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Planning for Governance with SharePoint 2010

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This sample chapter explains why governance planning is so important, how to create a governance plan, and what a governance plan includes.

The governance plan describes how your SharePoint environment will be managed. It describes the roles, responsibilities, and rules applied to both the back end (hardware, farm, application, database configuration, and maintenance) and the front end (information architecture, taxonomy, and user experience). Effective governance planning is critical for the ongoing success of your SharePoint solution. In the previous edition of this book, we embedded the discussion of governance in the chapter on strategy. In this edition, we give governance a well-deserved chapter of its own but focus primarily on front-end governance because this is the topic that is, quite frankly, hardest to get right. A good governance plan is "necessary but not sufficient" to ensure success, so be advised: A governance plan alone will not guarantee the success of your solution. You still have to ensure that the governance plan is applied. However, not having a governance plan or having a plan that is either impractical or unrealistic is a clear recipe for disaster. This chapter contains the following key sections:

  • Why Is Governance Planning So Important?
  • How Do I Create a Governance Plan?
  • What Is in the Governance Plan?

Why Is Governance Planning So Important?

A portal or collaboration solution is only as good as the value of its underlying content. A strong governance plan is essential to ensure that a solution delivers worthwhile content to its users in an effective way. Moreover, governance planning is especially important for SharePoint solutions because SharePoint is designed to empower end users who are typically not Information Technology (IT) or content management experts and may not be aware of best practices that will not only improve usability but also save them a lot of time and energy when creating and deploying new sites.

A governance plan establishes the processes and roles required to

  • Avoid solution, team site, and content "sprawl" (that is, unmanaged sites and content that is not periodically reviewed for accuracy and relevance) by defining a content and site review process.
  • Ensure that content quality is maintained for the life of the solution by implementing content quality management policies.
  • Provide a consistently high-quality user experience by defining guidelines for site and content designers.
  • Establish clear decision-making authority and escalation procedures so policy violations are dealt with and conflicts are resolved on a timely basis.
  • Ensure that the solution strategy is aligned with business objectives so that it continuously delivers business value.
  • Ensure that content is retained in compliance with record retention guidelines.

Adoption of a new SharePoint solution often involves a dramatic change in user behavior—specifically, greater integration of technology into day-to-day work and increased collaboration. In more traditional IT solution deployments, the solution business logic changes relatively infrequently. In a SharePoint solution, both the back-end database and business logic change frequently and often significantly. Moreover, the business, market, and technology are guaranteed to change during the lifetime of the solution. This implies that business stakeholders must be continuously engaged given that SharePoint's ability to meet user needs is critically dependent on areas such as data quality, content relevance and currency, and frequent updates, all of which are business user responsibilities.

What new aspects of governance do you need to consider for SharePoint 2010?

  • Governance planning is even more important in SharePoint 2010 because the increased emphasis and availability of social computing features means there are more types of content to govern.
  • SharePoint 2010 offers users a far more participatory role in the solution information architecture through the use of "social data" such as tags, bookmarks, and ratings. Users need to understand and internalize the value proposition for leveraging these features. Solution designers will likely need to provide both guidance and encouragement for their use. Refer to Chapter 7, "Getting Social: Leveraging Community Features," for additional governance guidance regarding the use of SharePoint 2010's social computing features.
  • SharePoint 2010 introduces new capabilities for sharing metadata across multiple Site Collections and even server farms, which require planning and control to leverage. An additional new role is required to manage and maintain the dictionary of shared metadata.
  • SharePoint 2010 includes new and more user-friendly records management capabilities, including the ability to declare a record "in place." (Refer to Chapter 6, "Making Enterprise Content Management Work: Documents and Records," for a description of the new records management capabilities in SharePoint 2010.) While many organizations had records management plans and policies for their MOSS 2007 implementations, enforcing and acting on these plans was not consistent. The new records management capabilities introduce an opportunity to create and enforce your records management plan.
  • SharePoint 2010 offers many more opportunities for users to customize their sites with easy-to-apply themes, SharePoint Designer, and the opportunity to create "sandbox solutions." Your governance plan now needs to include decisions regarding how, where, and when to allow configuration using these expanded capabilities.

You should prepare a governance plan prior to the launch of your solution,1 but do not think of it as being "done" at any one point in time. Your governance plan is a living, breathing document—make time in your project plan to revisit the plan as you learn more about how users are using the solution and capture feedback from their experiences. As your SharePoint environment evolves, revisit your governance plan to adapt to changing needs. You may find that you need greater oversight to ensure conformance. You may also find that you need less oversight to encourage more creative application of core features.

Communicating the substance of the governance plan is a core component of launch planning and the ongoing management of your SharePoint environment. It is especially important to ensure that page and site owners understand and commit to the content management responsibilities included in the roles and responsibilities section of your governance plan. Integrate relevant elements of your governance plan into the training and ongoing support you provide for site and content owners.

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