Any portal, of course, is only as good as the value of its underlying content. A strong governance framework is essential to ensure that a portal delivers worthwhile content to its users in an effective way. A governance framework is required to
- Avoid portal, team site, and content "sprawl" (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 portal by implementing content quality management policies.
- Consistently provide a high-quality user experience by ensuring that the governance plan is followed.
- Establish clear decision-making authority and escalation procedures so that policy violations are dealt with and conflicts are resolved on a timely basis.
- Ensure that the portal strategy is aligned with business objectives so that it continuously delivers business value.
A governance framework refers to the processes and roles that accomplish these governance goals. Some examples of the elements of a governance plan for a MOSS solution include the following:
- Vision Statement. A statement that describes, at a high level, what you want to achieve with MOSS. For example, "The company portal will be the primary means of accessing line-of-business (LOB) data within our organization."
- Guiding Principles. Organizational preferences supporting the vision. For example, "Corporate provides guidelines and optimal standards, but individual offices or departments may vary from the corporate guidelines if absolutely necessary from a business perspective."
- Policies. Specific policies reflecting decisions about rules and standards for MOSS. Examples of policies could relate to file names. For example, "File names should be topical and descriptive. Generally, file names should not include dates or versions." Policies may also relate to who has access authority to design pages and author content as well as provide standards for content metadata.
- Procedures. Instructions describing how to execute processes, including, for example, adding content, removing content, and adding metadata attributes to the corporate taxonomy.
- Roles and Responsibilities. Specific documentation describing how each employee as an individual or as someone with a particular role or as a member of a certain group is responsible for ensuring success of the MOSS solution.
Adoption of a new MOSS 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 MOSS solution, both the back-end database and business logic change frequently and often significantly. Moreover, both the business market and technology are guaranteed to change during the lifetime of the MOSS solution. This implies that business stakeholders must be continuously engaged since MOSS'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. In addition, unmanaged MOSS implementations can suffer from unconstrained growth of team sites and content that is not managed or updated on a regular basis. Developing a clearly defined governance model for your MOSS solution is an absolute necessity to ensure a successful deployment.
In a MOSS deployment, there are several key roles to consider. These roles and a high-level description of responsibilities are outlined in the following sidebar. Note that in smaller organizations, many roles may be fulfilled by a single individual. However, it is still important to consider the needs of each perspective in order to be successful.
Documenting roles and responsibilities is one of the more critical aspects of the governance framework or plan for the MOSS solution. The governance plan is typically developed by the solution design team, which, as defined earlier, needs to include representatives from both the technology and business stakeholder communities. The framework needs to define who has the authority to mediate conflicting requirements and make overall branding and policy decisions. Some of the policy decisions that will frame your governance plan and form the basis of the specifics of your roles and responsibilities definition include the following:
- How much responsibility for page design will you delegate to page owners? Can users modify Web parts (Web-based data and UI components) on pages that they "own" in team sites? Can they modify Web parts on pages that are part of the corporate intranet publishing portal?
- Will some Web parts be "fixed" on the page, or will page owners be allowed to customize all of the content on their pages?
- Who is allowed to set up or request site-wide Content Types or Site Columns? How much central control do you want to have over the values in site columns? (Content Types and Site Columns allow you to specify elements in your taxonomy. These MOSS features are discussed in detail in Chapter 5, "Planning Your Information Architecture.")
- Who has access to each page/site?
- Who is allowed or who will be responsible for setting up new team sites? If this responsibility is controlled by the IT Department, it is likely that IT will have to negotiate a service level agreement (SLA) for team site setup responsiveness with the business stakeholders. If this responsibility is delegated, users will need training to ensure that they follow acceptable conventions for naming, storage, and so on.
- If the governance model says that page and Site Owners need to be responsible for content management, will you be prepared to decommission pages where no one in the organization will step up to page ownership responsibilities?
The comprehensive governance framework should be documented prior to the launch of the solution. Communicating the substance of the governance plan will be a core component of launch planning. It is especially important to ensure that Page/Site Owners understand and commit to their content management responsibilities. Content management responsibilities should be included in the roles and responsibilities that are documented as part of the governance framework. However, because the portal is only as good as the content it contains, we have called out content management in a separate section of this chapter to ensure that this critical function gets the appropriate level of attention in your organization.