Four steps to creating practical SharePoint governance standards

Many of the qualities that make SharePoint accessible can also cause problems for those responsible for governance. To keep their SharePoint environment under control, IT managers should create SharePoint governance standards. Learn how to do so in four steps.

SharePoint has taken off like wildfire in the enterprise, and this success is partly attributable to SharePoint's easy-to-use interface, integration with Microsoft Office and its self-service-centric model.

Unfortunately, many of the qualities that make SharePoint so accessible to enterprises can also cause trouble for the IT groups charged with governing the environment. Because users can control so many elements of SharePoint – from provisioning new sites to new document libraries to security – IT shops are often overwhelmed with site-creation volume, storage consumption, service interruptions (mostly of implementations they didn't know about) and managing the growth.

These elements, however, are manageable if you have the right governance model in place. By following a few easy steps, you can rein in unfettered growth, continue to enable employee self-service and ensure there's a solid, supportable infrastructure under SharePoint.

Creating practical SharePoint governance standards is all about common sense. In many cases, most IT managers – as well as end users – know what it takes to manage a shared service like SharePoint. But the challenge is often simply remembering the best practices while managing everything else. Therefore, it's always a good idea to create a mix of standard business processes with automated "guardrails" to help enforce good governance practices.

Here's an easy four-step process that will help you improve your SharePoint governance:

1. Create a set of rules that end users have to abide by when using SharePoint

The rules could be as simple as what they should use SharePoint for and what other services might be a better fit. For example, SharePoint does not handle files larger than 2 GB. For practical file transfer performance, files shouldn't be larger than about 100 MB over a typical network.

The rule is if users are dealing with files over 100 MB, use file shares. If the file is smaller than 100 MB, use SharePoint. IT administrators can enforce this limit per site collection in SharePoint's central administration site by setting the maximum upload size. By default, it's 50 MB, but most organizations increase it.

2. If the site is no longer being used, decommission it

It's all too common to let SharePoint sites live on forever, even after the need for the site has ended. To enforce nonuse aging, IT administrators can set up site-use monitoring. When a site goes unused for some period of time – like 30 days – you can send a confirmation email. The owner of the site is then required to click a link inside the email to confirm the site is still in use.

If after email notifications, either no response is given or the user indicates the site is no longer being used, SharePoint will delete it. This is out of the box in SharePoint through the Central Administration website – look for the Applications Tab under Site Management. With workflow tools like Nintex Workflow 2007, you can even wrap workflow processes around provisioning and de-provisioning processes, such as getting manager approval for new sites.

3. Make training materials available to your end users

These materials should be "cheat sheets" on how to use SharePoint. The advantage is that through training, you reinforce the rules you've established. For example, to create a collaborative meeting site, use the Company Meeting site template.

The training materials could be in the form of a short Web-based movie or simple help text. The trick is that end users are explicitly given help in the form of instruction. In the example here, the instruction will encourage end users to choose a specific template for a given kind of operation. This SharePoint governance template, in turn, reinforces how to collaborate around a meeting.

4. Remind end users of the rules

Periodically, communicate to your end users – as well as to IT administrators – the rules for SharePoint's use. Every month or so, send a quick email reminding them about the guidelines, but don't overload them with every guideline. Try to target which guidelines are highlighted based on usage or "violations." Reinforce the email messages with announcements using the same content within SharePoint itself.

Each company's governance policy will be specific to that organization's needs and business practices. However, it's important that those policies are established and integrated in the normal use of SharePoint.

Shawn Shell
, is the founder of Consejo Inc., a consultancy based in Chicago that specializes in Web-based applications, employees and partner portals, as well as enterprise content management. He has spent more than 19 years in IT, with the last 10 focused on content technologies. Shell is a co-author of Microsoft Content Management Server 2002: A Complete Guide, published by Addison-Wesley, and the lead analyst/author on the CMS Watch SharePoint Report 2008.

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