As Microsoft SharePoint becomes increasingly popular within enterprises, IT managers struggle to get a handle on existing user sites. Once people begin doing their own thing with SharePoint, the outcome can be bleak -- from losing centralized administration and information redundancy to increased bandwidth and serious security risks.
Properly planning an implementation for Windows SharePoint Server (WSS) 2003 or Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007 from scratch is the best way to manage the collaboration platform's growth. When that's not possible, experts say that setting up rules for usage is a step toward better governance.
But when developing any type of rules involving governance, remember to think ahead. "The idea is to anticipate the kind of arguments people are going to get into and pre-decide who is going to win them," said Craig Roth, vice president and service director, collaboration and content strategies, the Burton Group, an IT research and consulting firm in Midvale, Utah.
Here are some tips to help regain control and establish Microsoft SharePoint governance within your organization:
Determine how many SharePoint sites already exist. Do you really know how many individual or group SharePoint instances exist within your company? If not, Matt Passannante, director of implementation services at SharePoint Experts Inc., Denver, Colo., said that using a third-party tool might be the solution. "There are third-party tools out there that will scour your WSS network and tell you that there are these other portals and WSS site instances within your organization," said Passannante.
One such tool from Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based Quest Software is Site Administrator for SharePoint, which identifies all SharePoint servers, sites and site collections within a network. Quest Software also has a free tool called Discovery Wizard for SharePoint that automates the search for all SharePoint servers on a network.
Based in Jersey City, N.J., AvePoint Inc. also has a free SharePoint Discovery Tool that gives administrators a blueprint of their SharePoint farms and servers as well as real-time data on components and services hosted on each server and the status of those services. The tool's search feature helps locate SharePoint sites.
Appoint a SharePoint champion. After uncovering all SharePoint sites within your organization, designate a leader for the entire implementation. "The issue of governance always becomes a political one instead of a technical one," said Roth. Although IT managers can easily look at these sites and figure out how to combine them, getting buy-in from the different departments that created them might be tricky.
Often it's the CIO or vice president who has the authority to make the decision for all sites or can delegate this authority to a point person. After designating a lead, involve others within the company. Next, pull in HR managers, corporate communications and security architects to work together on molding the organization's SharePoint governance plan.
Create a corporate SharePoint policy. Stakeholders must collectively create a high-level statement of direction for SharePoint, which can take the form of a corporate SharePoint policy. That all-encompassing policy should include specific components, such as a usage policy that outlines how to use SharePoint or what misuse is and a design policy that outlines your company's standard SharePoint navigation look and feel.
Other components might include a technology policy that determines what SharePoint features, such as wikis, blogs or workspaces, should be used for and by whom. "SharePoint can do a zillion different things, but that doesn't mean you want it to do all those things," Roth said. Although most policy-making decisions fall on management, you may want to get users involved in some usage and design policy planning, he added.
Outline the processes needed to implement the policy. Giving users easily accessible processes prevents them from recreating the wheel. Develop SharePoint processes as if they were how-to documents on setting up specific sites. Create pointers to technical manuals on how to do things, where policies exist on the intranet and what they are.
Each process may have a different life cycle, requiring updates at different times. Having pointers to documentation means that technical manuals can be maintained without any impact on usage or design policies, for example.
Develop a technical SharePoint manual. Much of the information out there tends to treat SharePoint governance as maintenance. However, that's just one link in the chain of command. IT managers should get involved in formulating a technical manual to answer questions on how to combine SharePoint directories, set delegated administration levels, grant user permissions, add and delete users, lock down SharePoint and create and manage a single content repository.
When dealing with content repositories, SharePoint user content shouldn't be treated any differently than other mission-critical content, according to Carl Frappaolo, vice president of market intelligence at AIIM, a nonprofit market research and consultancy group. After establishing all of these guidelines and roles, be sure to point to the technical manual online so that users have access to them when needed.
Measure your SharePoint success. To gauge success, it's important to understand what your organization is trying to accomplish with SharePoint. Specifically, measure how the product is helping your company advance.
For example, if you anticipated that your SharePoint implementation would decrease company travel expenditures, Roth said, then you must compare travel expenses before and after deployment. Measure business outcomes, he said, as opposed to the number of hits a particular site gets. Statistics that attempt to measure site-use frequency, for example, don't necessarily give the whole story. One user may raise the issue that a site isn't worth maintaining because it isn't used enough, while someone else may argue that the same site doesn't receive enough resources for it to live up to its full potential.
Establishing SharePoint governance doesn't have to be a tedious task that IT managers must tackle alone. Creating a solid governance plan that pulls upper management into the process early is key and can give companies that are new to content management the upper hand. Often these companies seem more likely to address governance up front, said Dan Keldsen, director of market intelligence at AIIM.
On the contrary, companies trying to fit SharePoint content into an already existing governance and content management infrastructure may experience challenges. "For companies that have implemented any sort of content management, once usage patterns are established, and in the absence of any formal governance, it can be much more difficult to think about how to stick the genie back in the bottle," Keldsen added.
Michelle Boisvert is a Features Editor for SearchExchange.com.
This was first published in August 2008