Many portals, intranets, public websites and other solutions fail to deliver objectives and ROI within 6 months to a year because no one governs the solution. This series will share my high level SharePoint Business Governance strategy to help your company turn those success rates around.
The series will include: Introduction and Governance Strategy Overview, Governance Documents, Human Forces (Organization) and Project Governance. I will follow up with an additional post on Automated Governance and "From Strategy to Business Value.”
In the SharePoint business there is a lot of buzz around governance today. Most of it is technical and involves how to automate governance with scripts and 3rd party applications. You can often read about how to script setups, manage sites, databases and security, etc.
Suppliers often say that they have a governance strategy to help your organization with governance planning, but what they really mean is that they can help you manage the solution they provide. Most often you get left all alone with a new “space shuttle” and a service contract to help out when the fire starts.
In the past 16 years I have worked in global organizations and had many roles where I have set requirements for projects and ordered solutions. I have too many times seen IT projects fail the organization's requirements, goals and objectives because of bad IT management. I have asked myself why we don’t learn from our mistakes, instead we make the same mistakes again and again.
Many products fail because a solution goes live before it is completed: that results in bad user adoption and usage. The end users get frustrated and IT tries to rescue the project by pumping in enormous amounts of recourses. This often ends up in the purchase of a new system.
Whatever it is that makes the projects fail, there is very seldom a supplier who can help the customer rescue a project or an already running solution. My belief is that many projects could have been saved if a supplier had intervened to help the organizations with knowledge, skills and experience.
To many, the word governance is the same as manage, but that’s not how I see it.
The word governance derives from the Greek verb κυβερνάω [kubernáo] which means to steer. To put it in context with SharePoint -- it is about how one steers to reach one’s goals and objectives year after year, time and again. Business value should be the focus and the technology should be there to support that.
Governance is continuous in an organization, new needs and objectives will come along the way. The governance begins when the first thought/idea of a new solution arrives and it ends when that solution no longer helps you to reach business goals, or delivers a return of investment.
To govern a SharePoint solution requires organization, not only “Automated governance” but also human forces working together to reach common goals and objectives to deliver business value.
You are doomed to fail if you don’t have both. This is not easy in any way, but a very complex task. That is the reason I take on this challenge to help organizations reach their goals and objectives. Not as a one time occurrence, but continuously.
SharePoint Business Governance Strategy
Governance models often have the same name, but the content and the strategy within are very much different.
Based on my 16 years of experience in IT governance and many months of research I have put together a SharePoint Governance strategy that works.
To visualize this governance strategy I have chosen to fit the most important points into a ball bearing. The ball bearing's job is to run friction free and to be a very dependable solution. The same features are very important with a SharePoint governance model.
There are several parts in this strategy: it contains not only the Automated Governance, but also what I call the human forces strategy (clarification of human forces can be found in the human forces section).
The illustration you see here has the shape of a ball bearing, the outside and inside ring together with the light gray balls is the responsibility of the governance owner/s.
The dark balls are the responsibility of IT and Operations. In a smaller company project governance might be managed by the governance owner/s.
Constellations of responsibility can differ depending on the organization.
You probably hope to find some useful templates here, but no. All types of templates I have found are way too large, not in size but in page count. Even if I handed you a template you would most likely not use it, as it doesn’t reflect your organization and your needs.
The other reason you’re not finding any template here has to do with my view on how to treat documents and content. I don’t believe anyone will read a 98 page long document on governance. Even if you chunk it up in smaller documents and publish them in a document library, no one or very few will ever read it, not to mention update it!
This has to do with human behavior: we are lazy in nature (and often very stressed) and if the information we look for can’t be found where it is needed then we very seldom bother to look for it. We have to put the right content where it belongs as well as make the information easy to access and easy to read and change.
I will post a separate article later on CMSWire that will explore this subject a bit more.
Human Forces (Organization)
You can't just run a SharePoint project and expect it to be maintenance free. You need to have an organization, both during and after the project.
I will give you some examples of organizations that should be formed during the early parts of a project and continue live after the first project is completed.
Business Steering Committee
The business steering committee is a group that is mixed with cross organization management in a medium to large organization. They need to be at a high level in the company so that they can define and take decisions on outcome effect targets, strategies and budget. They are also responsible to decide if the projects will deliver business value or not. Risk minimization and high-level communication management is also part of their job.
The Governance Owner/s role is to be the captain of the boat that navigates towards the goals. But a captain also has to manage the crew and the boat to make sure it fulfills existing and new needs. One of the owner’s biggest jobs is to work with the business to ensure business value is delivered.
The other job that the governance owners have is to form an organization that can manage and improve the SharePoint solution. Without this function you can be sure that the solution you have will stop existing in a few years or sooner.
Governance Support Groups
Governance support groups help the governance owner/s mange and improve the solution. The governance members are people from the business departments.
You will be able to read more about the governance support groups and how to organize them to get a functional organization in a future blog post, as well as a how-to for organizations and insight into other involved players.
Technical Solutions for Automated Governance can be found on any SharePoint site today. Most MVP’s talk about automated governance but often they “forget” the business side of governance. But the fact is that both automated governance and business governance is needed.
My agenda for Automated Governance is not to explain “complex” code or procedures but instead to try and share overall information and ideas about solutions that could help your organization with the most common SharePoint problems.
Many governance owners think that implementing governance solutions is complex and hard to do. I work with the mindset that I “invent” the solutions and the developer implements them. I rarely ask myself if a solution is technically hard to achieve, but instead leave that to the developers.
I have often seen the same “fear” when I start talking about system integrations -- this is something that has to be changed.
I will explore Automated Governance more fully in future posts.
If you’re not in a very small company, you will have an IT department that helps out with everything from Infrastructure to patch management and backups. It is extremely important that IT understands what your organization's SharePoint solution can do and how it supports the business. If they don’t see the business value in it they will manage the solution with less care.
It is the governance owner/s responsibility to work tightly with IT and make sure they do what is required and also be able to plan for coming upgrades and features that might require more WAN bandwidth or better servers, etc.
This area is very important if you want to succeed in your SharePoint project.
Project Governance is all about having the right people onboard and how to manage them. You can run 100 SharePoint projects, but only the ones where you have the right people onboard will get the correct requirements and goals that deliver ROI.
It is very common that SharePoint projects are run by IT. Focus will then become technical functions and features instead of business value. It is therefore important that the business is running the project to make sure it solves business needs and gets ROI in the end.
I have once lectured to a company where IT managed the project and by the end of the lecture it was silence. After about a minute one of the project members stood up and said, "Well, I understand now, we have done it all wrong, we have next to zero business value!"
Sadly for them, they had come quite far and had used a 3rd party consultant that convinced them at a late stage to continue instead of re-aligning the project. This subject, too, will be covered in a future post.
Technology alignment is important for all organizations, but to a large organization it is extremely important as long-term planning is so much harder when you don’t know which way to go. Technology alignment could be something easy, like -- we go all Microsoft -- but it can also be more complex like when you start to look at integrations between different systems, in house or in the cloud.
It also has to do with how we work and how we think we will work tomorrow: do we have laptops with VPN or do we have iPads running web apps, etc.
Now, we are sometimes lucky and the solutions we use have great integration possibilities and there might be both a desktop and web client available. Not to forget mobile/terminal client, a very important area today.
Whatever path we take in life we always try to improve and aim for new goals and objectives. We need to apply the same mindset to SharePoint governance.
Continues improvements are not only about the solution and the content; it’s also about improving the governance organization and guaranteeing the continued deliverance of business value.
Editor's Note: You can read all of this series here: