Thoughts on SharePoint governance

Nothing seems to attract attention more these days to a blog post than sticking the words SharePoint and governance in the title … without wishing to jump on the bandwagon – actually, jumping firmly on the bandwagon with a double backwards flip and triple salco thrown in – here are my thoughts to add to the cascade of information on the subject.

[To be honest, what follows is not specific to SharePoint but you’ve got to grab attention where you can! 🙂 ]

Anyway … it seems to me that when people talk about intranet governance they seem to view the intranet as a single amorphous blob which needs to be governed (read controlled) in one way. To me, this misses a whole spectrum of nuances around user needs and normally results in an overly restrictive governance regime designed for top-end, formal content being imposed across all content types and all user needs (see previous posts on the subject of differing content types: Changing nature of intranet content; and Content types should complement not compete).

To take account of different content types and user needs, you really need different governance models running in parallel with differing levels of control along a spectrum – a kind of controlometer if you like … at one end: total control; and at the other: the opposite of total control … whatever that is … anarchy; chaos; trust – you choose!

So, below is an attempt to illustrate the above in diagrammatic form.

As an aside, there’s one content type I’ve listed which might surprise people – the under-web. It strikes me that in the drive for control of intranet content over the last few years – fuelled by sound business reasons – we’ve stifled innovation and creativity and decoupled experimentation from core intranet platforms driving it under desks where it is extremely difficult to benefit from the great things which go on in these spaces. We should always legislate for experimentation in our governance models.

A final point, content types shouldn’t be kept apart in a kind of quarantine from each other … there should be exposure and cross fertilisation of different content types both to the left and right of the spectrum to generate valuable context.

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Governing the ungovernable …

How do you govern intranet content generated in collaborative social media tools to comply with boring corporate imperatives like information retention policies? I know that ‘govern’ is just a fancy word for ‘control’ but, like it or not, intranet content has to be governed (a.k.a. controlled) to meet information retention policies and, in our case, regulatory and compliance rules. The problem is that social media content doesn’t lend itself well to governance using existing practices.

‘Crowd-sourced’ content is owned by the community rather than an individual, so you can’t pin one person down after x months and get them to review it. We currently have an automated tool which ‘crawls’ our intranet and reminds owners of intranet content to review it when it reaches a specified review date, or it is automatically deleted.

However, you can’t use this tool if you don’t have one owner to grab by the scruff-of-the-neck every once in a while. You also can’t use this tool on ‘organic’ content like wiki pages as you don’t know when it starts its review lifecycle if it is never ‘signed off’ (i.e. wiki content is, in effect, perpetually draft which can be edited at any time). You also can’t use this tool on blog content or it would strip out individual posts or comments as they all have separate publication dates … this would destroy the most valuable feature of this type of content which is ‘context’.

Our current thinking is:

  • Collaboratively generated wiki content – we are deploying a red; amber; green traffic light system which will work roughly as follows … twelve months after a wiki page is created, it will be flagged green – this means it has begun its review cycle. It will remain green for 60 days. During that time, any user of that content can halt the review cycle and revert it back to ‘active’ for a further 12 months. If no one halts the review cycle, after 60 days the content will be flagged amber. Content will remain amber for 30 days … again a user can halt the review cycle and revert it back to active for a further 12 months. If no one halts the review cycle, after 30 days it will be flagged red … I’m guessing you can see a pattern emerging here! Anyway, it remains red for 30 days and, if the review cycle is not halted, it will be automatically deleted from the system.
  • Blogs – these are easier to govern as they have identifiable owners. Our thinking is that each blog, with all its posts and comments, is a complete and separate entity and should always be treated as a distinct whole even if it contains posts and comments published over many months or years. Every 90 days, a blog owner will be e-mailed and asked to confirm the status of their blog. If it is still active, they can opt to be left alone. If it is not active but still contains valuable content, they can opt to have it ‘archived’ which will mean it can no longer be ‘added to’ (i.e. the forms that allow the owner and readers to post to it will be disabled), but the content will still be available in our corporate blogosphere. The final option will be to delete a blog that is not used and contains redundant content.

The above is a simplification of what we intend to do and doesn’t detail the many nuances that occur in reality … we are thinking about these but I wouldn’t presume to bore you with all of them here!

Anyway, I thought I’d share these thoughts in case any budding intranet managers out there can see a gaping hole in our plan or have a better idea we haven’t thought of … do tell!