In my presentations on SharePoint governance I often describe the need to define a decision making framework, guided by fundamental principles, that then launches committees to meet on an ongoing basis to flesh them out. For example, it doesn’t include site design standards. Instead, it describes why site design standards are important, who will be involved in determining them, and launches a committee to fill in the details and keep them up to date. That’s how the SharePoint Statement of Governance actually gets completed and stays short, readable, and approvable by executives. It’s been helpful to use examples related to the U.S. constitution, such as federation (federal and state governments) and the constitution itself as an example of high level guidance statements.
An article in the Wall St. Journal words this well:
The Constitutional Convention of 1787 had defined a sturdy framework for future debate, but it didn’t try to dictate outcomes … If the constitution established an independent judiciary, for instance, it didn’t specify the structure of the federal court system below the Supreme Court. It made no reference to a presidential cabinet aside from a glancing allusion that the president could solicit opinions from department heads …
All is well and good, except that the article is called “The Feuding Fathers” (WSJ 6/26/10) and the “…” parts I removed are as follows:
- “The brevity and generality of the new charter guaranteed pitched battles when it was translated into action in 1789.”
- “The huge blanks left on the political canvas provoked heated battles during Washington’s time in office.”
Darn. Well, I never said it’s easy!
Maybe this is where the example diverges from its application. In my experience, the arguments that result from not implementing governance for SharePoint are more damaging than those caused by the governance process. The arguments governance attempts to avoid for SharePoint include:
- Owners of other portals (or SharePoint installations) who see attracting activity as a competition rather than a portal rationalization process
- A SharePoint manager arguing with a site owner about whether they “have” to use the designated design template or menu bar
- A group that insists on setting up their own SharePoint 2010 installation because they’re excited about use certain features, despite outrage from the owner of the official SharePoint 2007 installation
- A SharePoint owner trying to cajole hundreds of site owners that had full control over their sites for years (and created a mess of spaghetti sites in the process) that they now have to expend effort to get in line with new metadata, design, and hosting standards
These are all the real arguments that I’ve seen and that I try to help clients avoid by instantiating a governance process. If Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton are your site admins you might have trouble, but otherwise I think it’s the lesser of evils.