Part 1: What the heck is a “SharePoint Governance Plan”?

This is Part 1 in a multi-part series on Governance.  See the first post “A Word on SharePoint Governance“.

Microsoft provides a sample Governance Plan and overview on their website, and in this sample plan, they indicate:

Governance is the set of policies, roles, responsibilities, and processes that control how an organization’s business divisions and IT teams work together to achieve its goals. Every organization has unique needs and goals that influence its approach to governance. Larger organizations will probably require more, and more detailed governance than smaller organizations.

Clear as mud, right? Let’s break it down. In less general terms, there are 3 basic pillars of governance in a SharePoint Governance Plan.

1. IT Governance

IT Governance is the set of policies that allow for support and management of the basic infrastructure and planning, as well as supporting predicted growth of your environment. What does that mean? This section of the plan will address your security, infrastructure and web application policies around things like quotas, permissions, site ownership and backup and recovery.

In an on-premises installation, you will also establish governance around SharePoint installations in your environment.   Is your IT Governance centralized with your IT Department, or do you allow a more decentralized approach that lets others install SharePoint, create web applications or site collections, and grant permissions? You will include details of how you will track installations of SharePoint 2013 in your environment; block installations if your governance plan does not allow for them, keep servers current with software updates, and manage site collection upgrades.

Office 365 and the ability to host your SharePoint infrastructure with other Cloud providers like Rackspace call for different details in this section of the plan. For example, the management of your servers, backup and recovery, and SharePoint installations and patches or updates are handled by your hosting provider based upon the service level agreement (SLA) you have established with them.

2. Information Management

Information Management is achieved through a well thought out and planned Information Architecture that specifies how business content in SharePoint is organized, presented, secured, managed and the content owners who are responsible for it.

In simpler terms, this means – understand your Business collateral, who uses it, how it can be classified and who owns it.   You don’t need to boil the ocean here, and your information architecture will evolve over time, but a basic understanding of how the users in your organization collaborate around content and work together is the key to identifying the organization, tagging and ownership of that content in your SharePoint portal in such a way that it can be properly secured and easily found.

Companies that have content that is regulated by compliance will have those details in this section of the plan.  Information Rights Management decisions will be made including plans for content expiration and retention.

3. Application Management

Application Management Governance defines the corporate policies for Customization, Life Cycle Management, and Branding.  SharePoint is a deep and wide technology that allows for unlimited customization, whether that’s in look and feel (Branding) or additional applications that can be custom built by your team, or downloaded from the App Store; things like news sliders, accordion controls, and custom workflows.

Depending on the level of customization your organization will allow, processes must be put into place that establish:

  • Change Management Policies: The types of changes that are supported, who is authorized to make these changes, and how they are rolled out.
  • Life Cycle Planning: Versioning, updates, aging of older code, and rollback strategies; what to do when things go wrong.
  • Production update schedule and sign off committee, code reviews, maintenance windows and such.

In summary, a successful Governance Plan is one that allows the platform to be leveraged in an organized and thoughtful way, based on an understanding of the business information and requirements, environments and processes that work best with the team members in your organization.

Next, we will walk through the steps of creating a SharePoint Governance Plan tailored to your organization, in Part 2 : One size does not fit all – Building a Governance Plan that works for YOU.

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