I wish I had a quarter for every time the words “governance” and “SharePoint” were used in the same sentence -- I’d be pretty darn rich right now. But I’d be an unhappy millionaire.
Why? Because I believe the term governance is so overhyped when it comes to SharePoint that all we seem to do is talk about the concept of “governance” and not about the solutions required to solve the problems it is supposed to deal with.
What’s In A Name?
Defining "governance" is easy. Wikipedia says “In the case of a business or of a non-profit organization, governance relates to consistent management, cohesive policies, guidance, processes and decision-rights for a given area of responsibility.” You could narrow it down even further by defining “information governance," but in the end it means the same thing.
The idea of governance is not exclusive to SharePoint, it’s something that organizations have to think about regardless of what technology platform they use. We just seem to hear about it more with SharePoint (partly I believe because people want to tear it down, partly because the SharePoint community overall wants to ensure its success).
I don’t like using the term. I don’t talk to customers or prospects about the need for proper governance. What I talk about are the actual challenges these organizations are facing every day to organize and manage their information. These organizations don’t come to me saying they need governance tools, they come saying something isn’t working and how can I help them fix the problem.
It’s About the Solutions, Not the Concepts
For example -- SharePoint is often a grassroots implementation. You can easily be up and running with a basic SharePoint install, making it available to anyone -- team, department, committee -- who wants to organize and collaborate around a specific set of information. That’s how it gets started and the trouble tends to begin. Once each group starts working with SharePoint, they use it differently, organize their information differently, share it differently. Sites grow and grow, sometimes out of control. This is what many refer to as “SharePoint sprawl.”
I would question why you would want to stop a grassroots implementation if it gets people collaborating more efficiently? Is it the optimal solution to a SharePoint implementation? No way.
But if you allow some groups to start using it, they see the value it offers and their support of the platform grows. Now you are ready to step back and consider the best information architecture based on the needs of those already using it, and those likely lined up to get access. You can think about proper planning of sites, training of users, security of data and slowly move your existing users into a proper SharePoint model.
In a perfect world, the IA would be done and SharePoint set up properly from the beginning. Perfect worlds don’t exist.