My career in technology

There’s a new sheriff in town.

Governance has become a hot topic in the SharePoint community.  This is my fifth installment exploring the topic.

In my first installment, I talked about Why SharePoint Governance is a hot topic (basically because without governance, you will have a mess).  Next, I talked about What SharePoint Governance is, or can be (more than just “Thou shalt not”!).  Then I talked about the challenges to good governance that lurk in your organizational culture.  In my last post, I enticed readers with wild, impossible promises of providing them their own governance plan, on a silver platter.

Last time, I said “The only thing worse than having no governance plan is having one that no one pays any attention to – you’ve put in all the time and work but still have the same results”, and talked about making the structure of the plan work for us in our environment.  There are other things we are doing to sugar-coat the process, and provide incentives for buy-in.

In the organizational culture I’m dealing with, words like “control”, “monitor”, and similar get people’s backs up – nobody wants to be “controlled”, “monitor” is too Big Brother-ish – but a “governance plan” is likely to be accepted by the user base.  I don’t know about your environment, but in ours the terminology matters.

As I have mentioned previously, we have the advantage that the current system is unworkable – from both an administrative point of view, and from a user’s point of view.  Performance bottlenecks, difficulty finding things, difficulty understanding where things are supposed to go – all of these things are going to drive adoption of the new SharePoint 2010 implementation, on the condition that the new system works better than the old system.  With a newer, more performant system as the carrot, we are going to entice users to buy into the idea of doing things in a way that ensures that the new system works better.

Rather than trying to reorganize our current system, we are going to let sheer difference of the new environment help us break old habits.  It won’t look the same, it won’t be organized the same, and it won’t feel the same – so users won’t treat it the same.

In addition, we have another advantage working for us.  Our official records repository resides on a software platform from a company that no longer exists.  The organization has been working on choosing a new platform for a while, and has finally decided that SharePoint 2010 is going to be it.  Like the more performant systems, this too is a carrot – SharePoint has better search functionality and version control than the old system, and all users will have access (unlike the old system).

But it is also one of the “sticks”.  The “Wild West” that has been the paradigm for the SharePoint environment  – an uncivilized frontier with few rules – has come to an end.  To stretch the metaphor, the “town” has become big enough that a “bank” has decided to set up shop; and with it comes “Pinkertons”, and a little law and order.  We’re going to clean up this town.

Human Resources will be given the power, and most importantly, the tools to find lawbreakers and bring them to justice.  Managers will be deputized and given responsibility over the content for their area of the company.  Power users will become the neighborhood watch.   (OK, so neighborhood watches are not an old west fixture, but we sure aren’t going to let them run around with pitchforks and torches!)

SharePoint 2010 has some improved capabilities over SP2007 as far as tracking usage and limiting the ability of users to hog resources at the expense of others.  There is still plenty of room for third party tools to assist system administrators in managing permissions and monitoring usage.  But in my opinion nothing beats engagement – if managers are actually using the tools and the rules of the road are clearly spelled out and users are properly educated, that engagement will help keep things running smoothly.  Engagement is the best tool for keeping SharePoint vital and its usage manageable.

Though that does bring in the final piece of the puzzle, again in my opinion.  Training.  I can’t stress enough how much I believe adequate user training is key to maintaining a healthy SharePoint environment. Training. Training, Training, Training. If the users know what to do and are made comfortable in doing it by practice, they will get more out of SharePoint, your environment will be more sustainable, and your overhead will be lower.

Last Words

This is, for now, my final installment on SharePoint Governance.  I still have weeks of work ahead of me as we continue to develop training materials, make specific recommendations and rules for the use of SharePoint, and finalize our document and records management file plans.  Once we get further along, I’m sure I will have more things to say on the subject.

I am anxious for the plan to meet reality (no battle plan survives an encounter with the enemy), to “road test” this thing and find out where the flaws are.  The plans are looking great so far, but so far they are only plans.

Resources

But wait! That’s still not all!

Now I feel like a TV huckster shilling for some late-night, 1-800 number, deal-of-a-lifetime, “now how much would you pay for it?” junk.

So last night, just before going to bed, I made the mistake of checking Twitter. Big mistake. I got into a discussion with Paul Swider. He was talking about his reaction to an AIIM Industry Watch study (here is an analysis of it) – “What is the current state of governance?”

I highly encourage you to read his reaction before proceeding.

Now, I totally get where he is coming from – governance is a hot topic as I said, and some of the heat is coming from consultants looking to make money off the deal, and the heat attracts consultants the way a lightbulb attracts bugs.

I work in an environment where I have to live with the consequences of an environment stood up with no real governance plan. My users feel the pain of many of those consequences too. I got into this field and am passionate about it because I want to make user’s lives a little easier with less drudgery, and I believe (strongly) that SharePoint is a tool that can help accomplish that end. If lack of governance planning causes users more pain, and I want to give them less pain, lack of governance is my enemy. For me it isn’t about making a quick buck off some suckers.

When I tell business users that I can’t work on their project because I am busy cleaning the Augean Stables, they can see the value of having things working properly. Good governance properly applied is my Alpheus and Peneus rivers. The way I see it, you pay either way: the up-front expense of doing good governance, or the ongoing expense of poorly applied or nonexistent governance.

But, as I said last installment, what constitutes good governance is unique to each organization. How much tolerance your organization has for restrictions and assignment of responsibilities, how much tolerance it has for change… these are essential things to understand if you want to build a governance plan that users actually use.

If this is a problem area, go for the “low-hanging fruit”, get the most bang you can for the least intrusive regulatory environment, or perhaps rather the most intrusive that your environment will easily allow, and use it to show off what you can accomplish by getting some cooperation. Use that as the carrot to get further cooperation. “See what we managed to accomplish because you cooperated with us? Here is what more we can do for you, if only you would cooperate with us on [insert governance objective]”. Sometimes incremental improvement is all an environment will tolerate, and incremental improvement is better for everyone than no improvement.

As always, your mileage may vary.

It even makes julienne fries, whatever the —- those are….

Thanks for reading!

Read the whole series on SharePoint Governance:
Part One: SharePoint Governance – Why?
Part Two: SharePoint Governance – What is it?
Part Three: SharePoint Governance – vs Organizational Culture
Part Four: SharePoint Governance – Your Plan, on a Silver Platter
Part Five: SharePoint Governance – Law & Order (You are here!)

More posts about SharePoint.

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