Problems with SharePoint Governance

Now hang on, this post shouldn’t be misconstrued as attacking the concept of governance as a whole, it is more rantish. I am not going to portray that “Buenz Thinks Governance is Bad”, I do violently believe that cultivating long-term value from an arbitrary SharePoint deployment requires a specified level of governance. I spoke on the exact subject at the last SPC conference, I eat the Wheaties. I just think there are a lot of tribulations with conceptualization, use, and implementation which leads to the prostitution of the notion which is maddening.

And I am of the firm belief that I can’t be the only one.

SharePoint can curiously be subject to colossal content sprawl which fundamentally equates to a failed implementation, and governance is generally put into place to curve that, otherwise, there are business-class nightmares. This is due to the fact that SharePoint can be considered as naturally organic and amorphous, empowering users which in turn can lead to content chaos. This can be multiplied by the fact that current business process problems can be replicated in SharePoint, and because of its reach, be even more of a problem than before. This is 100% the space that a governance strategy seeks to fill, and can productively accomplish when acknowledged as a series of piece-meal cogs that construct a complete machine. Loosely defined, let’s just consider SharePoint governance as a strategy to ensure quality of information architecture and associated content taxonomy while keeping in mind defined business objectives, ensuring procedures are defined for support of the aforementioned. Ahhh, nice and ambiguous.

I see more and more people doing three things in regards to SharePoint governance:

1) Downloading random governance templates / processes. Implementing them without taking into account the organization, then when failure occurs putting said policies in the same place as the old company BetaMax.

2) Thinking that a series of policies is actually going to be effective for an enterprise SharePoint governance strategy automagically. Governance tooling is required, and third party components will never provide a holistic closed-loop governance solution.

3) Using the word governance to characterize 50,000 things. Then using it incongruously because it sounds super nifty and is so ambiguous that hey, it should apply. Right? Yeah let’s do that, buzzwords are fun.

I Found This On A Blog. Let’s Do This. Like Nowish and Be Done With it.

Firstly, let’s start off with the misconception that SharePoint governance is solely policy definition and implementation. A lot of current organizations are downloading, briefly examining, and implementing governance policy definitions with little or no foresight into the auditing and enforcement of said governance policies. They just sit there; though can without difficulty be referenced in order to defend the deprecated state of a SharePoint implementation when such information is solicited. But lest us forget that standard, bare-bones policy management by definition is composed of three things:




Most people I see starting and stopping with the first one, which brings up the question, how the hell do you actually measure the effectiveness of the governance strategy when you have no means to gather indicator data? Sure, you can build some basic indicators through the internal use of SharePoint auditing and associated concepts; however that is woefully lacking in what is required for an inclusive governance strategy. Closed-loop SharePoint governance software is required in order to actually mine and massage required data (which I will get to in the next segment, small deviation), meaning that all three concepts lie in the same domain, and relationships between the three are inherently procured as part of the system. I mean, part of the standard definition of governance is verifying performance! While documents can provide benchmarks in order to empirically study some segments, translation of the information cannot be inherently provided with ease.

Furthermore, when defining the governance policies it is necessary to contextualize them, and this requires actually reading through the policies you are considering and tailoring them to an organization. If you don’t its literally like talking to a go to a car dealership and saying Hey you, slimy sales dude. You can have this blank check. I signed it. I just want something that gives the impression of having a four wheels and movement. A cardboard picture of an engine being under the hood as opposed to the real engine sounds pretty awesome. Lightweight! I’ll do that.

In the same respect as this post where best practices were discussed, governance requires taking into account all sides of the industry shape, not just piece-meal portions that seem attractively easily to put into place. This is something referred to as a Fragmented Governance Implementation, since you really have only hit aspects that seem on the surface as imperative without bearing in mind the relational nature of governance concepts.

I am NOT alluding to that broad governance concepts have no applicability; they can actually be useful and educational when leveraged in the right way. But they can also have severe implications, and be very, very dangerous when used in an erroneous way. You don’t run around blindly signing contracts, and implementing a governance policy is the *exact same thing* as a contractual obligation. It is effectively a SLA between an IT entity and itself in order to maintain platform sanity and ensure information architecture maintenance.

Governance Requires Tooling. Custom Tooling At That.

And if you think it can be solved with a one-size-fits-all third party component for everything (traditional architecture governance, data cleansing governance, etc.) since it looks like a low hanging fruit solution, you will speedily find yourself in a pigeon hole. A really small one that is uncomfortable and has glass shards glued all over it. Do you really think that there can exist a SharePoint governance application that allows IT organizations to create or adopt IT governance frameworks and structure, manage, and maintain the processes and activities required for meeting ANY governance objective? Puu-leaaaze.

Proper governance requires vertical sensitive tooling in the same way that applications are developed with industry understanding in mind. Assuming that the same series of governance steps will provide the same governance results is 100% false, analogous to someone claiming that a Task Management System software package can be used OOB in every sector with no friction. I can’t even count how many Task Management Systems I have written for SharePoint, and there were all severely dissimilar. And while they share broad concepts, the guts of the software was very different and would not translate well in-between each project. This is something that should be ported to the concept of governance, and why there can never be universally applied policies or a shipped software package that provides closed loop governance, deployments are unique and individual to organization. Like I said, I am not alluding to that broad governance concepts have no applicability, nor are there no available inbuilt mechanisms within the shipped SharePoint software that procure some tooling. However it woefully lacks the granular components required for a holistic closed loop governance solution and is effectively ignorant to organizational particulars.

For all intents and purposes, organizations that are serious about governance need to inspect their current business state and develop the governance strategy around it. This will lead to tooling that can use the overall governance concepts as a base to inherit more defined governance procedures around that are sensitive to the company. I have always purported that it is the poorest decision an architect can make to try to tailor an entity to a product; governance is no exception and should be treated accordingly.

Governance Means Everything!
This is seriously how I feel about this:

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but replace every time Bob Dole is saying Bob Dole with the word governance. People just like this drive me up the frickin wall because every 20 minutes it’s SOMETHING about governance. Governance this, governance that. Governance, governance, governance.

I don’t really want to argue semantics which I am sure I am going to hear about anyways, but I know I am not the only one in this camp that grows weary of the repetition and assumption of immediate applicability of word governance. Overuse of the word has actually made me do the RCA dog look to people in meetings that actually bring it up now. It’s becoming difficult to take seriously.

This blog post is too long so I am going to cut it off. I might continue it later but my fingers are going to need Band-Aids soon from all the typing.