Over the past decade, SharePoint went from an organizational document-sharing tool (usually deployed under the radar of the IT organization) to become a critical business platform within most organizations, and yet many companies still struggle to make SharePoint scale to meet their growing end-user demands. Traditionally, as SharePoint grows (more users, more business scenarios addressed, more solutions deployed), it becomes more complex.
Administrators are always looking for best practices, trying to learn from the rest of the community, which has increased interest in leveraging industry and expert best practices around information and IT governance as a way to help them to get their environments under control and to help them scale.
Some of these best practices are not unique to SharePoint—most can be applied to any enterprise application. In my experience, adherence to five key focus areas will help companies get their SharePoint environments under control, allowing them to get the most value out of their SharePoint investments:
- Document your policies and procedures
This is what most people think about when it comes to governance—the tactical aspects of managing SharePoint, such as setting (and cleaning up) permissions, creating site and content creation rules and thresholds, organizing site and metadata taxonomy structure and management, and managing alerts.
- Prepare for distributed management
Most organizations need to manage policies and procedures at different levels—at the site, site collection, farm, and multi-farm level. An important part of a governance strategy involves decisions around accountability, and knowing where these policies and procedures are managed. This becomes even more complex in hybrid environments, where governance policies and service level agreements (SLAs) may differ between what is managed on prem and what must be managed through Microsoft's help desk—since Microsoft manages the SharePoint Online platform.
- Be clear on roles and responsibilities
Another important aspect of a strong governance strategy is having a clear definition of roles and responsibilities—knowing what is expected at each level, and where to escalate. The hard part is managing who does what, knowing where their roles are being managed (Active Directory or SharePoint groups), and making changes in a timely manner.
- Have consistent change management procedures in place
As with any enterprise application, deployment of SharePoint is an iterative process with adjustments made as you learn and as your requirements change. Likewise, your governance strategy will change as your SharePoint environment matures, impacting the ways in which you track, measure, and automate.
- Have a communication strategy
A healthy part of any governance model should be a strong communication strategy, which will help to get people involved, to keep them abreast of what is happening, and to give them data on what has happened. The more informed people feel, the more supportive they will be to the decisions being made to the platform.
While it is advised that any new SharePoint deployment include a sound governance strategy, the reality is that most governance plans happen mid-stream. These areas of focus remain true whether planning for a future environment, or attempting to reign in a platform that seems out of control.