Why Is Governance Pain So Common With SharePoint?

February 5, 2009 at 3:47 pm | Posted in Governance, Intranet, Microsoft, Microsoft SharePoint | Leave a comment

Governance problems have plagued all sorts of websites, but in my experience they seem to come up disproportionately in SharePoint installations.  In researching and writing my new document “Website Governance: Guidance for Portals, SharePoint, and Intranets” (slated for publication in March) I wanted to figure out why that is.  Here is what I found out about why SharePoint has proven to be particularly vulnerable to chaos when ungoverned:

  • Ease of deployment: SharePoint is easier to license and install than other portal products.  That’s great, except more parts of the organization will be tempted to set up servers. Decentralized installation and setup of the servers often leads to siloed installations that do not conform to the organization’s best practices or technology standards.
  • Grass roots nature: SharePoint’s ease of use has proven to be a double-edged sword. While it opens up self-help collaboration and content capabilities for a broader swath of information workers, it also places creation in the hands of a large number of non-IT users who are only minimally monitored. This can lead to poor findability and an inconsistent user experience.
  • Lack of multi-farm management: SharePoint lacks enterprise-wide management features that other portal products have had for years. The highest level of management in SharePoint is the server farm, but enterprises wanting unified policies and governance across multiple server farms have few tools to accomplish this. Microsoft has made a step to remedy this situation with a Cross-Site Configurator that was specifically developed “in the context of IT management challenges that have arisen with the rapid growth of SharePoint deployments.” However this product is unsupported for now and is not a part of the official WSS build.
  • Frequent overlaps with other installed capabilities: SharePoint provides an integrated set of capabilities that often exist in separate products that an organization may already have installed. A team that has been managing a content management, search, collaboration, or portal system for years may wake up one day to find users starting to leverage SharePoint for the same capabilities. The result is information segregation and a quick call to the CIO to make a decision on coexistence or shutting down one of the overlapping alternatives.

This doesn’t mean that SharePoint cannot be governed.  But they do point to the importance of creating a statement of governance early in the planning cycle for SharePoint.  While some large SharePoint deployments rise above all these problems, it is rare and difficult for them to do so without a governance structure in place.

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