SharePoint Governance Part I

In this series, I would like to outline what's SharePoint governance, what happens if you don't think of it, what are the benefits of having a governance guide for your environment and I'll also give you a hint on how to start thinking about it. Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS) developed a standard offering, called SharePoint Enterprise Portal and Collaboration Technology Planning (EPCTP), which covers the governance planning and design from A to Zed. We also have a Governance Center available on our webpage here. If you plan to roll out SharePoint or you already have rolled it out, it's time to think about these topics.

What is SharePoint Governance anyway?

Installing SharePoint is a very easy procedure - sometimes, even too easy and we tend to forget the planning part if tomorrow's solution is only a click-next-next-finish away. Governance is something that we haven't thought about 10 years ago when we have rolled out our file shares across companies all around the world. And we ended up with terabytes of unstructured and unclassified data that nobody knows where it came from and what can be done with it. It's a headache today and costs a lot for both IT and business. My favorite example is a Customer of mine, with thousands of public folders, a folder called Christmas 99. Imagine, how much these folders can cost, in terms of storage and maintenance, especially if they are held on a high-cost DR solution (in some DR solutions, the storage space used is 12 or more times the actual size of the data - just imagine, how much it is). Another example is a large international company who have rolled out SharePoint with automatic site provisioning turned on and they haven't thought about how to manage and retire them. They have ended up with roughly 100,000 sites - Imagine, what does it cost to manage those if you have no plans to retire them. Governance is not only about storage and information lifecycle though ... It's also about unified look and feel, a site and site collection structure that reflects the organization's layout and allows charging back the costs to the business, the definition of the infrastructure's SLAs and operation procedures, good training plan and a lot more. Briefly, it is something that allows the IT department to provide a cost effective, well managed hosted SharePoint infrastructure to business divisions.

What are the benfits?

Briefly - cost savings. In more details, it's mostly savings in the following areas:

  • Disk storage
  • Support calls: ensuring availability, minimal downtime, outsourcing to business
  • Cost re-allocation to business through chargeback of costs

Besides costs, there are other benefits, even if at the end all benefits land as a cost saving:

  • Consistent look and feel
  • Better performance
  • Well thought-out taxonomy that allows further stretch
  • Clear definition of what can be deployed and customized in your SharePoint infrastructure, who is allowed to do it and what processes needs to be followed
  • You can focus on improvements and not on maintenance and support

Governance Areas

There are many different governance areas that we cover through a Governance Design. They mostly depend on the way you want to use SharePoint. The following areas are the must-have ones for Collaboration environments:

  • Roles and Responsibilities: define who is responsible for what. Be very specific and get this signed off by the role owners and by their managers to make sure that they are committed to do what they need to do
  • Taxonomy, Information Architecture: covers authentication, web application and site collection structure, quotas, locks, content databases, permissions, site provisioning settings and site retention approach
  • Portal, UI: focuses on site look and feel, navigation, site templates and definitions
  • Document Management: mainly focused on document management standards and on the document retention and archiving approach
  • Operations: how to manage the infrastructure
  • Development and Customization Standards: what is allowed to customize, how to package customizations, who can use SharePoint Designer, how to choose and manage vendors, how to QA their work, where to host source code, assemblies and artifacts, development standards and many more
  • Search: what is in scope, who manages scopes and content sources, what is the indexing structure, keyword search, whether there is anything in scope that SharePoint can't provide or handle, IFilters for special document types, etc.

There are many other topics as well, but these are the ones that you must cover. You can capture and design these and the other areas yourself, however, if you can afford, I do recommend to involve us in the development of your Governance guide. MCS not only covers the governance areas, but also provides best practices and knowledge transfer to your team through the Governance workshops - we have done this many times. Keep in mind: even a small Governance is better than no Governance at all - obviously, you don't want to find yourself in the 'file share' situation again.

How to Start?

First, understand what topics you need to cover, prioritize them and understand the efforts required to secure resources in IT and Business. Then, understand the Roles and Responsibilities, understand how the business wants to use the product, cover the Information Architecture area, then keep it going until you have covered everything.


In this article, I highlighted the importance of SharePoint Governance, outlined how to approach it and gave you some tips on how to start doing it. Again, keep in mind: even a small Governance is better than no Governance at all. Feel free to ping me if you have any questions!