Governance is Good Hygiene for SharePoint

Much earlier this year, I wrote a blog post about SharePoint governance. As Rogue has grown and our project portfolio has expanded, we stand by that blog post and all the other things we have said about why SharePoint projects fail. I understand human nature and the idea that we have to make our own mistakes instead of learning from others’, but I wish I could spread the word about good governance and make it stick. It would save so much pain and, frankly, failure.

Here’s a real-life example of how people (this people) know they should do better but often don’t.

Every six months, I go to the dentist. My mother focused on this so much during my childhood, I assumed it was part of our religion. Those synapses formed, and my internal clock knows when to expect the You have an appointment with us! reminder postcard in the mail. [Hey, dentist, you can save your stamps when it comes to this girl’s mouth.] Anyway, at the dentist, the hygienist always asks me, “Do you floss?” and then “How often?” Depending on my priorities in life at the time, sometimes/rarely I proudly exclaim, “Yes!” and “Daily!” and then there are other times I sheepishly answer, “Yeah. Well. Um. I use mouthwash every night. Most nights. Definitely some nights.”

If I haven’t lost you yet… great, Michelle, why are you sharing this. It’s because SharePoint governance is like flossing. No one wants to do it, few of us do it regularly, and it’s really easy–and necessary to prevent lots of problems.

Many of our clients feel lost when it comes to governance. The WHAT DOES IT MEAN question. Microsoft has a ton of best practices published. The issues our clients face is: but how does this apply to MY business? How do I make this thing go?

Well, like flossing, you have to know how to do it right (no sawing motion with the gums!). Let’s call that the method or model. That’s where Microsoft’s handy what is governance poster comes in from that best practices link above. Seriously, it’s good. Then you have to understand how to apply it to your SharePoint universe. Here is how we begin to help our clients approach SharePoint governance.

  1. Governance begins with an understanding of a common vision for SharePoint use for the enterprise, and policies are developed in support of the vision. Ask yourselves this: Is SharePoint a strategic tool for your business, for enhancements and new functionality, or do you need to keep it running smoothly, status quo, for now? Write your vision for SharePoint on a whiteboard, as a start. It’s OK if your vision changes. Governance will change with it.
  2. Yes, you need some sort of a document or wiki or SharePoint site with words. Let’s call those words your SharePoint Governance Plan. The purpose of that plan is to support the vision at the time. It should:
    • Document the team infrastructure that will govern and support SharePoint
    • Explain the initial governing policies and procedures of SharePoint
    • Plan for SharePoint support in terms of both technical and human resources
  3. The “team infrastructure” I mention above could also be called the SharePoint Governance Committee (SGC). This committee is charged with maintaining and updating the governance plan. Because SharePoint is a business tool, its users ultimately own the SharePoint farm or tenant. The committee captures automation, document management, and application opportunities and then prioritizes them with an understanding of the technical and human resources available.
  4. The SGC also creates policies and procedures. This seems to be the pain point for everyone. Here is a start:
    • What are the roles of the members of your SGC? You probably need someone in charge of branding rules, someone technical (an architect?), a power user, business users. The SGC should not be made up of your IT department. It should be a collaboration between IT and the business.
    • But speaking of IT… there is definitely a special role for them. They need to create policies for security, permissions, custom permissions, SharePoint groups, permission inheritance, backup/recovery, and storage/database sizing. All the technical stuff.
    • Business users are able to contribute toward policies and procedures on branding/standardization;  site creation, archiving, retention, and deletion; and user training (content contributors and visitors).
    • What is the process for prioritizing SharePoint requests? Is it based on criticality, impact, ease of use, cost, whether the request can be built in-house or must be outsourced because of expertise or availability? Sometimes a scoring system is helpful. If that feels too heavy, a simple majority vote also works–as long as your committee members represent a fair cross-section of users and can express their needs.

Voila! A start to governance. That doesn’t seem so bad, does it? And it is like flossing in that you’ll feel a lot better when you do it and won’t have to fib when you don’t. BTW, the fibbing doesn’t work. We/they always know.

Need some more help with SharePoint governance? I know a guy!

Thanks for reading,


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