Organizations have been talking about “effective governance” for years in relation to large-scale systems, but the emergence of governance in the SharePoint world is relatively recent and still fairly immature.

What SharePoint Governance Used to Mean

When SharePoint was in its infancy, SharePoint projects were often driven by the information technology (IT) department and treated as desktop applications instead of as enterprise class software.

A variety of approaches were developed to manage these projects, including the simple “next, next, next” wizard deployment to the more mature, but still IT-focused, deployment with farm architecture, backup, restore and service-level agreements around support.

Despite having a project plan in place and solid project delivery, many SharePoint deployments of the past lacked any meaningful form of governance. In addition, SharePoint projects of the past were often built in isolation and didn’t necessarily link to overall organizational goals and business needs.

Eventually governance grew into a more common term, a buzzword even, but the concept of SharePoint governance was seen as a one-time deliverable used only in the deployment of SharePoint and not in the overall management of a SharePoint user community. Governance became a document to be written and a project task to be checked off as complete.

These static governance documents often focused on the technical aspects of a SharePoint deployment, with lots of details about how SharePoint should be installed and configured, but little or no focus on how it was actually going to be used to meet overall business goals and objectives. Once the project was complete, the governance document was buried in a file share, never to be viewed or used again. Unfortunately, this view of one-time governance is still prevalent in many of today’s organizations.

Despite advancements in SharePoint governance, countless organizations are still living in the past when it comes to understanding the role of governance in today’s enterprise. The problem of viewing governance as a one-time event can be traced back to a lack of clarity about the real purpose and scope of SharePoint governance. Thankfully, a new era of SharePoint governance has emerged that aligns SharePoint with organizational goals and business needs.

What SharePoint Governance Means Today

Today’s organizations need to adopt a holistic view of governance that encompasses both the need for guidance of short-term SharePoint projects, as well as guidance for the management of the internal SharePoint user community as it relates to supporting an organization’s overall goals and business needs.

The disconnect between governance and an organization’s overall goals and business needs has left many organizations with “SharePoint Celery,” a term coined by Ant Clay of 21apps. “SharePoint Celery” describes SharePoint projects that expend more money and effort than the equivalent value returned for the organization just as eating a stick of celery provides eight calories of energy, but the act eating and digesting celery uses up more than 12 calories, creating a negative value.

To avoid creating a negative SharePoint value, governance must be established for both individual projects, as well as an overarching governance plan that ties back to your organization’s goals and vision. This work has to be completed as part of the planning process, not after SharePoint has been implemented.

Many of today’s organizations are receiving a negative value from SharePoint because they do not do the hard work of first developing a living governance strategy for both short-term projects, as well as an overarching governance strategy to align technology with business needs from the onset. Instead, organizations are seeking an immediate value from inception by implementing SharePoint without a plan and haphazardly building numerous sites without considering the long-term goals of the organization.

Unfortunately, there is not a SharePoint governance silver bullet that will address all governance issues in one document. To truly deliver measurable business value and align SharePoint with organizational goals and business needs to achieve a positive return on investment, it is essential to focus on all the areas of SharePoint governance at once. The following “5 Pillars of SharePoint Governance,” developed by 21apps, achieve just that:

  1. IT Assurance -- Delivering “assurance” that the technology platform supports the project in achieving its project vision and aligns with organizational goals.
  2. Project Governance -- To ensure the project and stakeholders are aligned to deliver both technology and change management aspects of the project aligned with the project vision and organizational goals.
  3. Information Governance -- To ensure SharePoint supports the organization’s ongoing information needs in line with the project vision and organizational goals.
  4. Technology & Business Alignment -- To ensure SharePoint aligns with the organization's vision and strategy with clear, measurable business outcomes.
  5. Continuous Improvement -- To facilitate measurable ongoing organizational effectiveness improvements and enable business-led change through the SharePoint platform.

This article explored the what of SharePoint governance and its evolution over the years. Stay tuned for the next installment to learn the how of moving from an archaic view of SharePoint governance to a modern, holistic view of SharePoint governance.

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