Thursday, January 07, 2010

Governance Concepts, Strategy, and Authority

One of the initial challenges with establishing governance model is organizing the concepts appropriately. In order for governance to be effective, the concepts need to be grouped according to the appropriate scope, authority, and audience.

Information Management is a concept that may apply across an entire enterprise; same with corporate polices and procedures. However, the SharePoint platform may only be responsible for organizing a sub-set of an organization's information and therefore the scope of this is smaller. Additionally, SharePoint is technical in nature and so the emphasis on Information Technology audience is greater. For these reasons, it makes little sense to try to encapsulate all of the governance topics for an organization's information management needs, within a SharePoint governance plan. Instead, topics should be divided and organized appropriately.

For example, if you were on a whiteboard brainstorming and creating idea clouds for the purpose of outlining your governance topics, you might start to group topics like this:

Information Management Statement of Governance

  • Overview
  • Roles and responsibilties
  • Decision making processes
  • Explanation of information architecture
  • How taxonomies are developed and integrated
  • References to file naming conventions
  • References to policies and procedures

SharePoint Governance

  • Overview
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Operating processes
  • Explanation of the applied use of SharePoint with respect to Information Management
  • References to SLA
  • References to policies and procedures

Policies and Procedures

  • Information Security policies
  • System Use policies
  • Support policies
  • Request processes
  • Project processes

Thinking about these concepts right is a prerequisite to creating governance documents and perhaps even beginning to model any new, collaborative solutions. Authority needs to be defined and delegated up front. Without a central managing body having necessary authority, the decision making process will be a constant road block.

Consider this classic scenario; a hypothetical Information Technology department owns and manages technology systems for an organization. They don't happen to possess authority to own or commence initiatives around analysis, design, and integration of information architecture policies and processes. This department decides to deploy SharePoint as a technology offering. A likely, potential result of this is that the deployment becomes a commodity service. The odds that this platform will do much to improve information management practices throughout the organization, are thin. The initiative was not started by the body which governs information architecture practices for the company.

Now consider a variation. Consider that this hypothetical business unit now has the authority to work with other business units collectively, and facilitate a company wide initiative to analyze, interpret, and parse the information management requirements of the company, the teams, and the individuals. They also have authority to facilitate the creation and management of information management policies and procedures. Finally, they retain the authority to own and manage technology systems. This scenario has a much greater potential to produce a full bodied SharePoint deployment, adding lots of value throughout the business by integrating information management capabilities. In this scenario, the technology can actually be used to mandate how documents are organized, where they are stored, and how they are tagged.

Having said this, a commodity service may be the right next step for an organization, who is to say. But evolution of processes tell us that one day, silos of information will want to be joined. Progression is a natural thing and it should be embraced. SharePoint as a commodity service is not the end game, it is a starting point. Strategy is recognizing progression paths and figuring out how to make it happen. There will be people fighting the progression and arguing the direction is wrong, that they have different ideas. There will be resistance. Strategy demands authority. Governance provides it. The right combination of these pieces can act as one hell of a steam roller.

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