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Sharepoint 2010 : Planning for Governance (part 2) - What Is in the Governance Plan - Vision Statement, Roles and Responsibilities

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3. What Is in the Governance Plan?

An effective governance plan provides a framework for design standards, information architecture, service-level agreements, infrastructure maintenance, and your overall measurement plan. It is intended to summarize and tie together, not replace, the documents that describe these activities in detail. Referencing this related content rather than embedding it in the governance plan will keep the plan from becoming unnecessarily bloated and unmanageable.

In addition, the governance plan should reference all of your existing IT policies for topics such as the appropriate use of technology resources, confidentiality of content, and records retention. As you begin to deploy more and more “Web 2.0” functionality into your environment, new IT policies will emerge that will impact SharePoint governance. Again, your plan doesn’t need to include these emerging policies, but should reference them where appropriate.

The governance plan is a business document, its primary audience being the business (content) owners of your SharePoint sites and the users who produce and consume the content on those sites. Because all users can effectively produce content in SharePoint via social tags and ratings (if you allow these in your solution), everyone in the organization needs to be familiar with the governance plan.

In addition to these elements, your plan will likely also include a section that references procedures for common tasks such as requesting a new site, requesting a new shared Content Type or attribute, requesting a new site template, and so on. Publish these procedures so site owners can easily find and follow the processes you define. 

As you think about creating your governance plan, consider how users will consume and internalize the content in your plan. There is a great quote from Blaise Pascal that is often misattributed to Mark Twain (and others). In the original French, the quote reads “Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue parceque je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.” Loosely translated: “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” Think about this quote as you are working on your governance plan because it’s very easy for these documents to get very, very long. The longer they are, the more difficult it is for users to digest them. Putting in the extra time needed to make sure your plan is as concise as possible will make it easier for your users to understand and follow the rules.

As you create your governance plan, think about how you might create companion material to go with the plan—a “cheat sheet” of your most important guiding principles, a laminated card or magnet with your vision statement, individual brief job descriptions for each core role, a records retention “ad campaign,” or supplements to the governance plan (shorter letters) that will help users remember and internalize this important content.

3.1 Vision Statement

A vision statement describes, at a high level, what you want to achieve with SharePoint, essentially describing how the solution delivers value to the enterprise and to each individual employee. A clear vision statement provides critical guidance to the inevitable decision trade-offs you will need to make in thinking about your governance plan. The vision statement is typically written when the project to create the solution is initiated and may be refined as the project matures.

Here are two examples of vision statements:

  • “The portal enables the creation, management, and sharing of document assets in a business-driven environment for collaboration, classification, and access across all of the company. Through its workflow capabilities and application development foundation, it will support the organization’s information management needs and provide a business process framework for all business units.”

  • “SharePoint provides a holistic view of organizational assets that simplifies employee interaction with our enterprise business systems and helps improve collaboration within the company and with our suppliers, partners, and customers, thus improving employee productivity and employee and customer satisfaction.”

Once you have set forth your vision statement, the next step is to gather your core project team together to think about the principles that will guide the creation of your governance plan.

3.2 Roles and Responsibilities

Roles and responsibilities describe how each employee as an individual or as a member of a particular role or group is responsible for ensuring success of the solution. Documenting roles and responsibilities is a critical aspect of the governance plan, which defines who has authority to mediate conflicting requirements and make overall branding and policy decisions. Some of the policy decisions that will frame your governance plan and form the basis of the specifics of your roles and responsibilities definition include deciding the following:

  • Who is responsible for technical management of the environment, including hardware and software implementation, configuration, and maintenance? Who can install new Web Parts, features, or other code enhancements?

  • Who is allowed or who will be responsible for setting up new sites? If this responsibility is controlled by the IT department, then it is likely that IT will have to negotiate a service-level agreement (SLA) for site set-up responsiveness with the business stakeholders. If this responsibility is delegated, users will need training to ensure that they follow acceptable conventions for naming, storage, and so on.

  • Who has access to each page/site? Who can grant access to each?

  • How much responsibility for page/site design will you delegate to page owners? Can users modify Web Parts (Web-based data and UI components) on pages that they “own” in team sites? Can they modify Web Parts on pages that are part of the corporate intranet publishing solution?

  • Will some Web Parts be “fixed” on the page, or will page owners be allowed to customize all of the content on their pages?

