Monday, December 28, 2009

Governance: Capability Driven, Not Platform Driven

Although I have no survey or poll results to support this; I believe that the SharePoint community as a whole is putting more weight on the topic of governance as time moves forward. I am basing this on the number of blog posts, conference presentations, third party products, and research available on the Web. Microsoft even has made a SharePoint governance plan template (SharePoint Products and Technologies Governance Plan) available for download.

I have mixed emotions about some of the messaging in the community. I think the topic of governance has become so SharePoint-centered that the original intent of governance becomes lost. Taking a few steps back, I thought I might weigh-in on the subject.

When push comes to shove, SharePoint is simply a platform, a means to an end. It is a tool to facilitate a capability. If that capability happens to be information management, then SharePoint is providing the technical functionality required to make managing information better.

My take on governance planning is that an organization should first address the capability (e.g. information management) as a whole, and then develop a plan for it. Once that overarching effort is in motion, it should branch off into defining the policies, processes, and measures specifically addressing SharePoint.

The flaw I see in creating a governance plan starting with SharePoint platform is that too many questions and risks about the overall initiative of providing that information management capability exist. This flaw may be a symptom or an indicator of larger ailments in the organization such as a lack of clarity or a lack of sponsorship (or a lack of clarity within its sponsorship). The way I see it, if an executive management team is willing to embrace the idea of using the SharePoint platform, then it ought to be willing to accept and embrace the larger initiatives at hand; which is where governance should originate.

In conclusion, I think that in order to maintain long term credibility with the subject of governance planning, we in the SharePoint community should share more ideas about how to integrate SharePoint governance into existing corporate governance as well as how to properly originate governance where it does not already exist. And, in order to do this I think it requires stepping out of the world of SharePoint and taking a wholistic view of the organization and understanding the fundamental policies and processes at play, as well as understanding what is the underlying intent and purpose for which SharePoint is being deployed.

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