Governance has been a hot topic of discussion in the world of enterprise collaboration, and SharePoint in particular, for a long time. It’s still something companies often struggle with. Having in place the policies, structures and processes to ensure that the collaboration environment is sustainable and meeting the organization’s needs can be the difference between a productive, thriving digital workplace and one that’s bogged down in a morass of hard-to-find content and overwhelmed systems.
Content sprawl is the most prevalent symptom of governance problems. Users are able to get into SharePoint and add documents or perhaps even site collections or lists, but they lose sight of the technical limitations of the platform. Lists can become so large that the list view threshold has to be increased, which in turn can place extra demand on servers. Or people will create and abandon sites, and nobody will know who owns them or what purpose they served. This can be especially problematic for on-premises solutions, but it’s less than ideal in cloud-based solutions, too.
Fortunately, some relatively simple tactics can be used to curb content sprawl. The exact approach used will depend on a company’s culture, which will influence how loose or tight the governance model should be. In any case, the place to begin is with the business needs. Identify these needs and then set up the technical needs to support this initiative. There’s a lot of good guidance out there for how to choose database sizes or how big a site collection can get before it’s archived, along with many other parameters that can help when putting together a strategy for farm maintenance. None of it is rocket science; you just have to talk about it and be vigilant about monitoring the farm.
Once the more technically oriented policies have been outlined, it’s time to look at policies around usage. One popular model is adopting SharePoint as a way to decentralize content management, meaning business managers in different units would be ultimately responsible for their content and sites, with minimal support from IT. It sounds good, but in reality it often doesn’t work. Collaboration, social and mobile tools all need a champion in the organization, and it’s difficult to find a champion from every department, which means the decentralized model often ends up leading to a lack of fresh and engaging content. Ideally, there will be a partnership between IT and the business to define usage policies and provide administrative support.
Security is also an important factor when considering governance. A security approach that is open and simple will make the system easier to maintain and encourage more collaboration. When working on governance, the organization has to decide how the information can be as open as possible while still keeping critical business functions under lock and key.
But an open system isn’t something IT can just roll out and say “if we build it, they will come.” That’s a recipe for content sprawl. Be careful about what users demand the freedom to do. Don’t allow every user to create a site or new libraries. Delegate that type of responsibility very carefully to people who have been trained and understand where and why they build new sites and libraries. Creating site templates can help IT to quickly issue new sites without sacrificing consistency in navigation and metadata. It’s also a good idea to audit content that hasn’t been touched in a long time, such as three years, to look for outdated or redundant pieces that should be eliminated or consolidated.
Having a good governance strategy takes some thought and work, including an ongoing effort to make sure policies are being followed and updated if necessary. Fortunately, there are some tools to help ease the administrative burden of maintaining good governance, like Metalogix ControlPoint. These can help out both on the IT side of governance and the user side of governance, providing tools that improve security, and introducing audit capabilities for monitoring size and usage information.
The key is to remember that governance has to be realistic and has to align with job responsibilities in many cases. Creating idealized governance or governance that is too restrictive does not allow a company to leverage the full potential and value of its investment in SharePoint. Governance is also never complete. It should be iterative and revisited, and modified to reflect the changing needs of the organization. As a new business objective starts to leverage SharePoint sites, the governance plan should be altered to accommodate that use case. Also, if social is introduced to SharePoint sites, figure out what the impact will be to the governance plan and modify as appropriate.
Every organization has a different culture and tolerance for leveraging SharePoint in its business. While certain areas of a plan can be templatized, some decisions about creation, management, archival, deletion and information compliance need to be tailored to the business mission of the SharePoint objects.
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