Governance can be fun!

Ok…my bad. My title is a little misleading…
Anyone who’s ever been involved in developing and implementing a SharePoint solution to support a public-facing website, or Intranet/Collaboration sites, or a custom application, probably has never made the statement that “Governance is Fun”. Developing a Governance Plan and implementing the policies and procedures to actively manage your SharePoint environments and solutions is hard work, but it is absolutely necessary work to ensure success and adoption of your SharePoint solutions.

Over the years, SharePoint has expanded its features and functionality to become a valuable tool for organizations developing Enterprise Content Management (ECM) Plans for their organization. ECM is the strategies, methods and tools used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes.

It’s not enough though, to just “manage” content. Content must be managed so that it is used to achieve business goals. Central to this strategy are the tools and technologies of ECM, which manage the complete lifecycle of content, from development, through review and approval, to publishing, to final disposition of removal or archiving.

Governance is the Glue

Utilizing SharePoint 2013, and employing strategies on how to manage content can improve customer and staff engagement, ensure efficiency and compliance, and enable the automation of critical business processes.

Governance is the set of policies, roles, responsibilities, and processes that you establish in an enterprise to guide, direct, and control how the organization uses technologies to accomplish business goals. Effective governance anticipates the needs and goals of both your organization’s Information Technology (IT) teams and its business divisions.

SharePoint 2013 helps organizations gain control over their content, develop insights about their content, streamline their business processes, access information, and share information. For a SharePoint 2013 deployment to succeed, these organizational needs should be met in a way that is consistent with the constraints and policies of the organization’s IT department. Governance is the method by which your enterprise balances these requirements. It is the “glue” that binds the organization’s ECM activities.

For the past 8+ years, Kiefer Consulting. Inc. has utilized the foundations of SharePoint Governance developed by Microsoft and closely adheres to the best practices promulgated by Microsoft in the development of individual client-based governance planning. In practical terms though, Kiefer recognizes that “one size does not fit all”, and emphasizes a collaborative development process in working with clients to define and exercise governance policies and procedures. Every organization has unique needs and goals that will affect its approach to governance. No single approach will fit the cultures or requirements of all organizations.

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Foundations of Governance

To keep solutions based on SharePoint 2013 both effective and manageable, organizations need to develop adequate governance policies and procedures surrounding the following key areas:

Information Architecture / Taxonomy

A key contributor to an enterprise’s efficiency and effectiveness is how quickly and accurately its staff can find and use content and data. Without properly designed and governed information architecture, an organization’s effectiveness is diminished.

SharePoint farm, servers, and environments

IT needs to have policies in place to manage and control growth of SharePoint servers, web applications, site collections, and sites. Regular maintenance activities, such as backing up and restoring data and installing product updates are essential to maintaining and supporting a SharePoint environment.

Branding

When designing an information architecture and set of sites for use across the enterprise, it’s important to ensure that branding policies and procedures are in your governance plans. By implementing a branding policy, you help ensure that sites consistently use enterprise-wide templates, imagery, fonts, themes, and other design elements.

Development, Customization, 3rd Party Applications policies

SharePoint 2013 includes customizable features and capabilities, such as business intelligence, forms, workflow, 3rd party applications (Apps) and content management. However, customization introduces new risks to the stability, maintainability, and security of the SharePoint environment. Governance should be introduced to develop and manage these policies.

Training

Although SharePoint 2013 has an intuitive, Web-based interface, like all new software applications, SharePoint can be a challenge to some users. This can be further complicated by the set of capabilities available to various users based on their permissions levels (e.g. Content Managers). By properly training staff, we can increase the overall satisfaction with SharePoint adoption and reduce support costs.

Establishment of ECM / SharePoint Governance Bodies

To successfully support and maintain an enterprise-wide SharePoint solution, it is important to form governing bodies that understand the critical business functions of your organization, so that the governance foundation elements can be addressed before they become issues. 
In acknowledgement of current workload, existing committees, resouce schedules, etc., it is not necessarily in your best interest to establish an enterprise-wide oversight / Executive committee, specifically to support the current SharePoint 2013 solutions or future development and expansion. A more efficient alternative is to utilize an existing executive-level committee and scheduled meetings, and simply add SharePoint governance items to an existing agenda, as needed, to keep them apprised of ongoing activities and issues. 

We recommend that a Working Group (WG), – selected staff members from across the organization – be organized to perform most, if not all, of the governance tasks and periodically present information, decision points, and issues to the Executive Committee for approval or resolution, as required.

Roles and Responsibilities

One of the key activities performed by the Governance Bodies, is the defining and assigning the roles and responsibilities involved with supporting the SharePoint solution(s). Every developed solution will have a different set of roles and specific responsibilities assigned to each role. Defining those roles, and assigning individuals to perform their responsibilities will ensure the solution can be maintained, supported, and evolve to meet the organization’s business needs.

Governance May Not Be Fun, but…

Implementing SharePoint solutions can introduce significant organizational change to your enterprise. Implementing these solutions without putting in the effort to establish governance, will quickly introduce the opposite of “fun”, and generate the potential for chaos and/or lack of adoption of the solutions designed and developed to help improve the organization’s business processes.

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