Governance Isn’t Maintenance

April 8, 2008 at 2:59 pm | Posted in Governance, Microsoft SharePoint, portals | 2 Comments

Web governance has been a topic of great interest to me for years now because it’s a topic of great interest to my clients.  This is why we gave governance a starring role in our new Microsoft SharePoint Infrastructure Planning and Governance workshop.

I feel that Microsoft has woken up to the importance of addressing governance when it comes to SharePoint, a piece of infrastructure that is notorious for often being deployed (or evolving) in a wildly ungoverned fashion.  But when I look at the actual guidance being published outside of Burton Group, governance often seems to just mean maintenance.  For example, this CodePlex page on Governance and Manageability is 95% about manageability in my definition.  A site recycle bin? Management.  Splitting larger databases into smaller ones? Management. Arguably some of the other items listed here could assist with a governance effort even if they are not governance themselves.  For example, usage and storage metrics reporting could be used to check against a policy that a division shouldn’t exceed 10GB of storage. 

For many years now I have been putting forth the view that web governance uses people, policy, and process to resolve ambiguity, manage short- and long-range goals, and mitigate conflict within an organization.  Technology only fits into this insofar as it supports a process that is needed to assist with compliance with the Statement of Governance.  The real value of governance is that it helps to pre-decide who wins in arguments before they come to a head (that’s the “mitigate conflict” part of my definition).  Details about how to use the admin console to check for orphaned accounts or apply a template to a series of farms are unlikely to cause frothy arguments and are best left to separate maintenance manuals that can be approved and maintained on a different cycle than the Statement of Governance. 

The reason I get picky about what is governance versus maintenance is that the documents are often created by separate people as part of separate efforts and are on different update cycles.  A governance document may state that it’s important that information on the website be kept fresh, therefore all web pages have to be updated every 180 days.  If it then goes on to describe which tools site administrators should use to run an aging tool or how to set site settings to expire documents then that information is likely to get out of date, be harder to find by admins who don’t want to sort through all the high level stuff, and make the document too onerous for non-techies.  A second reason is that governance documents tend to be lopsided if they are created by techies that like filling it with topics they know a lot about and ignoring high-level, non-technical concerns.  A third reason is that anyone who asserts that they’ve written a statement of governance that just sprinkles a few platitudes about scope, goals, and policy into a detailed manual for maintenance and manageability is going to look foolish when the groups that truly understand governance (enterprise architecture teams or other higher level governance teams that have written higher level guidance) see the results.

(Note: This is a cross-posting from the Collaboration and Content Strategies blog)

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  1. […] Governance does not equal a maintenance manual or ops manual. If the definition of governance is the hangup (”you think governance is x, I think it’s y – there’s no right or wrong …”) then please consider a mental tag instead: busgov. There exists a thing, busgov, that addresses SharePoint, has zero overlap with maintenance or operations manuals, and uses people, policy, and process to resolve ambiguity, manage short- and long-range goals, and mitigate conflict within an organization. The author and audience of busgov is different than that of maintenance and ops manuals. Organizations that don’t do busgov may still succeed, but the likelihood is reduced and degree of success may be reduced. […]

  2. […] to be top-down and bureaucratic.  But it doesn’t have to be.  According to my governance definition, the goal of governance is to to resolve ambiguity, manage short- and long-range goals, and […]


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