Governance: To Be or Not To Be

It has been a long time since I’ve written any posts about SharePoint so I want to take this opportunity this week to ask you a single question about your SharePoint site.  Do you have a governance plan in effect that has been approved and backed by upper management?

Governance is one of those tricky terms that can mean different things to different people and unless you get everyone in the room to agree with your definition at least as long as the meeting lasts, you probably won’t get your point across.  For example, some people in the room might think that governance only relates to project decisions.  Perhaps this is the result of books like IT Governance by Peter Weill and Jeanne W. Ross.  A good book, but it focuses on how to make decisions that will ultimately lead to appropriate management and use of IT, not on how to implement SharePoint or any other tool.  It looks at who within the organization should make decisions, how they should make decisions and how to monitor the results of those decisions.

Not that those things are not important to management, but to the people in the trenches, especially the SharePoint trenches, governance is more like the topics covered in the book ‘Governance Guide for Office SharePoint Server by Microsoft or any of these books:

  • Practical SharePoint 2013 Governance by Steve Goodyear
  • The SharePoint Governance Manifesto (
  • Essential SharePoint 2010: Overview, Governance, and Planning by Scott Jamison
  • Microsoft SharePoint 2013: Planning for Adoption and Governance by Geoff Evelyn

While these book references are just a sampling, I suppose that means that governance to the staff responsible for maintaining your corporate SharePoint sites is more concerned with topics such as:

  • The design of site templates to provide a consistent user experience
  • Quotas to limit SharePoint from becoming a trash dump of every file that ever existed.
  • Locks to control who has rights to add, modify, or delete content, or even to view it.
  • Workflows to pass approve changes to pages and documents, to automate forms and to create simple data collection applications rather than using a programming language.
  • Who can create sites and who can delete them
  • A systems of records management to catalog files stored within SharePoint and to removed aged files when they are no longer needed
  • Content types to define what type of data can be stored in SharePoint
  • Content approval to determine what actually gets saved
  • Versioning to allow tracking of changes and the ability to roll-back changes when necessary
  • Content appearance such as font families, styles, and sizes, colors, page layouts and other physical attributes of the pages.

Ultimately, I suppose the definition of governance requires some governance.

But even if you manage to create a governance document with of the above rules and guidelines, your next challenge will be how to implement that plan and how to get all the people involved to follow the rules.  The more people you have contributing to the content of your site, the more difficult this challenge becomes.  That is unless everyone in the organization knows that the SharePoint Governance document has been approved by the very top of your corporate management.

But even that may not be enough unless there is a way to ensure compliance with the governance.  Rules that are created, but not enforced are merely suggestions.  It will not take long until the common look and feel that you originally planned for is lost and chaos fills the gap.

Unfortunately, many SharePoint projects fail when governance is treated as a platitude or a wicked problem (  Governance can fail when SharePoint is so huge that no one wants to be responsible for all of it and perhaps no one has interest in being responsible for all of it anyway.  That is because most organizations are filled with people with divergent thinking typically centered around their core responsibilities.  This problem can only be reigned in by a central core governance committee that has the power to create the governance document and enforce it.

There are also some people who feel that SharePoint should not just be treated like another tool that the IT department has brought in-house and then thrust onto everyone.  Rather, SharePoint should be looked at as a ‘Change Project’ that will change the way people work in an organization presumably to become more efficient and productive by providing:

  • Internal and external web sites that are easier to navigate than the previous sites.
  • Collaboration platforms to increase communication between team members to exchange ideas provide the group knowledge base for teams and projects
  • Document repositories that can be searched allowing users to quickly find information without having to search through folders within folders within folders.

While I cannot teach you everything you need to know about SharePoint governance in a single blog post, I tried to provide you with at least a few references to get you started finding out why SharePoint without governance at your organization may be the reason that SharePoint is wobbling more than a tightrope walker crossing the Grand Canyon in a light breeze.

C’ya next time.