SharePoint 2010 Governance Guidance

Posted: March 23, 2011 in SharePoint 2010

I truly believe the single biggest factor to long term success and/or failure of a SharePoint implementation is the creation or lack of effective governance. I have seen massive farms with buckets of money thrown at them fail their organization miserably because of it. Likewise I have seen modest farms with limited scope effectively change the way a company does business with effective governance.Effective governance reaches far beyond the technical team, past the SharePoint Architect, past the IT manager, and out into the enterprise and its employees. The true source of guidance for the architecture, design, implementation, and management for your farm lies within your business users. They KNOW how the business runs, what it needs, what works for your culture. The trick is getting them involved and channeling those raw ideas into a SharePoint based framework.

If you do nothing else with this post, go to this site: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc263356.aspx and do some reading. MS has learned a lot on governance and has changed their approach for 2010 significantly.

What’s the point?

This is a simple yet frequently asked question. WHY should you spend time and money and pull in all sorts of business users who will most likely come in kicking and screaming. It will draw out your timeline, add complexity to the entire project, and force the techies to deal with “users”. The answer for this is multifaceted. First, the governance plan gives the ensures that the SharePoint farm meets a specific business need. The strategy team sets the purpose and goal for the creation of the farm, guides its evolution, and ensures it is kept relevant to the businesses needs.  Second, user involvement and ownership. I cannot tell you how many client sites I have been to where the techies think their SharePoint implementation is great while end users would just rather use file shares, exchange public folders, emails, local office docs, etc. The end result may even be an extremely tech savvy implementation but if it does not achieve user acceptance, it is a failure. Pulling end users into the project at the beginning via the governance team assures you get their feedback and valuable insight into business need, and at the same time it gives the business community ownership in the portal. I can honestly say the BEST implementations I have done include features that I would never have thought of, but business users came up with them in a second.

Alright I get it, now what do I do?

The first step is going to be forming your strategy team. This team should include representatives from major business units as well as an IT representative. It is crucial that business gets its say but IT must also be there to provide guidance. There are many great ideas that just are not financially feasible and IT provides guidance on those areas. The first order of business as you will see in the MS docs is formulating the vision and purpose for the farm. Keep it high level, focus on what SharePoint will do for the business. Next work your way down into guidelines and objectives for the farm, define your principles only going as tech deep as is absolutely necessary. Define the roles and responsibilities. Now move into your guidelines, take it as deep as you can get. Bear in mind the Governance plan is a living document it can and will evolve with your implementation. From the get go, you may not be able to get through every item but take it as far as you can, keep it generalized, this is a high level strategy document, it is not a technical manual.

What about the tech side?

So usually when the whole governance document comes up, it is focused on the technical governance. Development and deployment of web parts, workflows, event handlers, etc. CAS vs GAC based code. Site creation, business unit specific site creation. Branding, etc. You probably noticed this has NOT been covered at this point. In my opinion, this is not part of the main governance document. It does however need to be captured. I will recommend a second governance plan be devised for this. Referred to as “Technical governance” that goes into the techie side of things. This document is subject to the guidelines, and policies set forth in the strategic document and its audience is the techies. It cannot be generated really until the primary governance is developed. Please bear in mind, this is not a stand alone document. I want to stress that, it absolutely must abide by what is set forth in the primary governance document. Any SLA’s set forth, any security principles, any customization guidelines, etc must be followed in this document. Deviation from the main document must be presented to the main strategy team, and approved by them.

Bringing the organization together

This collaborative partnership between these documents and teams not only helps provide a useful implementation, user acceptance and education, guided and controlled growth of the farm, and focus on strategic objectives, but also can have a profound impact on the culture of the organization. In many shops IT and the business units are not used to collaboration at this level. It can play itself out negatively in the applications being developed. By going through this sometimes painful exercise in developing a governance model for your implementation, you can also help redefine the cultural dynamics of the enterprise, even if it is only for the SharePoint farm, which can play out in other benefits for the org.


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