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Like this article? We recommend Step 2: Start with Framing Decisions

Step 6: Develop Guiding Principles

Guiding principles define organizational preferences that support the vision. The principles should reflect best practices that all users and site designers need to understand in order to ensure solution success.

It's important to make your guiding principles memorable—your goal is to have users internalize these statements. For this reason, I often use tag lines to clarify each principle.

Here's an example: It's generally a best practice to have consistent page-layout templates on key areas of your portal site. A consistent look helps users to understand what they're seeing onscreen and find what they need quickly. However, you may decide to delegate permissions for designing sites and pages to many people, enabling them to use their powers of creativity to redesign your template. A good guiding principle reminds site designers that even though they may have permissions that enable them to make changes to site templates and other "controlled" site areas, they need to agree not to make arbitrary changes to the basic site templates based on personal preference. Suggestions for changes to the standard site templates should be elevated to the Portal Steering Committee. To help site designers remember this concept, I reference the Spider-Man principle, "With great power comes great responsibility," reminding them to user their design powers wisely. (I sometimes play the sound clip from the movie during training sessions.)

Step 7: Decide Your Organizational Comfort Level with Social Computing

The absolute worst way to get started with social computing in your organization is because someone says that "the millennials expect it." Yes, it's true that the generation entering the workforce now is very comfortable with social computing in their private lives, but that doesn't mean that they necessarily know what to do with this skill inside the workplace. Sure, leveraging the social computing features of SharePoint 2010 might help attract new talent to the organization, but the features still need appropriate context and organizational support. Even more importantly, it's not the tools themselves that helps organizations get business results—it's what the tools let users do to solve real business problems.

If you're not already leveraging this type of technology in your organization, you need to approach the social computing features in SharePoint the same way you would approach any other project involving an emerging technology or one that's new to your organization: You need to have a business problem to solve.

Step 8: Define Policies and Standards

Policies define rules for SharePoint use. They're usually driven by statutory, regulatory, or organizational requirements. Users are expected to meet policies without deviation.

Standards describe best practices. Standards are usually established to encourage consistency. Users may adopt some elements of the standard that work for them while not implementing others; your governance plan should provide some guidance that helps users make good decisions about when it's not a good idea to deviate from a standard. In addition, you need to verify that your SharePoint policies and standards don't conflict with broader organizational policies.

Step 9: Document the Plan

You have lots of options for documenting your governance plan. Creating a single document may seem effective, but my experience has been that most users can't "consume" a large governance plan. It's important to find a way to document the plan while simultaneously making it consumable. For example, you could publish your standards and policies in a SharePoint list with relevant columns for organizing and sorting. Publish policies and standards where users can easily find and follow them. Some policies may need to be published to all readers, while others may need to be secured to protect the integrity of the application.

Step 10: Socialize and Promote

It's not enough to write down your governance plan—you also need to find a way to ensure that it remains viable. One great way to socialize your governance plan is to get a champion. At one organization where I was a consultant, a key objective for the SharePoint portal was to reduce out-of-control version issues that resulted from sharing documents as email attachments. Another objective was to reduce the size of email inboxes. To address these objectives, a key executive politely refused to acknowledge any email that had an attachment. Basically, he wouldn't read the message until its attachment was posted to the appropriate SharePoint document library and forwarded to him as a link rather than an attachment. This champion really helped to socialize and promote the "one version of a document" guiding principle!

It's crucial that you communicate persistently about your governance concepts. I've had clients who published their guiding principles on reference cards, mouse pads, and "table tents" in the cafeteria. It's less important for everyone in the organization to read every word in the governance plan than for everyone to understand the principles and concepts. So get creative, communicate often, and be responsive to feedback.

Effective SharePoint 2010 solutions need a strong governance model, but they don't need complicated models with lots of bureaucracy. An effective governance plan doesn't have to constrain every move—it has to provide guidance to users to ensure that your solution remains effective and vibrant over time.

Susan Hanley, president of Susan Hanley LLC, is an expert in the design, development, and implementation of successful portal solutions, with a focus on information architecture, user adoption, governance, and business value metrics. An internationally recognized expert in knowledge management, she writes a blog on SharePoint and collaboration for Network World Magazine. Sue is a coauthor of Essential SharePoint 2007: Delivering High-Impact Collaboration and Essential SharePoint 2010: Overview, Governance, and Planning.

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