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SharePoint is a flexible tool, with a wide range of capabilities which give businesses plenty of options. But all of these options can lead to chaos if you don't put basic governing rules in place. Structure and boundaries can help keep your SharePoint instance sustainably usable.

Here's an example: Some admins allow end-users to create new sites in SharePoint without friction, but others require end users to fill out long forms and wait for the admins' approval. Which of the two policies is better? Well, it depends.

Related Article: 5 Levers of Digital Workplace Governance

A SharePoint Governance Balancing Act

Administrators usually have a strong impulse to keep control over most of the activities on SharePoint. If left unchecked, rules will proliferate to a point where using the platform becomes inconvenient. Every governance policy you put in place will have a positive or negative impact on the organic growth of the platform's use.

Complex rules, cumbersome forms, lengthy processes, and slow response time from the IT team can all act as roadblocks to end-user adoption. Good rules don’t prevent end-users from using the platform, but rather steer them in a desired direction.

To create rules that do not hinder usage, start by making sure you're thinking more in terms of the experience of end users rather than seeking convenience for the IT team. The thought process below may help.

  • First, make sure you fully understand the business problem that end-users are trying to solve when using a set of features. Without this effort, you may end up imposing rules that will only place limitations in their pursuit of solutions.
  • Second, review the necessity of every rule that you create. Ask "Can we survive without this rule?” before setting anything in stone. Even though rules regarding security and compliance are always necessary, improvement is always possible.
  • Third, determine whether guidance will suffice. If this is the case, lay out an action plan that focuses on communicating best practices to your end-users rather than on dictating rules.

Related Article: How SharePoint Communication Sites Impact Governance

Governance Tips for SharePoint Success

Below are some simple recommendations on how to create governance policies that promote the organic growth and use of your platform.

Think Like an End User

A common mistake admins make is trying to create an entire set of governance policies only from the admins’ perspective.

At least one person from your IT team should engage with end users to understand the mechanics of their daily work habits, aspirations and challenges. This simple effort will help you create policies that provide guidance instead of friction.

Allow the Use of Default Solutions

End users love default solutions, primarily, because they save time. Make sure you have a good reason to remove an out-of-the-box functionality or turn off a default solution. You can also use the preference for default solutions in your efforts to steer end users habits in the direction you want. Think of creative ways to guide before you decide to deprive.

Always Provide Alternate Solutions

Removing a solution without providing an alternative is very disruptive. Always give an alternate way to solve a problem before you take away a functionality. If you fail to provide an alternative immediately, your end-users will simply abandon SharePoint and find similar solutions elsewhere (a frequent occurrence). 

Communicate Governance Policies Thoroughly

Make the rules, forms and everything surrounding a policy as simple as possible. If you can't explain a rule in a sentence or two using plain English, it is likely too complex. 

Create an easily-readable governance policies manual. Throwing a 100 page document to users will not help the communication process. If the document is too long, end users will probably avoid reading it. Instead of compiling your rules in one single document, publish each rule on its own separate online page, for example on a wiki. This gives end users easy access to the questions they may have about specific rules.

Another smarter way of getting your rules read is using a contextual help system. Using the walk-through capabilities, display each rule under the tab where a relevant feature is used. If an end-user sees the rule every time they go to complete a certain task, they will likely remember that rule. Overlaying each rule over its applicable feature of SharePoint is an effective way of communicating your governance policies in context.

A Spoonful of Sugar Makes the Governance Go Down

What it comes down to is this: If you don't want your governance policies to act as roadblocks to sustainable SharePoint adoption, make an effort to consider the implications any rule will have on end users’ experience. Often times, it's much better to suggest than to impose. Focus first on convincing your end users to abide by the best practices. And create a rule only if necessary.