Why Bad Things Happen to Good SharePoint

Why Bad Things Happen to Good SharePoint


Michelle Bolda Esposito, Senior Partner, Rogue Services and Solutions.


You know when you’re driving along peacefully, you are really sure you know where you’re going, and then, BAM, you’re hit by a train?

Hopefully, no, you don’t know.

How extraordinarily insensitive it would be for me to use that example if it were widespread. It’s a metaphor, people. It’s meant to convey catastrophe.

Sometimes in life or in work or in SharePoint, everything goes off the rails. I am by no means an expert at the life part—trust that—but in work, and specifically in SharePoint, I promise you can at least mitigate the risk of catastrophe with governance.

“Governance” is such a word right now. [As an aside: I love it when a thing that’s always been a thing is given some lofty label. It’s kind of a marketing technique for specialized professions (consultants, attorneys, you get the idea) so that people outside of those professions think it’s too new and/or scary to execute without the help of said professionals. Shout-out to my professor friend Jesse in the green shirt for making me aware of this years ago because it really changed the way I see things, and in a good, or at least more acutely b.s.-detecting, way.]

For the purposes of this blog post, governance is the consistent implementation of the policies, roles, responsibilities, and processes that control how an organization’s business divisions and IT teams work together within SharePoint to achieve its goals. Governance begins with an understanding of a common vision for SharePoint use for the enterprise, and policies are developed in support of the vision by some leadership group, often called a “SharePoint Governance Committee.” Hey, in IT, we enjoy literalism. That committee meets regularly and decides what can/can’t, should/shouldn’t be done with and within SharePoint, based on the policies. The policies should be consistent with the use of SharePoint within the organization. What I mean by that is, is it to be a transformational asset for collaboration or is it an operations and maintenance tool? The policies can and should change over time, at some interval established by the SharePoint Governance Committee. Blahblahblah. You see why I said it’s not sexy over in my new year’s post.

Note that I used the words “consistent implementation” in the definition above. If you create a bunch of awesome policies but never use them, that’s not governance. If you have SharePoint vision and strategy meetings but don’t follow some rules of engagement and/or don’t meet regularly, that’s not governance. Maybe someone, somewhere would say it is. I’m saying that person is a big fat liar.

This is where governance gets hard–and it’s why bad things happen to good SharePoint. It’s hard to implement anything consistently. Why do individuals set fitness and exercise goals for Jan 1 and then fail spectacularly by… Jan 8? Because I like Doritos, and it’s hard to do the good stuff as regularly as we should. And now I’m saying you have to create a COMMITTEE of PEOPLE and expect them, a bunch of individuals who have a hard time doing a thing consistently, to do a thing consistently? Pshaw. But, yes, that’s what has to happen. I’m an agile practitioner in addition to being the other things I am (SharePoint fan, small business owner, project manager, mom, blogger, lover of a good parenthetical… and ellipses), and I’ve made a few nickels by simply hosting daily meetings that keep people accountable for the consistent implementation of a thing.  SharePoint governance should not be ignored, and even though it’s hard, it’s worth it.

You don’t want to be 2 or 5 or 8 or 10 years down the road with SharePoint, you think everything is fine, and some thing happens (often plans for an upgrade/migration!) that makes you realize you have content sprawl, there are redundant sites, no one knows where their documents are so they are saved multiple times in multiple places, permissions are a disaster, and customizations that really shouldn’t have been made have been made by people who shouldn’t even be touching SharePoint Designer. You were driving along, thinking everything was on pace, but that train was heading in your direction the whole time. This is seriously what happens without governance. I’ve seen it with my own eyeballs, experienced it in the organizations I’ve worked in, and I have been paid to fix it. I know of what I speak. The solution is: Avoid the train.

Now that I’ve told you why governance is a hard thing to do for almost everyone, let’s get to the meat of what the thing is so you can commit to doing it. Me telling you that you need some  policies that align with the SharePoint vision and goals of your organization is true, but it’s not necessarily helpful.

At Rogue we are often asked to facilitate SharePoint governance meetings. I’ve done governance kick-offs, I’ve written governance handbooks, I’ve sold governance as a business-critical initiative. The thing that keeps happening is governance just is what it is. There isn’t some unique universe of SharePoint governance waiting to be discovered. Unless there is, in which case, cool, I’d like to see that. So we created a super handy governance framework document that can be tailored to a specific organization but gives you all the basic stuff that everyone needs. And while I should end the blog post here and say, “And if you call in the next 15 minutes…” I’m feeling friendly and am going to go ahead and tell you what’s up.

Your SharePoint Governance Plan, which is just the term I’m using for the body of knowledge–policies, role definition, responsibilities, meeting frequency, etc.–must contain both business and IT rules of engagement for SharePoint. Uh-oh, collaboration between the business and IT (another reason why governance is hard).

SharePoint is a business platform, so the business needs to decide how it will be used, where the budget comes from, and how to prioritize projects within SharePoint. Branding and standardization are often biggies for the business (marketing teams, do you agree?). Also, documents. All the documents. The business needs to decide how they will use SharePoint libraries so IT can implement accordingly. In terms of IT, there’s a whole lot to put on paper or in a wiki: security, document management, versioning, permissions, backup/recovery, site provisioning, site lifecycle, usage audits, storage, maintenance and monitoring, service pack updates (if applicable), and customization policies. In addition, both the business and IT have to come to some understanding of the human resources required to make SharePoint go. If the business wants it to fly to the moon, does IT have the bodies and the capabilities to throw at achieving that goal? Realism is important during all this SharePoint vision stuff. Why set expectations no one can meet? Then you’re just setting yourself up for another collision.

So that’s SharePoint governance in something quite bigger than a nutshell, with the threat of a train-wreck thrown in for good measure. Are you terrified? Good. Best get to governing.

This article was originally published on Rogue Services and Solutions’ blog.

See live demonstrations on how to overcome the most common challenges with SharePoint, as well as successfully leveraging the power of this tool to drive communication, engagement and value at SharePoint for Internal Communications, Oct. 24-26, in Atlanta.

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