Give Thought to Governance

Thinking about moving to SharePoint Online? Here’s some governance tips to consider when making the switch. 

With change and instability serving temporarily as our procedures du jour and employees flung far and wide, now may be the ideal time to start considering a migration to SharePoint Online. It’s a big step that requires a lot of planning to get the maximum benefit. But if/when you do start down this path, perhaps the most critical component to ensure long-term success is governance planning. 

Governance, to briefly recap, is the set of policies, roles, responsibilities, and processes that you establish to guide, direct, and control how your organization uses technologies to accomplish business goals. Effective governance anticipates the needs and goals of both your organization’s IT teams and its business divisions. Governance also provides policies and guidelines that make the deployment of products and technologies, such as SharePoint Online, manageable for IT and also effective as a business tool.  

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Governance is about more than standing up guideposts. Proper governance can help protect your enterprise from security threats or non-compliance liability. It can also help ensure the best return on your investment in technologies by enforcing best practices in content management or information architecture. 

Governance is about more than standing up guideposts.

With many organizations suddenly switching to an ad hoc, remote work set up, governance is especially important to consider. Working on collaborative platforms such as SharePoint Online introduces new ways of sharing information, communicating, and implementing business processes in your organization. As such, there are unique considerations for governance that you may not have previously encountered.  

SharePoint Online helps organizations gain control over their content, develop insights about their content, streamline their business processes, access information, and share information. For a SharePoint Online 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. 

Laying the Groundwork  

Effective governance is only possible when a proper foundation has been put in place first. For SharePoint Online, the governance groundwork should be built around the following:  

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 enterprise’s effectiveness is diminished. 

SharePoint Online / Office 365 environment 

IT needs to have policies in place to manage and control growth of SharePoint Online site collections and sites. 

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 and Customization policies / Third-Party Applications 

SharePoint Online includes customizable features and capabilities, such as business intelligence, workflow, third-party applications 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. 

There are many third-party companies that provide add-ons / pre-built solutions to work with SharePoint. In addition, SharePoint Online features a SharePoint Store where users can purchase (or obtain free) third-party apps. Governance should be introduced to develop and manage these policies relating to the purchase and deployment of apps. 

Training 

Although SharePoint Online 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. Properly training staff will increase the overall satisfaction with SharePoint adoption and reduce support costs. 

The Glue Guy 

In sports, many teams have a “glue guy”. The glue guy may not be the most talented or the most athletic, but the glue guy has qualities that help the team adhere to one another. You might not notice if the glue guy is there, but you definitely will notice if he isn’t. Governance is the glue guy in SharePoint Online. 


A well-crafted governance plan will generate a set of policies, roles, responsibilities, and processes that guide, direct, and control how an organization’s business divisions and IT teams cooperate to achieve business goals. A comprehensive governance plan provides a shared vision, assures quality and ensures accountability for enterprise content.  

The primary objective of the moving to SharePoint Online is to provide your organization with an effective, manageable collaboration environment that leverages the power, flexibility and usability of SharePoint as a web-based collaboration site platform.  

Governance provides the glue for this effort, setting standards, policies, and procedures for design, development, and deployment. Users will probably never notice a good governance plan in place. But you can be sure they’ll notice if there isn’t one.  

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