  • Who is responsible for managing metadata? Who can set up or request new Content Types or Site Columns? How much central control do you want to have over the values in Site Columns? (Content Types and Site Columns allow you to specify elements in your taxonomy.

  • If the governance plan says that page and site owners are responsible for content management, are you prepared to decommission pages where no one in the organization will step up to page ownership responsibilities?

There are several key roles to consider. In smaller organizations, many roles may be fulfilled by a single individual. Table 1 and Table 2 present lists of typical roles and responsibilities in successful solutions. You will likely need to adapt both the responsibilities and even the terms you use to describe each role for your organization, but these lists give you a good place to start.

Table 1. Overall Roles for the Solution
RoleKey Responsibilities
Executive SponsorServes as the executive level “champion” for the solution. The primary responsibility of the Executive Sponsor is strategic, positioning the solution as a critical mechanism for achieving business value and helping to communicate the value of the solution to the management levels of the organization.
Governance Board/Steering CommitteeServes as a governance body with ultimate responsibility for meeting the goals of the solution. This Board is typically comprised of representatives of each of the major businesses represented in the solution, including corporate communications, HR, and IT.
Business OwnerManages the overall design and functionality integrity of the solution from a business perspective. The Business Owner does not have to be an IT expert but his job function typically includes responsibility for internal communications.
Solution Administrator (Technology)Manages the overall design and functionality integrity of the solution from a technology perspective. Works in partnership with the Business Owner.
Technology Support TeamEnsures the technical integrity of the solution. Makes regular backups of the solution and its content. Also usually sets up and maintains the security model, at least the components in the Active Directory. Develops new Web Parts and provides support to Site Sponsors/Owners seeking enhancements to their pages or new uses of the solution.
Metadata Steering Committee/Content StewardWhile some large organizations may already have an individual or group serving in this role, SharePoint 2010’s enterprise content capabilities require an overall metadata management plan and an individual or team responsible for maintaining the “metadata dictionary” over the life of the solution.
SharePoint “Coach” or Center of ExcellenceProvides coaching and design consulting to new users who have Full Control design privileges to ensure that best practices are followed and that the appropriate SharePoint features are applied in individual sites or Site Collections. In many organizations, a particular SharePoint feature becomes the defacto solution for any business problem—a “hammer in search of a nail.” For example, you don’t want to see users creating wiki sites when what they really need is a custom list. If you will be delegating site design capabilities to users who have limited solution design experience (which pretty much means every organization), having experienced site design “coaches” available to help users get started can ensure that you end up with a solution that actually gets used. One successful organization implemented “drop-in” office hours where new site owners could come and spend an hour or two with an experienced solution architect to ensure that they got appropriate guidance (in addition to formal training). Several others have established in-house consulting services to help new site owners get started. In many cases, the first hour or two of consulting is “free,” and services beyond that require a charge code.
“Power Users” Community of PracticeSupports the successful deployment of SharePoint in the organization by sharing best practices and lessons learned in a Community of Practice team site. Members serve as SharePoint advocates and change agents.

Table 2. Roles for Each Site or Site Collection
RoleKey Responsibilities
Site Sponsor/OwnerServes as the centralized, primary role for ensuring that content for a particular page/site is properly collected, reviewed, published, and maintained over time. The Site Sponsor is an expert in the content that is showcased on the site or page and will likely need to learn about SharePoint, but his or her primary expertise is business-focused. The Site Sponsor/Owner may designate a Site Steward/Contact who will provide the primary day-to-day interface between their business and the users of the page or site.
Site Steward/ContactManages the site day-to-day by executing the functions required to ensure that the content on the site or page is accurate and relevant, including records retention codes. Monitors site security to ensure that the security model for the site matches the goals of the Business Owner and Site Sponsor/Owner and support Users of the site by serving as the primary identified contact point for the site. Acts as the Content Steward for the sites for which they are responsible.
Site DesignerIn an environment where site design is delegated to business users, the Site Designer creates and maintains the site (or Site Collection) design. Follows design best practices and guiding principles to ensure that even sites with limited access are optimized for end-user value. Defines and executes the security plan for the site.
UsersUses the solution to access and share information. Users may have different access permissions in different areas of the solution, sometimes acting as a Contributor (content producer) and other times acting as a Visitor (content consumer).
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