We're back on the topic of SharePoint governance with Hamish Denston from Provoke Solutions. Part 2 focuses on the governance committee - a powerful tool for maintaining your solution. Added here from the Provoke blog with their permission.
Here is a link to Hamish's original post on the Provoke Solutions blog. Read Part 1 here.
In my last post I described the importance of governance in any SharePoint deployment. In this post I had intended to take a closer look at some of the tools for establishing and maintaining governance, however as I was writing it I found that I had pretty much written a whole post on just one tool: the governance committee. This is possibly the most powerful tool for maintaining your solution, so I’ll have a look at other tools in a future post.
Right from the beginning of any project, you need to be planning for governance. It's likely that you'll have some roles identified as part of managing the project - somebody who can provide input and make decisions on behalf of your organisation. This person is often the business owner of the solution under development, or their representative. It's common, particularly in larger organizations, for someone with subject matter expertise to act on behalf of a business owner who has a more general focus (usually senior management responsibilities). Straight away this creates a potential pitfall, as the person with the best knowledge of what the solution requires is not likely to be the budget holder. There's also the possibility that project roles won't necessarily have continuity through to business-as-usual operations, depending on how projects are run in your organization.
In order to ensure that the broadest spectrum of business needs are met across the organization from the system, decisions should be made with input from a range of stakeholders. Creating a governance committee is the best way to ensure that decisions include input from the business units that they will affect. Getting this committee set up as early as possible is a sensible move. Certainly membership should be established prior to the system going live, and if possible one or more initial meetings of the group should be held before then as well. Your governance committee will also be valuable in change management activities, more so if they've had input into project decisions and gained an early understanding of how the system is to be used.
The membership of the governance committee is one of the first decisions that needs to be made, and will most likely be driven by the person who will have ultimate responsibility for overseeing the solution. This is usually a subject matter expert reporting to the business owner. Let’s call them the Solution Manager. They’ll need the backing of an executive level sponsor to be able to effectively negotiate for resources.
The membership of the governance committee will depend on the organization. There are no hard and fast rules, but the make-up of the committee should ensure that all areas of the business feel that they have a voice, which will help to drive a sense of ownership – a real benefit in promoting uptake among staff. It makes sense that the business owner, Solution Manager and a senior representative from IT should all be on the committee. Representatives from Communications (internal comms) and Human Resources are also popular choices for Intranet governance committees. Other members should come from throughout the business. You may want to have someone from every business unit, or just try to make sure that the different roles in your organisation are represented. For example, if you’re a government department and the majority of your staff are policy analysts who work in the same way with the same tools, you don’t necessarily need a representative from each of the policy subject areas.
You can have as few or as many people as you think appropriate, but just remember that it is a working group that needs to be able to make decisions, and that can get harder with large groups.
The table below suggests how your committee could be made up.
So what are the decisions that need to be made? We’ve discussed the probable membership of the governance committee, but we also need to establish what’s within their remit. What are their inputs, processes and outputs?
In a nutshell, the committee should receive statistics on how the solution is being used by staff, how it is performing technically and the results of any user surveys or user testing that has been conducted. They should then take that information and discuss it to establish what it means for the organisation, and what action should be taken. Once decisions have been made, tasks should be assigned to committee members or other staff, and in some cases may need to be communicated to all users. This can range from assigning quick, simple tasks to system administrators through to starting a formal project to manage a major change.
To sum up
It’s a rare system that meets business objectives over time without requiring changes. A program of continuous review and improvement is the best way to ensure you maximise your investment and minimise costly overhauls. A functioning governance committee will go a long way to ensuring you achieve this.