SharePoint 2010 Site Governance

Website governance is about the people, policies, and processes that craft your site. And your governance helps you figure out how to apply all the SharePoint 2010 features that are available to you.

Failure is not an option

One of Microsoft’s key SharePoint product drivers was the goal to put more control and configuration in the hands of the users; SharePoint was designed to be The Platform of the People.

And people, as you’ve probably noticed, tend to be unpredictable. So SharePoint + Human nature = Chaos. Sooner or later, an uncontrolled proliferation of sites and subsites, ways of doing things, ways of tagging and applying metadata, and ways of managing documents will produce a very unwieldy SharePoint installation.

Get executive buy-in and support

Successful governance plans usually have a high-visibility advocate to support and communicate them. So find an executive buy-in. You won't have too hard a time making the case to leadership; they’ve already invested in a powerful SharePoint platform, and it’s probably supporting functions that are crucial to the success of your organization.

Line up executive support and enlist that support to drive the formation of and participation in governance committee activities.

Build an effective governance group

IT commonly dominates governance committees; they have to manage server space, deal with security groups, and implement new functionality. These are ample motivation to formalize much of what they do with SharePoint. But a governance committee comprised entirely or even largely of IT resources won’t get you where you need to be.

In addition to your executive sponsor, your governance group should represent a diverse mix of representatives from the business, representatives from any compliance areas, and folks from corporate communications and training.

Find the right level

Don’t try to identify and address everything someone might do with SharePoint; provide guardrails to steer your users in the appropriate things to do or to avoid. Those things vary by organization; there’s no magic list of what to address. (Larger organizations tend to need more governance than smaller organizations.)

Over time, your governance group will uncover areas that need governance, and this will be helped along if you already have a clear process in place to propose, evaluate, and implement governance when and where the need arises.

Yours, mine, ours: decide who owns what

Kick-start a governance effort by thinking about the whos: Who can do what? Who owns what? So for example, you might start with identifying who can provision top-level sites and who can provision subsites.

If you have global navigation, identify who decides what goes there. And so on. The whos will suggest the hows, so you can consider those next.

(Re)visit social networking policies

If you have a social media governance plan in place, it may have been developed to govern external social networking tools; if this is the case, you need to revisit it in the context of SharePoint.

SharePoint 2010 brings components of social media used in the real world into the workplace. And the ability for employees not only to connect with their peers but also use a corporate-sanctioned tool (SharePoint) to follow coworkers’ activities (via live feeds and Twitter-like status updates), exchange opinions with peers (via social tagging and ratings), and pool information (wikis) represents a significant change from external social media.

So if you have a specific governance policy around social media, revisit it in the context of internal communications. You’ll probably find that you need a whole new strategy.

Design and branding

Whether your SharePoint is an internal portal or a public-facing website, the interface should reflect your corporate image, present a certain level of design integrity, and provide users with a consistent navigation scheme that helps them find their way around.

Your governance plan should address look and feel and how things like global navigation persist across your site. (Master pages certainly can help define what’s changeable and what’s not.)

The content management bits

Metadata, content types, and taxonomies can help reduce the plague of duplicate-but-slightly-different information.

To leverage the content management of your SharePoint installation, encourage consistency around metadata and how things are tagged. Content types are a great way to ensure that a core set of tags are consistently applied to similar content, making the content easier to find, easier to reuse, and easier to filter.

So identify key metadata that needs to be formalized via content types and applied across SharePoint sites, and then develop governance around them.

Reuse Web Parts

One great feature of SharePoint is the fact that someone can create a really useful Web Part and then export and import it for use somewhere else. Plenty of community Web Parts are available for download on the web. Unfortunately, some Web Parts contain malicious code that can pose security problems or just simply don’t work as advertised.

Likewise, even some internally developed Web Parts can present problems if they allow users to configure them.

Web Parts need to be subjected to controls before they're added to your SharePoint sites. Develop governance around how they’re tested and approved, what the change control process looks like, and how they're released and made available.

Keep things current: web operations management

Web Operations Management is the care and feeding of your SharePoint sites. You may find it’s easy to think about SharePoint sites as projects with defined beginnings, middles, and ends. But in reality, they’re more organic than that. Websites are living entities, which grow and change over time. The more traffic your site sees, the more important it is to stay on top of that maintenance.

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