What is governance?
The Burton Group says “Governance uses people, process, technology, and policies to define a service, resolve ambiguity, and mitigate conflicts within an organization.” I would only add that it specifically helps create a consistent user experience which, in turn, promotes better adoption. I like the Burton Group’s definition because it doesn’t rely solely on rules/control, or the quality of the final governance document or on SharePoint itself, but on the people.
A successful implementation of SharePoint in your organization starts and ends with people from server admins to end users who have clear expectations and an understanding of proper usage and capabilities. The governance plan provides the written documentation for regular reference and sharing. People are still responsible for making it successful.
When I set out to create my own SharePoint Governance Plan, I had two objectives:
- Create a plan that’s flexible enough to still encourage innovation and creativity
- Create a plan written for more than IT professionals; I wanted to create an accessible, consumable (less than 20 pages) plan that avoided using too much industry jargon and encouraged an ongoing discussion with end users in the spirit of continuous improvement
What do you include in a SharePoint Governance Plan?
Ask ten different people what belongs in a governance plan, and you’ll receive ten different answers. So start by asking your SharePoint Governance Committee what they feel people in the company need defined in the plan and start there. No governance committee? Ask a sample of end users on what they could use guidance or a more clear understanding. It’s hard working in IT and fully understanding the needs of end users outside the tech realm without taking the time to have that conversation.
I would recommend not including such a granular level of detail that you’ll be updating the plan on a weekly basis, but enough detail to be something useful you could see yourself referring back to later.
Here are some basic sections you could include:
- Introduction including purpose, intended audience and history
- Definitions/Acronyms of jargon-like words or frequent abbreviations
- Navigation/organization guidelines (how footer is organized, what qualifies for a place in the global nav, etc.)
- Roles & Responsibilities including vendors, governance committees & user groups
- Equipment & IT Resources
- Governance Model/Heirarchy
- Permissions guidelines/setup including any reasoning for restriction decisions
- Site provisioning/requests and approval process
- Content creation and maintenance
- Tips/Best Practices
- Layouts, colors, icons/logos, fonts, etc.
How to use a SharePoint Governance Plan
So you have a plan. Now what?
First, make sure your governance committee (if applicable) has discussed every page and approves it being accepted as the company’s new governing document for SharePoint. Review it as a committee on a quarterly basis to make sure it’s still serving its intended purpose and is staying updated.
Get the word out. Use your governance committee to help you communicate its publication throughout the company in members’ various departments. Write up an article for email distribution and/or your SharePoint home page highlighting members’ completed work on the plan. Perhaps an open session or town hall to “reveal” the plan and hold Q&A would be useful.
Print it | Post it | Share it | Makes us | Harder | Better | Faster | Stronger
Encourage organization-wide feedback via form or email. Follow up on suggestions and questions to encourage end users to continue being an engaged adopter and active participant in the SharePoint realm.
Continue communicating with your company through multiple channels on later modifications changes to keep everyone on the same page and minimize ambiguity/confusion.
Aside from communication, it’s important that you act as a role model in adhering to what’s written in the plan and referring back to it when answering questions or doing consultations for new projects. Keep the document alive and relevant by using it as intended on a regular basis.
New employees should see the plan at some point during orientation. People training to become a site owner or take on more responsibility should review the SharePoint Governance Plan.
My Sample Governance Plan and its inspiration
Here’s my first draft (cleaned-up) in case you, too, are tasked with the creation of a similar plan and are looking for guidance or ideas.
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I’m big on transparency, open data and sharing. And it’s with thanks to others for sharing their own ideas and work that helped guide pieces of my own governance plan. Here are some other articles and resources that you might find useful:
- Start Building a SharePoint Governance Plan in the Real World by Benjamin Niaulin
- Downloadable Resources from Microsoft like a “What is Governance?” poster
- This 50-page Sample Governance Plan from Paul D. Fox’s blog