SHARE 2012: Richard Harbridge Details ‘The Steps to Effective SharePoint Governance’

Richard Harbridge began his SHARE session this afternoon by stating that there is no single, 100% guaranteed way to implement SharePoint governance, and that the bottom line is that it comes down to "it depends" in terms of what's best for a given organization.  What's best for one organization isn't necessarily going to be best (or even reproducible) at another company.  The only 100% guarantee you get with governance is that, without it, there are going to be "lots of risks."  Such risks include, but are by no means limited to: unmanaged SharePoint site sprawl, or, more specifically, permission scrawl, which tends to break search and navigation; quality deterioration; priority paralysis; and ineffective use of time/resources.  Richard contends that, without governance, it doesn't matter how strong any given team is… ultimately, they're not going to be successful.

Richard said that "Governance pre-launch is important, but it's far more important post-launch," but also cautioned that "Governance is not insurance [but] it makes your SharePoint investments more successful over time, with less money."  I expect Richard would be pleased if you were to quote him on that while building the case for your business owners on the importance of governance. 

Richard explained that typically/ideally, there are five teams which share responsibility for SharePoint governance.  The first of them, the Business Strategy Team provides strategic insight, direction, and prioritization for the portal.  Richard gave a brief mind-mapping demo to show how it's possible to break down objectives that, when done correctly, will ultimately map to a solution set that will provide business value. 

The Solutions/Technical Strategy Team provides technical insight, direction, and prioritization for the portal.  "This is where IT shines," said Richard, explaining that this team will map solutions to the objectives defined in the mind-mapping exercise.  It's also up to the Solutions/Technical Strategy Team also to define what SharePoint should and should not be used for.  To this last point, Richard referenced his NBSP blog post, SharePoint is not a Silver Bullet.

In addition to the two strategy teams, Richard explained that there should also be a pair of tactical teams in an ideal SharePoint governance scenario.  The Tactical Operations Team provides operational support (IT-related) and maintenance for the system infrastructure, and the Tactical Development Team is on hand to customize/configure, personalize, and otherwise leverage SharePoint to achieve business objectives. 

Finally, the Tactical Support Team provides support for the SharePoint applications and the platform overall.   Richard stressed that "There need to be multiple tiers for escalation" within the support team infrastructure. 

As a general governance tip, Richard suggested that, "If possible, have one member [participate] in all the governance teams, or some members across multiple teams."  Richard also underscored the importance of coming up with appropriate strategies to address specific existing pain points, and defining exactly what you're going to do to ease the pain in each case.

Richard also strongly recommended that you "have a governance site, and not a single 'governance plan' document."  Why?  Because governance needs to be a living process, and content in the site must be updated and remain fresh in order to remain relevant.  Furthermore, Richard suggests that you "use SharePoint to govern SharePoint" by creating your governance site in the platform.  Richard took the opportunity at this point to wryly observe/caution, "Don't put your disaster recovery plan in SharePoint." 

In summary, Richard shared his "5 steps to successful SharePoint governance" as being:

  1. Understand the need for governance.
  2. Build your governance teams.
  3. Understand how SharePoint is/should be used.
  4. Develop/practice guidance and policies.
  5. Return to step two and repeat steps two through four.

Richard has made his entire slide deck available, and it includes the specific responsibilities he recommends for each of the five teams, as well as useful examples of content for a governance site, and much more.  View or download his deck at:

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