With the move to cloud and an upswing in hybrid environments, focusing on governance is once again a hot topic. Putting efforts into the right areas of governance can make or break your approach.
If you have ever been down the governance road before, you probably cringe at the mere mention of the word. I have yet to meet a single person from a single company who has not struggled with governance in some form or another. In hopes to alleviate the pains of getting lost along the way, here is a practical approach for creating an end-user focused governance strategy.
Partner IT with business & Hash it out.
A critical make or break point (especially in today’s cloud-first, mobile-first environments) is the need to work together for governance. No longer is SharePoint strictly IT’s problem. In order to help alleviate some of the pain and to get over some of the major hurdles we often face with governance, we need to break down the walls of communication and share the ownership of the platform with the business. Working together will ensure a voice of customers is brought to the forefront and doing so places accountability on both sides of the fence.
We also must come to agreement on what tools should be available for users and which should be locked down. This will be a challenge in some organizations since the business may be screaming, “We need more!” while the IT teams are saying, “But it’s too dangerous!” As a partnered governance team, it is now the goal to bring both opinions to the table to find out why the differences exist and solve the problems that keep us from moving forward.
A great method for facilitating these types of discussions is what I call “Dream Big” sessions. Instead of coming into the planning process with a negative mind-frame of “How do we stop this argument?” it puts us in a place of open-mindedness right off the bat. In a Dream Big session, you simply have both teams come together and brainstorm their ideal uses of governance or the platform in general. Then little by little, you address the pros and cons. If things get too passionate, break and return at a later date to continue the discussions. The goal is to stay optimistic and objective.
Make it official & Lay the fence.
Once we have a team established and we have come up with a capabilities list based on our Dream Big sessions, we are ready to get things on paper. In fact, if you were taking notes in your brainstorming sessions you may already have the beginning of your documentation already in your hands.
Start with defining a SharePoint-specific policy. This doesn’t have to be anything huge or have a bunch of legal jargon. You just want somewhere to officially record the rules of the road when it comes to SharePoint interaction. Your policy should direct users and stakeholders as to the intent of the tool and its proper uses. It is absolutely acceptable to refer to other overarching corporate policies in your SharePoint-specific policy. Things like retention, HR, Legal and IT security policies commonly apply to SharePoint.
With policy established, it is time to implement the parameters you have designated. To ensure that you make good use of the parameters you define, aim for a good mix of hard controls versus monitoring for violations in order to help alleviate the pain of too much limitation or not enough.
When your parameters are defined and implemented, put together your governance documentation. This will be your users’ guide to their SharePoint galaxy. This document (or site or library) should be their go-to place when they have questions on what their role is or how to accomplish something in the platform.
This may also be a good time to kick off an official committee or board dedicated to SharePoint governance. Just remember to keep it simple and exclusive in order to make sure time is used effectively and efficiently.
Communicate & Empower.
With all the rules in place and the team formed, your road is paved and ready for drivers. Now we need to let them know the new rules of the road. Reach out to your power users and engage them on the new direction – get their feedback on the newly established parameters and get their buy in. After all, if you don’t have buy-in from your key users, your work is for naught. Utilizing your star players will also allow you to receive candid feedback on policies and governance practices that you may not have considered.
Define a method of empowerment that encourages users to play by the rules and want to learn the best way of building their own solutions. This could be something as simple as making sure to respond to inquiries. Fostering two-way communications can make a huge difference. You may also look into the ability to implement an official rewards and recognition program. Many organizations who have successfully launched recognition programs centered on collaboration have found great benefit.
Monitor & Refine.
Last but not least, don’t set it and forget it. With all of this legwork, support and communication, you have actually implemented a SharePoint governance strategy. Don’t lose momentum. Make sure you are staying in contact with your users to keep tabs on what the business is doing and who is doing it. Continue to monitor for any breaches of governance or policy on a regular basis. Escalate where necessary to ensure quick action (this is where your governance committee will be helpful) and set a goal to revisit the overall strategy and team members annually at the very least to make double sure your efforts are concentrated in the right places and your business is getting the most out of their investment.
Maintaining contact and building a relationship with your users can really change the landscape of your SharePoint deployment. Make good use of your business-side partners in governance to help foster those relationships and focus on the interactions that require soft skills.
Showing your users that you can work together to bring them the best possible experience in SharePoint will give them confidence to explore and allow them to trust in their administrative teams to get the job done.