The Art Of SharePoint Success: Governance -- How to Do It

7 minute read
Symon Garfield avatar

This is the fourth article in a series discussing my Art Of SharePoint Success framework which consists of four key elements:Governance, Strategy, Architecture and Transition. Last month I began to explore the murky, misunderstood, often debated subject of SharePoint Governance by giving my view onwhat it is, and what it isn’t.This month I’ll be wrapping the Governance discussion by looking at how you actually do it.

The Key Elements of SharePoint Governance

A robust SharePoint governance model should address three key elements:

  1. strategy
  2. business change
  3. I.T. Operations

Strategy is concerned with the accountability for the SharePoint business case.It defines the scope of SharePoint’s use, links usage to organizational objectives, and definessuccess measures and the means by which they are monitored and reported.

Business change is concerned with the responsibility for management decisions which implement the high-level strategy.The two parts of business change are people and processes.People relates to user adoption.Process relates to changes in business processes.

I.T. Operations are responsible for the implementation and on-going maintenance of the SharePoint environment including data storage, database administration, platform services, support, software development, and security.

Models of SharePoint Governance

Every organization is but a robust model must address the three key elements of strategy, change and operations.

My experience is that there are five broad approaches which organizations take to SharePoint governance. Figure 1 illustrates these five models as a progression from the simplest decentralized model to the most complex and comprehensive, the Information Worker competence centre model. Many organizations naturally develop either a centralized and decentralized approach as a starting point but these have inherentweaknessesand ideally you should plan to progress to one of the other three models.


Figure 1: Progressive models for SharePoint governance

The following sections describe each of these models.

De-Centralized Ownership

In thedecentralized approach separate teams, departments or business units implement their own SharePoint environments with no co-ordination.Ultimately within the decentralized model SharePoint has no single owner.There is no strategy or vision to guide, and no way of measuring success or return on investment.

This approach promotes maximum freedom, but it also promotes a sprawling mishmash of servers, sites, and content and an increasing amount of resources are required to create and maintain many separate and disparate implementations.Short term benefits may be realized at the tactical level by individual teams or departments but it is unlikely that the organization will benefit at the strategic level.The costs are likely to outweigh the benefits as each implementation is subject to individual learning curve costs and the disparate solutions make co-ordination, communication and collaboration between different areas of the organization more difficult rather than improving them.

Centralized Ownership

In the centralized model a single team or business function takes sole ownership of SharePoint. This is common in the early stages of SharePoint development or within smaller organizations.Ownership is often determined by usage.

There are two common scenarios where the IT team assume ownership for SharePoint, and both are ultimately doomed to failure.First the IT team take the ‘build it and they will come’ approach.This will either result in failure due to low user adoption or a failure due to information management chaos and compliance issues where there is high user adoption but no control.In the second scenario the IT Team thinks, ‘We will implement SharePoint for our own purposes, and when the rest of the business see how good it is they will all want to use it’.This approach will fail because most people will only adopt a new technology when they first see it being adopted by people they perceive to be like themselves.The IT team playing with technology will not usually convince the business to use that technology themselves.

HR, Communications and Marketingare other functions within an organization which often assume early centralized ownership of SharePoint, typically through a requirement to develop intranet or web site solutions. This may produce successful tactical solutions but as the scope of the intranet expands away from communication and into collaboration or document management it becomes impossible for a single business function to have the vision and reach to influence change across the organization.

Collaborative Steering Committee

In this model a cross-functional committee takes ownership of SharePoint.To be successful the committee should consist of around 6 to 8 members that represent different areas of the organization.HR and Internal Communications or Marketing are important members because they have the ability to influence changes in behavior necessary for effective user adoption.IT brings knowledge of the technology. A senior executive stakeholder brings authority, leadership andthe strategic perspective.Business unit or team leaders bring the users perspective which is a key element of any successful technology related business change initiative.A committee such as this has all the ingredients necessary to begin to address the three elements of the governance model. If you currently recognize yourself as being in a decentralized or centralized model, then evolving to a collaborative steering committee model should be your first priority!

Three Layer Model

The Three Layer Model for SharePoint governance uses three (or more) inter-related teams one for each of the three elements of SharePoint governance. Figure 2 illustrates the model.

Learning Opportunities


Figure 2: Three layered model for SharePoint governance

Table 1 briefly describes each of the three SharePoint governance teams.


Table 1:Overview of SharePoint governance teams

Information Worker Competence Center

An Information Worker Competence Center is,

"A coordinating function providing strategic oversight and decision levers across its portfolio of programs. As an administrative entity it logically groups “people with interrelated disciplines, domains of knowledge, experiences and skills [...] generally focusing on crucial expertise for the business"(Ruppertz-Rausch 2009)

Governance is a key element of a competence centre.Figure 3illustrates the structure of an Information Worker Competence Center.Microsoft Business Strategy Consulting have produced a whitepaper which gives an overview of an Information Worker Competence Center and describes how to establish one.

This approach is typically associated with the largest organizations and SharePoint implementations with investments that run into millions of pounds.For example an insurance business implemented one of the world’s largest SharePoint online implementations consolidating 27 business unit intranets into a single solution serving approximately 77,000 users globally.Coordinating the implementation and on-going evolution and maintenanceof such a massive solution requires a dedicated business function to handle the user adoption challenges, receive and assess requests from the business for new solutions and customizations and to manage the budget.


Figure 3:Structure of Information Worker Competence Centre

For Next Time…

In my next article I’ll be moving on the second element of my framework, Strategy, and I’ll be asking the question, “What is SharePoint?”

Until Then…

Over the next few months I’ll be publishing more details ofmy Art of SharePoint Success framework on my website.If you’ve still not had enough of SharePoint Governance debate then I can recommend this article by my friends over at 21 Apps.

Finally, I’ll be speaking at SharePoint Saturday UK on November 12th.It’d be great to see you there (it's free to attend), and yes, SharePoint Governance will certainly come up in my presentation.

Editor's Note: You may also be interested in reading:

About the author

Symon Garfield

Symon Garfield is a strategic advisor, researcher, author, speaker and technologist focusing on internal digital workplace strategies. Managing consultant and digital workplace solutions lead for a global professional services company.

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