A Stolen Kiss for Your SharePoint GovernanceIsn't it time you show your SharePoint governance plan some love?

My first article for CMSWire discussed the exciting new features of SharePoint 2013. There is much to like about this latest release of the Microsoft collaboration wunderkind.

In the period since the release I've seen a steady move by customers to SharePoint 2013, but not necessarily a big uptake of its new features. This is the case with my own customers, but also what I have heard from other end users and consultants.

SharePoint 2013 Adoption Trends

Customers appear to be upgrading to SharePoint 2013 in line with their own technology roadmaps (e.g., to align with releases of Office), but are not bringing forward an upgrade to SharePoint 2013 to take advantage of any particular feature.  The one exception may be the high end search capability, FAST, the license for which is included in SharePoint 2013. However, even this will not be compelling where customers are not seeking advanced search capabilities or have already invested in FAST separately.

So customers are not adding workloads to SharePoint when they upgrade. Rather, they continue to use existing capabilities, but applying the additional SharePoint 2013 capabilities on top. For example, perhaps the most popular use of SharePoint is for document sharing via team sites. SharePoint 2013 has made this activity much easier through a better user interface and simplified tools for site management.

My point? Implementations of SharePoint 2013 to date are largely not about adding workloads or even features. Instead new SharePoint projects are about consolidation of capabilities. And this includes the skilling up of existing users as well as the broadening of the user base. Ie. It's about ongoing user adoption and user management. That is to say -- governance!

In earlier articles I have discussed the importance of user adoption and of planning your SharePoint roll out. Governance is the third pillar in your SharePoint program, providing the policies and activities that ensure that the good work done at inception is not unravelled over time.

Much has already been written on this site about governance in general and governance for SharePoint specifically, so I will keep my discussion to a few key points that in my experience have proven useful.


The Keep It Simple, Stupid principle (or "KISS"), applied well, will save you a lot of pain. Conversely, making your SharePoint governance plan overly complicated is a surefire way to stop users and site admins from knowing and applying your governance rules. Instead, make it easy to understand and follow. Your users, given the means and opportunity to understand the rules of the system, will be both compliant and happy.

Create a Governance Plan

Who's allowed to change content? Or site membership? Can I add new sub-sites? What about modifying the views? Which documents are controlled and where do they go? Are documents being archived? Can I add a webpart?

When using SharePoint, there are many situations where a user or administrator needs to know the agreed upon approach. It's not enough and it's not fair on users to have no single source of truth apart from "Ask Steve in IT," so it is vital that a formal governance plan is formulated.

Your governance plan should cover key areas such as agreed information architecture (IA), taxonomy and permissions. It should indicate who gets to approve changes (to content, IA, metadata, platform, etc.) and who can make the changes. It should address non-functional aspects, such as server management, support, back ups and archiving.

Make Your Governance Plan Accessible

It (almost) goes without saying that your governance plan should be documented. Looking at this more closely, policies and rules that are buried in big documents are unlikely to be read -- except perhaps as part of the next document review! In the hurly burly of our jobs, who has time to go digging through a bunch of policy documents or 100 page tomes?! Make it a no-brainer for users and put the policies where they need them -- in the actual processes and actions in which they are engaging. For example, if you have special metadata rules around how to create a document name, then show that information in the "add document" screen.

Train Your Users

I am sure you already understand the importance of user training when it comes to SharePoint (or any business system). Training is no less important when it comes to the business of governance. Creating a bold link to your governance plan on the home page is simply no substitute to spending 20 minutes taking a user through the essential bits of the governance plan and ensuring they "get it."

Title image by Olena Mykhaylova (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Read more of Andrew's SharePoint tips in How to Avoid an Epic Fail of Your SharePoint 2013 Roll Out: Get a Roadmap in Place First