What's Taboo About SharePoint Governance

What's Taboo About SharePoint Governance

Greetings from 32,000 feet! Today I am flying to Philadelphia to meet with CIOs from major universities on the east coast to talk IT strategies, challenges, and solutions as part of the CIO Summit with SpecOps Software. And, in today’s column, I return to one of the topics I find myself discussing with every single customer: Governance. I’d like to share with you recent thoughts I’ve had in working with customers to help them understand what governance actually is.

Next week, we’ll drill into the details of the questions that drive the answers to “What is governance?” for your organization.

SharePoint Resources

Before I dive in, let me point you to some hot resources-of-the-week:

• SPC SESSIONS: The Microsoft SharePoint Conference in Vegas will be the “coming out party” for SharePoint 2013. Everyone… and I mean everyone!... will be there. Sessions for the Microsoft SharePoint Conference were just posted this week. I’m on the docket for four sessions, plus some other engagements, so it will be a busy week! I hope you can join us!

• ON-DEMAND VIDEOS: Microsoft TechEd Australia presentations are available on Channel 9 for streaming and downloadable, offline viewing. Because of the timing of Microsoft’s releases this year, TechEd Australia is the first event where they could talk about almost everything: Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, Azure, Exchange and Lync 2013, and of course SharePoint 2013. There are some great sessions, so if you want to start your learning now, this is the place to go!

And some resources of my own:

• PODCAST: MVP Michael Greth posted his interview with me. Listen as we sit in the Alps discussing SharePoint 2013, Windows 8, and other news.

• OCTOBER EVENTS: I’ll be at the SharePoint Leadership Forum, October 18 in Washington, DC, SharePoint Exchange Forum (SEF), Stockholm, Sweden, October 22-23, and SharePoint Connections, October 29-November 2 in Las Vegas.

GOVERNANCE VIDEO: Details about what I’ll discuss today and next week can be found on TechNet in a stream or download video

• GOVERNANCE ROUND TABLE: As a shameless plug, I am available to help your organization wrap its head around SharePoint Governance. I have a very few dates still open this year in the USA and Europe, and am scheduling into 2013 now. You can contact me on twitter (@danholme) or email (dan dot holme at intelliem top-level commercial domain).

Looking at SharePoint Governance

I’m often asked, “What should be in a governance plan?” and “How should you govern [name your favorite workload, like social or search or team sites]?” Questions like these lead to a point I’ve not written about governance, which is this: Governance is best defined by not defining it.

I think, instead, the word “governance” should become taboo in SharePoint enterprises, much like it’s taboo to say “good luck” to an actor before he or she goes on stage. I’m not sure that “break a leg” is an equally appropriate substitute for us in SharePoint Land, but perhaps the other theatrical substitute is: “Merde!”

The reason it’s dangerous to define governance is that it too easily becomes too narrow a definition, driven by the agendas and interests of a narrow range of people. But it should be a very broad definition that lays the groundwork for how you do the following things:

    • Innovate a solution to a business need (innovation)
    • Deliver that solution into the service and the customer base (delivery)
    • Manage the service and the business solution, the information it hosts, and the users that interact with it (administration)
    • Monitor and measure the service to ensure that the solution is being delivered and utilized as expected (insight)
    • Adjust the service or the solution if it is over or under critical metrics (remediation)
    • Incorporate lessons learned so that you can do it better for the next business solution (improvement)

There are many ways to slice and dice this list of what “governance” provides. I’ll call this list the “six wheels” of governance, and it is a six-wheeled vehicle because it’s a big vehicle, with a lot of people on board, on a journey that—if you haven’t figured it out already—never ends. It’s like the governance choo-choo train of California: You can never leave.

I’ve found this list of “wheels” is a useful way to frame discussions of governance, because there are fairly clear divisions of responsibility. Many definitions of governance broadly state that governance is the “people, policies, processes, and technologies that deliver a service.” Different skill sets are required to turn each of the wheels. Policies inform many of the legs, and policies are produced by the first leg (innovation). Governance is itself a process, and creates processes.

So the challenge is this: Trying to define governance is like trying to catch the wind. Defining governance risks destroying governance. Governance is management, and if you try to narrow down your definition of governance to a deliverable, then you’re already guaranteeing that you will fail.

Service governance, such as SharePoint governance, is an evolutionary process of getting better and better at delivering and managing solutions to business needs. What governance means to you, then, is specific to the solutions you are providing to your needs. Governance cannot exist in a vacuum. It cannot be defined without context. Instead, governance is something that is developed alongside the delivery and management of the very solutions it is governing.

That’s not to say that there aren’t skill sets, best practices, tools, and models to help you along. There are, and I spend quite a lot of time talking about them at events and with customers. Comprehensive, full-bodied governance is complex, but not difficult (there’s a difference!). It’s just a matter of ensuring you touch every base as you run around the diamond. If you miss a base, or if you don’t even know you should try to touch a base, you’ll be out. (Sorry to those folks for whom a baseball metaphor rings empty).

As I promised, next week we’ll take a look at what I call the “questions of governance”—the questions you can ask to drive a solution to being a well-governed solution.

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