Sharepoint is a powerful information management platform. It is an invaluable modern tool which can effectively manage documents, sort and find information, and manage website content. For this reason, in this post we’ll discuss the importance of SharePoint Governance.

At its best it is an indispensable resource to control information, which is the lifeblood of a modern organization. At its worst, it falls victim to significant failure which is linked to a lack of governance.

One of the challenges of using a multifaceted system like Sharepoint is getting uniformity and consistency in user behaviour. This can quickly lead to a loss of control. Organizations come to find that user adoption is only the first hurdle. If there are no unified guidelines around how the resource is managed, it becomes a free-for-all.

What Is Sharepoint Governance?

Sharepoint Governance is a system of agreed policies, procedures and processes for handling the shared resource. Contained in those policies should be designated roles and responsibilities for access rights and action rights. Sharepoint often plays a key role in achieving the objectives of the organization. Therefore its importance should be recognized accordingly.

Information is key to the modern organization. We produce vast amounts of documents and communications every day. Managing and harnessing this information must be deliberately thought-out. Every organization needs to take this seriously, as even the smallest organization faces compliance and regulation requirements. With larger organizations this goes without saying.

Why Is Sharepoint Governance Needed?

If Sharepoint is not being used consistently and correctly, it can become unmanageable. With so many different users and teams accessing the system together, any lack of agreed usage rules can become problematic very quickly. Administrators are all too familiar with the following tell-tale signs:

Too much content – Everyone creates their own site and applications until they become unmanageable.

Organizational conflict – This happens when there are no clear roles and responsibilities about who has access and creation rights.

Shoddy adoption – When there is internal resistance and lack of training, adoption is hampered as users fear change.

IT in the spotlight – If the IT department is constantly working on short term fixes in the system, it can create the perception that IT controls the Sharepoint platform. This never ends well.

Operational inefficiency – If the infrastructure is poorly designed and administered, inefficiency surely follows.

Risk of downtime – Disaster management plans remain on the back burner when the front end of the system is not properly handled. This exposes the organization to a lack of response in times of crisis.

What are the main areas of governance?

Every governance plan should focus on these three main areas:

1. A Governance Plan

Every organization needs a formal document which explicitly names the rules around the usage of Sharepoint. This document can be referenced whenever there are disputes over Sharepoint Governance.

2. A Governance Committee

A representative team of people must meet regularly to review, appraise, and monitor governance rules. Like any good strategic management document, your Sharepoint Governance document will be a living document and will be subject to periodic review.

3. Constant User Communication

Ultimately, the plan is created for users as they will be linked to the success or failure of the project. A good Sharepoint Governance plan has user communication front and centre. As with all rulebooks, governance plans need to be repeated to be remembered.

What should go into a Sharepoint Governance plan?

Every organization’s needs are different. Organization size, document sensitivity, and document volume will all have a bearing on your Sharepoint Governance plan. Some considerations are as follows:

1. Authority Levels

When you appoint site owners, it’s important for them to know what authority levels they have to create sites and access sites.

2. Site Hierarchy Methods

There should be an accepted method to the hierarchy of created sites. This will avoid the potential for site mixup.

3. Security and Permissions Methods

It makes sense to have agreed rules on security and permissions. Staff should not only know which areas they cannot access, but why.

4. Navigation Convention

Any resource with non-standard navigation can be very frustrating. So much time can be lost by users trying to find their way around.

5. Guidelines on Sharing

Staff need to be very careful when sharing. Indiscriminate sharing can lead to costly mistakes, especially when sharing information externally.

6. Branding Rules

Branding owners tear their hair out when users don’t observe company-approved branding guidelines. It’s important to be clear on how your firm’s branding should look.

7. New Staff Onboarding

As new staff join the organization, it is important to have an onboarding plan in place. Previous Sharepoint experience shouldn’t entitle new users to skip onboarding.

8. Escalation Map

It is always helpful to have a clear escalation process in place for when confusion sets in. A role and responsibility organogram will help clear up any misunderstanding that users might encounter.

9. Third Party Resources

Third party tools can subject your network to security and performance risk. It’s always good to know what third party add-ons can be purchased from the Sharepoint Store.

Sharepoint Governance Review Best Practices

When it is time to periodically review your Sharepoint Governance plan, the right people need to be at the table.

1. Have a representative mix of users

Your Committee can fail if the mix is not right. If there are too many leaders, they might not have enough hands-on experience of the system. Likewise, a committee with too many users will not be able to make decisions.

2. Set Review Periods and Don’t Miss Them

Some of the worst IT crises come after periodic reviews have been taken for granted. The Governance Committee needs to meet at agreed times, and attendance should be paramount.

3. Don’t Keep It A Closed Shop

Even though only designated people can sit in the meeting, the findings should not be kept private. Make a point of publicising the key points of the meeting to all users.

Conclusion

Like any ongoing process, Sharepoint Governance is not a once-off. Be sure to keep as much energy around governance during maintenance periods as there is at launch periods.

Today’s organizations are constantly on the move. Your Sharepoint Governance plan needs to be flexible and adaptive to new habits and behaviours among users. It should also have repetition and review built in, or it can end up being taken for granted.