Q: Governance for Smaller Organizations

Some of the advice you are offering would likely work best for a large organization. What about a small one with less than 4 IT/IM staff, less than 200 SharePoint users and no legal department? – T.

In a small organization, it may seem like you don’t need as much governance. You surely don’t need all of the sample governance plan by Joel Oleson, as it lays out a potential plan for a multi-national organization with multiple SharePoint administration roles, and a team of developers.

But, on a smaller scale at least, the same considerations need to be addressed. Who is responsible for what? If you don’t have a separate Database Administrator (for example), then it is possible that the SharePoint Administrator would be responsible for backing up the database, and restoring it in the event of a system failure.  Or maybe it is the Network Administrator, depending on how roles are divided.  In any case, formalizing the roles of who is responsible for what is one of the basic tasks of defining your governance plan, regardless of the size of the organization.

In a smaller organization, you as the SharePoint Administrator are likely to be more familiar with the pains your organization is having around finding, modifying, preserving, and distributing information, or, at the very least, more familiar with the power players in each of the departments.  In a larger organization responding to user issues is likely to be divided up among several people, and you are less likely to interact with people outside your department on a regular basis.

In a smaller organization, you may have a smaller governance board, though that won’t always be the case, as you will still want representation for each job type, regardless of the size of the organization.

You mention that there is no legal department. There are still legal regulations that your organization operates under, and someone is responsible for making sure that those regulations are adhered to, and that those rules are known to the people doing the work. Whoever has that responsibility, whether it is management, Human Resources (for HR-related issues), or outside legal counsel, should be consulted to make sure that your governance plan complies with applicable legal requirements – document retention, HR regulations, discovery, etc. Usually this should be pretty straightforward, assuming your organization has its legal obligations documented. Build on your existing regulatory compliance infrastructure, and keep in mind that the choices you make in your governance plan can have legal implications.

Smaller organizations may have an advantage in their governance plans, in that it may be easier to get information and direct feedback from a larger portion of the population than would be practical for a larger organization.  This can help you define your governance to be more in tune with your users’ needs.

As I have said before, find out what the pain points are.  Find out how SharePoint aligns with your organization’s objectives – which means finding out what those objectives are, which means getting your organization to define those objectives (if they aren’t defined already), getting them to think about those objectives when considering what SharePoint in your organization is for.

Remember to use the tools built into SharePoint, regardless of the size of your organization –

  • survey your users using SharePoint surveys
  • organize meetings with meeting workspaces
  • save your working documents and lists to a governance site
  • consider writing an internal company blog talking about the issues and payoffs

Hopefully these tips will help you create an effective, living governance plan for your smaller organization.

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5 thoughts on “Q: Governance for Smaller Organizations

  1. Without governance, SharePoint failure is inevitable.

    From my experience:

    Employees saw the value, adopted en mass, and it became mission critical.
    Quickly became dependent but there were no rules and the basic version was short on resources.
    Middle management tried to create a governance document, but didn’t get traction.
    Created the document, but without ownership it was abandoned

    Resulting in:

    Lots of inexperienced users were given full permission rights.
    A project manager reset access at the root level, locking everybody out.
    Restore to a workable solution took IT 48 hours where “nobody went to sleep.”
    IT independently locked it down using permissions.
    Instability created a new wave of user antagonism.

    Through some research, I found that Enterprises who invested high effort in SharePoint governance activities were 81% more successful than those who invested low effort.

    To increase the value of SharePoint or any collaboration effort, invest some time in Governance.

    • Sorry it took so long to get around to it… Life and all that.

      And to everyone else who has been asking questions, I’ve been on a writing jag recently, expect to see your questions answered shortly!

      • No problem. I downloaded the Joel Olsen, etc. template document weeks ago. I become overwhelmed every time I attempt to read it, edit it to suit our needs. Not that I’m lazy… is there a template for SMBs somewhere? T

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