Beyond Governance Planning: it’s the execution that matters!

If you've read anything about governance, you'll quickly figure out that this is a really really big topic and so naturally it can be really overwhelming to understand. When a lot of people talk about governance, they talk about how important it is to have, but very few people can stand up and confidently say that they are doing great in this area.

This can be for a couple of reasons; One, we're so busy trying to rollout or manage our SharePoint projects leaving little time and resources to governance. Two, people just don’t know where to start with planning, and are lost with executing.

Some of you reading might have some form of a governance plan formulated, but what happens when you have a plan but don’t have the necessary steps in place to execute that plan? I'm sorry to say, you most likely will end up with a huge document that no one reads.

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Put simply, your governance plan is the means to an end, but here is a high level definition of what governance is:

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Next will be 5 steps that you can use to execute your governance plan. Since governance covers a lot of different areas - infrastructure, security, permissions, training etc., lets focus on how to execute your governance plan when new SharePoint projects are requested.

Step 1 Define the Purpose

The first step is to make sure you have a purpose for the SharePoint solutions you are governing. Understand who the solution is for, what it’s for and why it exists. Having a purpose keeps you focused and helps you make decisions and prioritize as new requests and projects come up. For example, the purpose might be to spend less time managing and looking for documents. This will help you decide to prioritize solutions that promote business process automation like digital forms and automated workflows. Or maybe it's enhancing employee productivity by providing easy access to trusted information. This means coming up with rules on what to publish and when and by whom. Whatever workload you use SharePoint for, understand what your vision is, because that determines your direction and where you want to focus your efforts on.

Step 2 Build a Team

When you hear about governance, you hear about the steering committee but you don’t often hear about the working group. There is a distinction – the steering committee are the decisions makers, whereas the working group are the executers who take the plan and put it into action. You need both teams because their functions are different. If you don’t make this distinction, one of two things will happen, either you’ll have a ton of overlap in tasks or there will be some major gaps reducing your ability to achieve your vision. So let's go over who makes up these teams and their roles.

Steering Committee
This team is a cross-section of people (IT, HR, Communications, etc.) that have the power to decide what projects get approved. Essentially their role is to identify the strategies that will be used to carry out the vision, define what that vision is and ensure that projects only get approved if they meet certain criteria. They need to ensure that guidelines and standards are created and followed, and of course the financial piece – allocate budget appropriately.

Remember your Steering Committee is typically made up of executives with decision making powers so they aren't realistically going to be readily available to get their hands dirty, nor are they going to want to, so a quarterly meeting is enough of a time commitment. Ultimately, they are charged with maintaining the mandate of SharePoint in your organization so the buck stops with these guys.

Working Group
This team also needs to be a cross-section of people that are from different areas, but what is important here is that they are representatives, maybe of departments or different business units across the organization. They are the ones that do all of the work and are essentially the middle ground between the goals and objectives of the steering committee and the needs and requests of the business units or tactical teams. They need to understand the vision/purpose that the steering committee has set out, listen to the people, and make determinations on whether new requests are aligned with the governance plan.

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Step 3 Decide How you Make Decisions

This might sound like a strange concept, but you need to decide early on how you are going to make decisions. This is really important because the decisions you make need to align with your purpose, and without having that entrenched in your decision making process, it can easily get lost.

The following is an example of Governance decision making process, and at each one of these steps, the activities help make decisions that are aligned with your vision.

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Let's go through each step:

Project Request
This is where you define the process for new project requests. You need to decide who can make the request, and what the process for making the request is. This can be as formal or informal as appropriate for your organization. For example, maybe just an email request is enough or you might require a full business plan. Or why not leverage SharePoint and have the request be submitted through a form. This will keep all of the requests in a single place and can give you insight into what people are asking for.

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Project Ranking
Developing a system to rank project requests on a number of different criteria that are important to your business helps with prioritizing the projects that get approved (ie: the higher the rank the closer it aligns with your vision). The criteria are pre-determined by the steering committee prior to any decision making and are developed from your vision. This will help to ensure that your purpose is always at the forefront of any decisions, and it safeguards against any individual trying to push their own agenda forward because the decisions are made within the parameters of the criteria. Figure this out early !

Here is an example of a ranking system used for new project requests.

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Project Screening
The project screening is done by the steering committee, and serves two purposes. One, it's an opportunity to change the ranking assigned by the working group because the steering committee might see the new request differently, or have more insight into future directions of the company. And two, to review some of the lower ranked projects that wouldn’t be considered for approval. This is important because there may be projects that have some feel good reason to go forward. As an example, a project such as building a Marketplace for your employees might not rank high purely from numbers but let's face it, sometimes you need to provide some added value that’s not directly tied to their work.

Project Prioritization
It doesn’t matter how much money and resources a company has to invest, you won't be able to do everything at once. Maybe you have 5 projects but only have budget for 3, this is where prioritization becomes really important. Good thing you ranked your projects first! It's the steering committees role now to approve the projects to go forward.

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Remember, you don’t need to just take the top ranking projects. It’s not all about the numbers - Don’t forget about the feel good projects!!

This is the final step, decisions are made, projects are approved and the kickoffs with the teams begin, easy, right?!

Step 4 Make it Easy to Understand and Maintain

We all know how difficult it is to read and write (and edit!) a big governance document. If no one knows what all the rules are and what the process is for requesting a new site for example, it’s hard to blame them for not following your plan. Here is an example of a Governance Centre you can put together (using out of the box SharePoint capabilities). It’s a quick win and an effective way to communicate your processes and get some feedback to continually improve. It’s also a great place for people to provide feedback to you about your process or the solution and for them to find out information on their own.

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Step 5 Continually Evolve

Last but not least, the final step is to continually evolve your governance plan and improve. Successful governance is ongoing. You need to meet regularly to review new requirements and adjust governance policies. An effective governance plan requires execution because it requires real-life application, feedback and new situations that need to be governed. The governance committee should meet regularly to discuss things that are not working and new challenges and look for ways to address it.

The ultimate goal is increasing the return on investment in SharePoint, provide useful solutions to end users and the business. We find that people respond well to boundaries and knowing what to expect, especially around SharePoint because the flexibility and possibilities are endless.

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These 5 steps are meant to give you a starting point to start establishing the processes needed to move your governance plan from a document that sits in a drawer to something that is executable and ultimately helps you reach your SharePoint vision. Remember, above are just examples, feel free to adapt as appropriate for your organization.

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