SharePoint Governance and Continuous Improvement

There are a number of reasons why I have seen SharePoint Governance stall in many environments, but one of the most common reasons and the one I would like to address today, is the problem of trying to take or address too much scope at once.  There are a lot of topics that roll into SharePoint Governance; the SharePoint Governance Framework we use at my company identifies over 50 distinct topics.  In most cases it is not practical to take the full list of topics and work through a governance plan in one pass.  Instead, I advocate for an iterative approach starting with a selection of core topics and finding a pace that matches your organizations cadence to continue solidifying the process.

Continuous Improvement

Continuous Improvement (CI) is a concept that relates to Lean, Kaizen or TQM practices and is intended to use small, incremental changes to bring big results instead of trying change everything at once.  There are many advantages to this approach but the one that resonate most with me is that the incremental investments could be very small, but you start to see gains quickly.  I believe this relates very well to the process and concepts of SharePoint governance.  As you start to gain momentum you are much more likely to get stakeholder involvement which is critical to any governance effort.

Selecting Topics

The selection of topics is important.  There are some topics that lay the foundation for everything else.  I typically start with the core topics that are needed to define the service and system to be implemented (or that has been implemented).  I then move to the most critical items that are needed for managing the system such as touching on the core Information Architecture, Site Topologies, Site Creation Process (who/how/where) and Permission Management.  Over time, and definitely in more mature organizations, you can start to tackle some of the more subtle topics.

Depth for Topics

When reviewing a topical area, it is important to iterate there as well.  For example, when starting an implementation stakeholders may have a decent idea what the service definitions and SLAs might look like, but this will certainly change after it is in use for a while and perhaps became mission critical for core business processes.  As these requirements and needs evolve, additional iterations are required.  This fits very well with the CI concepts mentioned above.  These iterations continue to deliver more value to the stakeholders in small increments.

Finding a Pace

Finding the pace for the governance work can be difficult.  I think the pace for change in any organization is heavily tied to the organization’s maturity.  Anyone that has been IS/IT or IS/IT management for while should be familiar with the Capability Maturity Model.  In Level 1 organizations things are completely chaotic, with ad-hoc efforts which means you are constantly chasing a moving target.  As you progress up the maturity model though, there should be more discipline and an ability to stay focused.  In these organizations it is possible to iterate more frequently and potentially to tackle more topics in parallel.  There is no doubt that more mature organizations work more efficiently.

Other Considerations

Governance should be an ongoing process and the document should be a living document that continues to see change over time as the organization and it’s needs evolve.

It is also important to note that groups should not take a shortcut and try to minimize the stakeholder involvement to simplify the process or to quicken the pace.  Stakeholder involvement, specifically non-IT, is critical to these efforts and it could be argued that you really do not have any governance without this involvement.

Summary

Governance is a key aspect to success with SharePoint and by taking the right approach, and one that is in sync with your organization’s capabilities will greatly increase the likelihood that your governance effort will be successful.

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