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SharePoint 2010 ECM governance

The steps (see chart 1) are often used to identify the typical degree of governance applied based on the purpose of the site structure implemented within the solution. Centralized publication of information like that on an intranet will see stricter controls applied to information architecture, whereas more collaborative instances such as departmental or project-related sites often have lower levels of restriction.

To determine the levels that are appropriate, it’s critically important to not only understand site architecture and site collection structure, but also content and its inherent value to the organization. High-value content will require stricter control in terms of enrichment through taxonomy and metadata, tighter permissioning, workflow and well-defined retention schedules. That assessment of importance is established early on through IA activities that include the auditing and inventorying of content, which also become the foundation for the identification of content types, metadata schemas and term store design. (See chart 2.)

An understanding of where content originates and how and where it makes its way into the SharePoint structure is an important design activity that weighs heavily on subsequent IA activities, including the creation of technical architectures, site maps and wireframes.

Teams, entities, roles and responsibility

Once a governance model has been designed, the next consideration is an overall framework for management. The purpose of establishing a formalized management structure is to describe how each employee as an individual or as a member of a particular role or group is responsible for ensuring success of the SharePoint solution. It’s important to clearly articulate ownership and accountability for management of business processes, site and information architectures, as well as responsibility for measuring compliance and application of enforcement mechanisms.

This is primarily accomplished through the formation of the following (or similar) cross-disciplinary entities:

  • Steering committee—Intended to provide strategic direction and is often the same team responsible for creation of the vision statement. Provides leadership and advocacy and ensures the interests of the represented areas are considered.
  • Advisory council—Responsible for policy and standards management including creation, alignment with organizational goals and relevance as business needs change.
  • Task forces—Cross-functional or divisional teams that are ad hoc in nature and intended to solve specific problems at strategic and policy or standard levels.
  • Working groups—Responsible for the implementation and/or operationalization of governance within the SharePoint environment.
  • Communities of practice—Comprised of various groups of stakeholders, subject matter experts or area champions who need to collaborate, share knowledge or be informed of or provide input into policies and standards.

Participation in those entities from a variety of roles is required and includes senior management and executive sponsorship; division, departmental or geographic business leaders; technical experts; search administrators; information architects; taxonomy managers; content specialists; professional development and corporate trainers; subject matter experts and area champions.

An effective approach to modeling cross-functional interaction between roles and responsibility is through the design of a Responsibility Assignment Matrix. Rows in the matrix (see chart 3) represent individual responsibilities, while specific columns represent a single role. Completion of the matrix requires assignment of one of four values to a corresponding role and responsibility:

  • Responsible—The role that actually accomplishes or executes a task.
  • Accountable—The role ultimately answerable for success or failure (R reports to A).
  • Consulted—Subject matter and technical experts brought in as needed.
  • Informed—People and departments who are kept apprised of findings, results and policies.

Dedicated resource allocation for participation within those entities and roles is a must. Improving the chances of success means governance responsibilities cannot simply be “added to the plate” of an existing job function. Rather, work processes must be adapted to incorporate and allow time for managerial responsibility.

Policies and standards

The steering committee and advisory council characteristically hold responsibility for development of policies and standards that align with overall purpose, including definition of rules and articulation of appropriate use for the SharePoint solution. Policies, which are often motivated by regulatory or organizational requirements, are intended to ensure quality of information and experience through consistent application of procedures and common standards.

Ensuring alignment with business needs requires identification of the entities and roles responsible for policy definition, as well as how and when changes take place. Essential is a clear outline of decision-making authority and also escalation procedures for addressing policy violations and resolving conflicts. A standard approach for addressing definition and development of those rules is to:

  • Develop the policy.
  • Define procedures and standards.
  • Create review and compliance mechanisms.
  • Develop enforcement processes.
  • Identify metrics.
  • Review feedback.
  • Prioritize enhancements.

Typical areas for policy development include site structure, branding and design, taxonomy and content management, including content types and metadata, search integration, user experience, security and permissions. Because system users are expected to comply without deviation, failure to do so must result in non-compliance and enforcement. Users, however, cannot be expected to seek out an understanding of the rules on their own. Rather, they need to be published, transparent and made available for easy consumption through regular communication strategies and activities.

Socialization and training

This leads to a final key area requiring attention that involves ensuring user awareness. In designing for governance, also consider how users will consume and become familiar with processes and, the more distributed the model, the greater the need for familiarity with management structure, policies, procedures, standards and guidelines. Documentation should not be hidden or not at all available, but rather centrally published in ways that are easy to find and understand.

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