Q: Ongoing Role for Governance Committee?

We’re in the early stages of defining our governance plan.  We think we have identified the people we would like to have help define our strategy and we have asked them to participate in our governance committee.  We have gotten many questions about how large a time commitment this will be.  Obviously, there will be much work defining the plan, but what about the ongoing commitment?  What is the role for the committee once the governance plan has been created? – P.

The SharePoint Therapist Says: Well, a lot of that is going to depend on the specifics of your governance plan.  For instance, if you are limiting new site creation to those that have a demonstrated business reason, someone is going to have to do that evaluation.  That “someone” might be your governance board.

In my current environment, that authority is delegated to the SharePoint team (myself, my fellow SharePoint administrator, and our manager), especially during this time where we are migrating sites from our old environment, but the committee reviews our decisions.  Our expectation is that, should a situation arise where we are unsure if the business justification is sufficient, we’ll kick the decision to the board, which includes people who might have a clearer understanding of the business reasoning (or lack thereof).

Obviously, there will be a need to revisit the plan regularly and make sure the plan still aligns with the business needs, and that you haven’t erected unnecessary barriers to productivity.

Uncovering new pain  points, where the policies may have failed to take something into account (especially if you are combining a new governance plan with an upgrade or migration) is especially important – responsiveness to changing conditions before things get out of hand can be a prime role for the board.  Of course, to do that means you need some sort of feedback mechanism for the users to report issues and concerns.

Which brings me to my biggest point.  I think that a main responsibility for a governance group is to monitor the policies in place for their effectiveness.  For example:

  • Enforcing HR policies regarding inappropriate content stored on SharePoint may fall to a combination of user reporting, manager oversight, site owner auditing, and HR auditing.  Are the audits being done?  How is this reported to the board? 
  • The plan may call for specific service levels from the backup team, the database team, etc (even if these teams are the same person/people).  Are these service levels being met?
  • Processes may be specified for moving customizations from dev to test to production.  Are these process being followed?
  • Is the training and communication plan being followed?  Is the training effectively impacting user adoption and appropriate usage?

While the governance board may not be directly responsible for monitoring things day-to-day, or doing audits, or running disaster recovery drills, the governance plan should include specific metrics and expectations on reporting the effectiveness and outcomes of the policies in the plan.  As much as possible, each requirement of your governance plan should be SMART – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.  Feedback should be actionable.  And if you have tied each requirement of your governance plan back to business goals, your analysis should be able to go both ways:

  • Is the requirement that we are evaluating enabling the business goal it is related to?
  • Is the business goal that we are evaluating being achieved, and how are the requirements enabling/hindering it?

Since all of this can be a pretty big responsibility, if possible, try to rotate the membership of your group.  Not only will this help prevent burnout and loss of enthusiasm, but it can bring in fresh perspectives with possibly differing points of view, and perhaps communicate to the user community that the board is inclusive and open to different points of view.

Hopefully this will give you something to bring back to your governance committee to help them define their ongoing role, and perhaps spark discussion of important issues.

To the SharePoint community:  What do you think?   Have I missed anything?  Can you add your perspective on your experience and help P. define their committee’s ongoing role?

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2 thoughts on “Q: Ongoing Role for Governance Committee?

  1. I’m the only SharePoint guy in my organization. I’m starting to even wonder why they paid for the license because so few use it, but that seems understandable when the average age of all employees is over 50. That said, I handle the governance myself. I find that I need to be more strict with people who have the least exposure and most lax with the ones with the most exposure. I hand pick the ones I can trust to give them more permissions. I’ve even allowed a few to make their own content type even though I am still scared to death that someone will rename Title on the Item content type. Really, for me it all comes down to training. If you are confident you know what your people are doing, you can relax your governance. If you can’t trust them to keep raunchy stuff off of blog posts, you shouldn’t allow them to work there. That is a lot of liability.

  2. Scott –

    Excellent points.

    Training is key, and that understanding is crucial to the success of SharePoint in your organization.

    And you have hit on another key point – that different environments, given the differences in users and utilization, will require different levels of oversight, which is (part of) what makes “governanace” often appear to not mean anything specific… it means something different to every organization.

    There is an intersection where governance and trust meet. We have a power user here that has taught me a few things about “no-code” (by Microsoft’s definition) customization, but he’s also the one that is on the other end of the phone when I walk into my office first thing in the morning and its ringing. He’s usually broken something. To incorporate his needs and abilities into our governance, we gave him a sandbox to use as his playground, and we have a policy of not doing development in the production environment (in this case, development also includes the intruduction of CSS modifications via the web interface, or the inclusion of any coding or scripting via Content Editor web parts). He has to test them in the the dev environment before migrating the solution to production. I trust him enough to allow him to make the customizations (plus I am always looking forward to what he comes up with next), but I also know that, for the sake of good governance, there are still restrictions that need to be in place, just based on parctical good sense.

    As far as inappropriate content, you are right, that isn’t a SharePoint issue, it is an HR issue, or a legal issue (for content that violates copyright). My recommendation is not to get too specific of what is inappropriate content in a governance plan, but instead incorporate existing HR or legal policies by reference – “Content shall be appropriate, useful in the business enviroment and in alignment with company Code of Conduct”, and “Make sure that you have permission to use the content, and that we own it or obtained proper licences to publish.”

    (In actuality, my content concerns aren’t about the raunchy as much as the legal right to use the content. Which again comes down to training, as most users have had more exposure to wild world of the world wide web, where copyrights are generally ignored, than they have to the legal requirements surrounding rights liabilities.)

    It sounds like, though, in your environment, that your version of a governance board is just yourself. I would consider setting something more formal up to help the business users to understand the value that SharePoint can bring them, and help you to understand what value you can help SharePoint bring to them. It might help improve user adoption and may improve your company’s productivity. At any rate, it almost never hurts to being other perspectives to the table to create mutual understanding.

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