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Top 10 Considerations for SharePoint 2010 Governance

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A SharePoint 2010 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. To help get you started, Susan Hanley, coauthor of Essential SharePoint 2010: Overview, Governance, and Planning, outlines 10 steps to consider when preparing your SharePoint 2010 governance plan.
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Much like the "digital natives" who have grown up with digital technology and are now entering the workforce, SharePoint 2010 can be characterized by the simple expression "We are not alone."

The new SharePoint is far more "social" than the generations that preceded it. SharePoint 2010 relies not only on the structured design provided by the solution architect but as much or more on the collective contributions of the user community. Whether ranking content that they like, collaboratively creating content, or "tagging" content with their own taxonomy, users have the opportunity to improve the organization's ability to deliver and share knowledge and best practices.

Some features in SharePoint 2010 will be new to users of past versions of SharePoint, but "digital natives" will feel right at home with the platform because of its similarities to the "social web," which encourages users to participate actively rather than simply reading static content.

SharePoint 2010 recognizes the global nature of information and enterprises, making it easier to support multiple languages on multiple browsers and multiple platforms, such as handheld devices.

The new world of SharePoint is both "flat" and "social," and an effective governance plan is critical if you want to build effective solutions on this platform. Governance planning requires far more effort than can be described in a single article, but my "top 10" list will get you started:

  1. Identify an inclusive team.
  2. Start with "framing" decisions.
  3. Determine your deployment model.
  4. Define a clear vision.
  5. Identify roles and responsibilities.
  6. Develop guiding principles.
  7. Decide your organizational comfort level with social computing.
  8. Define policies and standards.
  9. Document the plan.
  10. Socialize and promote.

For detailed information, I encourage you to read Chapter 4, "Planning for Governance," in Essential SharePoint 2010: Overview, Governance, and Planning. To make this process easy, the publisher has provided the chapter as a free PDF for download or reading online. (The PDF also includes the book's complete table of contents and index, which you may find helpful as a preview of the book's coverage.)

Step 1: Identify an Inclusive Team

The first thing I like to do when developing a governance plan is form a governance planning team. The team needs to be small enough so that you can actually make some decisions and get work done—maybe four or five people. You can engage a larger group to review the initial decisions, but your planning team should be small. The team needs to represent the parts of the organization that have the most influence on the governance plan as well as those that will be most strongly affected by the plan. For example, include representatives from the following business areas:

  • Information technology (IT)
  • Training
  • Human resources
  • Corporate communications
  • Knowledge management

Step 2: Start with Framing Decisions

Identify some basic decisions that will help to set the stage for thinking about governance. I call these framing decisions because they address the first questions that the planning team needs to consider. Obviously, the answers to these questions are important, but even more important is the conversation that each question generates. The answers to these questions don't have to be permanent (answers may change over time), but they can give you an understanding of potential issues or areas of conflict as early in the process as possible.

I've found the following framing-decision questions to be particularly helpful:

  • Who can set up new pages/sites within the existing hierarchy?
  • Who can create a new level in the navigation or promote an existing site to the top level of the navigation?
  • Can page owners redesign the page/site layout? If yes, how much of the page can they modify?
  • Who can make changes to the overall branding for the portal?
  • Who can manage metadata—for example, changing metadata types or values?
  • What processes/roles are needed for enterprise-wide management of metadata?
  • Who controls security on pages/sites?
  • Which social computing features do we want to deploy?
  • How do you plan to address non-compliance with governance standards?
  • How will the governance model be updated and maintained?

Step 3: Determine Your Deployment Model

Every type of site doesn't necessarily need the same governance plan. For example, perhaps only a small part of your portal deployment requires strict governance. This will usually be your central portal or intranet pages, where the content has a broad reach and provides authoritative information for the enterprise. Your external Internet site will also require strict governance, since it provides your public—and permanent—face to the world. If you have divisional portals whose emphasis is the communication of critical information, these areas may also need strict governance. Team and personal sites may have fewer required rules, and therefore they may have more flexibility in terms of the type of content allowed and frequency of required updates.

Step 4: Define a Clear Vision

A clear vision statement provides critical guidance to the inevitable decision tradeoffs you'll need to make when thinking about your governance plan. "We need to be doing Enterprise 2.0" is not a vision. A good vision statement clearly communicates the business outcomes expected from your solution.

Many organizations share a critical outcome objective for their SharePoint solution. I usually express this objective as "Improve the 'time to talent'—the speed with which new employees become productive." The right kind of portal with the right kind of governance plan can have a significant impact on this objective. With a clear vision and business objectives, you'll provide guidance to your governance planning team as well as your solution designers and users.

Step 5: Identify Roles and Responsibilities

The introduction of a new portal solution typically brings new responsibilities to existing roles; in some cases, it also introduces new roles to the organization. Therefore, it's especially important for your governance planning team to have representation from your Human Resources group.

One new role that many companies will need to support with SharePoint 2010 is that of a Metadata Steering Committee or a Metadata Content Steward. While some large organizations may already have an individual or group serving in this role, the SharePoint 2010 enterprise content capabilities require an overall metadata management plan and an individual or team responsible for maintaining the metadata dictionary over the life of the solution.

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