the web part. Note that this is not the same as the web part Title that appears in the chrome of the web part. In fact, you may turn off the chrome and use this property to place a header at the top of the table of contents.

You can also modify the style of the header. The figure below shows the pre-defined styles available for the header.

You can also define the number of columns to divide the content area into. You can also modify the styles for the other levels. This will affect the sub-site entries in the Table of Contents.

The third section deals with organization of the items in the Table of Contents. By default, SharePoint orders the items in the Table of Contents to match the navigation. However, for large sites with many pages or many sub-sites, this may make it harder to find what you are looking for. Therefore, SharePoint provides a way to provide a custom ordering of sites and the pages within the sites.

If you select the custom sort option, you can sort the sites by Title, Creation Date, or Last Modified Date. You can also choose the direction of the sort as either ascending or descending. For example a descending sort on Creating Date will list the most recently created sites or pages near the top of the list making it easier to find what is new on the site.

After you have set all the properties, you can apply your changes and click OK to view your Table of Contents page.

That’s all for this week. C’ya next time.

Pulling It All Together with the Site Aggregator Web Part

We saw last time how I can easily see all the documents in the current site that I last modified or created with the Relevant Documents web part. However, what do I do if I want to see all of my documents in any one of several different sites? Do I have to navigate to each of these sites and open a page with a Relevant Documents web part?

Fortunately, there is an easier way! The Site Aggregator web part allows me to view my documents stored in any number of sites from a single place, sort of.

After reading my last blog article, I’m going to assume you know how to add a web part onto a page in your site. (If you skipped that blog, you can always go back to it at: As with the Relevant Documents web part, the Site Aggregator can be found in the Content Rollup category for both SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013. After adding the web part to the page, it looks something like the following:

At first, I may be puzzled by the text telling me to click on the “Add New Tab” icon. The first thing I should know is that each site that I want to pull documents from will be displayed separately and that I must choose the site I want to view by clicking on a tab/link across the top of the web part. To add a new tab, I need to click on the icon that appears in the top right of the Site Aggregator that looks like a drive icon with a yellow asterisk in its upper right corner.

This button displays a dialog that lets me enter the name of the site that I want to view. For example, the following figure shows a reference to a demonstration school site. Note that the URL does not point to a specific page. Rather it is the URL of the site only. Also notice that the URL must end with a slash ‘/’. The second property in this dialog is the name that will appear in the tab/link across the top of the Site Aggregator.

When I click the Create button, the Site Aggregator shows the contents of all libraries in the selected site and lets me click on the document name to open the document directly or by clicking on the location, to go to the document’s library.

So far, that works pretty much like the relevant documents web part. The feature that makes this web part different is that I can click on the Add New Tab to add another URL to a different site. In fact, I can add several new tabs as shown in the image below which includes separate tabs to view the documents found in each of the individual grade sub-sites for this virtual school.

Notice how the tabs/links can actually require more horizontal space than the size of the page. When this occurs, double angle brackets appear at the beginning and end of the row to allow me to horizontally scroll through the tabs. I can also use the down pointing arrow to the right of the Add New Tab button to open a dropdown menu of the available tabs.

If I open the web part properties as described for the Relevant Documents web part, I will see the properties that I can modify for this web part. As before, I may want to change the title for the web part that appears at the top of the web part.

Two additional unique properties to this web part are in the View and URL groups. The View group has a single property that lets me control the number of characters that appear in the tab/link before ellipses replace the balance of the characters. According to the documentation, this feature can be used to control the number of characters used in the label. I believe that in SharePoint 2010, I must allocate 2 characters of this number to the ellipses to determine the actual number of characters displayed. For example, a value of 10 allows for 8 characters plus the ellipses. In SharePoint 2013, this property seems to be ignored in my test site. But that may just be my site. What do you get?

The URL group prompts me for a character string that it will add to the URL provided when I define a new tab to specify exactly what is returned by the web part. The default string: _layouts/MyInfo.aspx uses a predefined view that displays content from the site library that shows documents that I modified or created.

However, it also appears possible to replace this string with others. For example I could enter the string: _layouts/SiteManager.aspx.

This string opens the Site Content and Structure view which displays all the documents in all the libraries for the site.

Note that I can navigate to other sites as well as the current site by using the leftmost panel and then by selecting different views, quickly determine which documents I have checked out, have modified, are pending approval, or are still in draft mode.

In future months, I may examine some of the other lesser used web parts and explore their use.