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A Chat with Sue Hanley: Reigning Queen of SharePoint Governance

Last week I had a few minutes (literally) to catch up with Susan Hanley at SPTechCon. Sue is one of three authors (with Scott Jamison and Chris Bortlik) of “Essential SharePoint 2013”, now on its third edition.  Sue is a bit of an enigma.  Her appearance is that of a composed, somewhat reserved lady, but once she starts talking, boy is she animated!  You are immediately aware that you're in the presence of someone who is hugely passionate about SharePoint.

For those familiar with Microsoft code names (where’s the encyclopedia of MS code names when you need it?), Sue began working with SharePoint back when it was called “Tahoe.” At the time, she was leading the Knowledge Management program for a global consulting firm fully committed to a collaboration suite based on Lotus Notes. It was then that Microsoft showed up on the doorstep.

Our local Microsoft team came to present “Tahoe” as an alternative. All I can say is – I wasn’t impressed! In 2000, I left to work at a small consulting firm called Plural (later acquired by Dell). It had been named the top Microsoft partner in 1999 and so we were “all Microsoft all the time”. I led the Portal and Content Management consulting practice and represented Plural, and later Dell, on the Partner Advisory Council for Portals at Microsoft. We deployed some very early portal solutions based on SharePoint 2001 and many content management solutions based on CMS, which eventually became part of the SharePoint family.

It was all over for Sue...SharePoint hook, line, and sinker! By the end of 2001, her practice was “pretty much exclusively based on SharePoint.”

Fast forward to SPTechCon 2013 and we find Sue presenting on the topic of "Creating a SharePoint Governance Plan", a topic near and dear to her heart.  I asked her about why governance is such an important aspect of working with SharePoint. Her response:

I could write a whole book chapter about why governance is so important for SharePoint (oh wait, I did!) but to put it most succinctly: governance for SharePoint solutions are the people, processes, and policies necessary to ensure that your SharePoint solution meets both short- and long- term business goals, including those that may be required for legal or regulatory purposes. Without clear business goals, a governance plan is really meaningless. Without a governance plan, it’s virtually impossible to achieve your business goals. So basically, governance is important because it’s required to achieve business results.”

When "Essential SharePoint" launched last week at SPTechCon, I asked her about her experience writing the third edition, nearly a complete rewrite of the previous edition.

“I feel like we’ve all learned so much about what it takes to deliver successful solutions with SharePoint that I had a lot to say – and so did they! So far, the reaction has been very positive. Many, many people have told me that their copy of the “green book” has been extremely helpful. We’re hoping that this happens with the “purple book” – and to make it possible for our readers to re-use some of the content in their own governance and training plans, we’ve published in the Appendix online.”

Finally, as someone who has watched SharePoint evolve, I wanted to know what new feature (or two) she was most excited about.

“It is almost impossible for me to narrow it down to just two, but my clients are finding the new Community Site template with the engaging new Discussion List incredibly valuable. Unfortunately, there are a few “issues” with the template that I hope will get fixed soon. The new discussion list creates an incredibly engaging way to share and exchange ideas for communities of practice and technical support forums (and a bunch of other business scenarios) and we are seeing some really incredible exchanges in the early adopters. Another new feature that I think provides incredible value is search. I personally love the document preview capability, which makes it really easy to scroll through a list of results and quickly identify if you have found what you need.”

Sue said she could go on and on about the features (of course she could!) but I did only ask her for two.