If you're wondering what your SharePoint governance plan should look like, look around you. It should probably look a lot like your organization.

There's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach, even if you're in an highly regulated industry like healthcare of financial services that imposes strict regulations on information sharing. At least that was the consensus of a panel of experts from Avanade, HiSoftware, Portal Solutions and Metalogix in a webinar today.

The panel explored some of the most common mistakes about governance in SharePoint, but focused more on common misconceptions that surface when companies set out to create their governance plan. While there are some fine examples of governance plans, the panelists said no template is automatically right for your organization.

It's Your Plan

"Try not to boil the ocean," said Kurt Mueffelmann, CEO of HiSoftware. "Decide what's important to your organization."

Jill Hannemann, practice director for advisory services at Portal  Solutions, said many of her clients think a firm like hers will simply hand them a governance plan. "I think they figure if you've got a consultant like Portal Solution who comes in and writes a governance  plan, you're all set," she said. "We more or less help you figure out how you're going to use [Sharepoint].

She  noted SharePoint is the Swiss Army knife of the CMS world that can be tailored and defined however you'd like. The panel had several ideas of how best to do that, but agreed the ultimate answer depends on the needs of the organization.

"Governance is not a set of features or something you implement," said Gail Shlansky, senior director of product management for Metalogix. "It's a set of policies that defines the business goals of how you expect Sharepoint to be."

Moderator Ruven Gotz, a SharePoint MVP and director at Avanade, said you should define your current state and where you'd like to be, and governance is the thing between them that get you there.

Documenting Change

Several panelists agreed the plan needs to be a "living document" that remains "fluid," but they also agreed it should be documented in one way or another. That might mean the plan is compiled in the traditional thick binder, but "that doesn't mean you need to create a document that is 80 or 100 pages long," said Hannemann, who suggested breaking it into segments that can be updated and used a training tools.

SharePoint itself is a great place to share your governance plan with employees. "Your users are going to be participating in SharePoint," said Shlansky. "It's not just an IT project."

She also suggested creating short videos to explain various policies and procedures to you coworkers.

Sharing in SharePoint

Wikis can also be used to share governance plans. "You may want to keep in mind how open it is for editing and allowing folks to contribute to the wiki, but it's a good method of communication," said Hannemann.

Asked if the plan belongs to the IT deparment or business managers, the panelists agreed that there shouldn't be a single owner. "We look at it as being a team sport," said Muffelmann. "I think it's multifaceted. It not just whether IT or business owns it. It's both."


That said, there may be security aspects that are more easily enforced through IT and Hannemann noted a "centralized point of management" is needed for SharePoint.

"When we talk to our customers, we like to see it in one spot, combining policy and procedure and having it in a place where everyone can get at it ... where they're going to get one version of the truth," said Muffelmann.

Unlike most work projects, governance is a never-ending process. SharePoint changes, company policies change, regulations change and so do procedures for creating a new site or document. For that reason, Shlansky suggested setting specific timeframes for reviewing governance, perhaps once a year.

Images from Microsoft.