Social, Cloud, and Concerns About Governance

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As I’ve toured around the world speaking at different events and to user groups, there are three topics that everyone seems to want to talk about: social, governance, and security. I’m on my way back home to Seattle, and thought I’d quickly share a few thoughts from the past two weeks as I first made my way to the Iberian SharePoint Conference in Madrid, Spain where I discussed social, productivity, and the use of gamification as a strategy to improve/increase end user engagement (my presentation on SlideShare) – but even then, many of my conversations with attendees WP_20131015_018and other presenters tended to move onto the topic of governance. Yes, I write about the topic a lot, and yes, people know that I talk and speak on the topic a lot, so naturally people go there – but honestly, I’m not always trying to lead the conversations that direction. It just that when you start talking about SharePoint and where most organizations are with the maturity of their deployments, governance is front and center.

imagePlanning out the latter-half of my trip, Michael Greth (@mysharepoint) who runs the user group in Berlin, and Oliver Wirkus (@owirkus) who helps run the group in Stuttgart also asked if I would cover both social and governance of cloud-based (or hybrid) SharePoint environments. I went from Madrid to Stuttgart, where I spent a couple days fighting through a cold, and meeting with customers in the region before a very cool SPUG venue at the Meilenwerk Stuttgart,  which iBWymLtnIIAEG2kxs a working garage and showroom for rare and exotic cars, apparently right down the road from the Porshe factory and museum (which some friends in the US scolded me for not visiting). Despite the photo, my preference is more vintage than modern (my first car at 16 was a 1952 Chevy BelAir Deluxe, with PowerGlide).

imageAs far as my travel itinerary, I made my way from Stuttgart to Berlin on Wednesday this week, making time for a couple meetings before holing up in my hotel for a cold medicine-induced coma/nap, after which I stayed up past 2am and cranked out some content. And on Thursday, after a nice stroll through the park between the Savoy and the nearby Microsoft offices which are situated next to the Berlin Zoo, I found myself presenting on the same two topics for the Berlin SPUG, which were once again recorded by Michael Greth, with audio and, I believe video, coming in the next few days.

Without detracting too much from the slides below, one of the key messages of my first session, ‘Managing Governance Across the Social Landscape’ is that the introduction of social features will most undoubtedly impact your governance strategy, as more and more collaboration is happening within these features – and while SharePoint 2013 social features capture all of this activity with content databases, the out-of-the-box feature set does not yet provide management, reporting, nor governance capability around these features. As a result, analysis of social behaviors, much less the ability to provide constraints, automate security and governance protocols, or even run regular audits and reports on social activities are not yet in place. This is all such a new category that not even the partner ecosystem has yet really stepped up to fill this gap.

You can read more on this topic below:

For organizations considering a move into the cloud – whether that be a jump from on premises SharePoint into Office365, moving from your own servers to a private cloud hosted by another vendor, or a combination of these things, i.e. hybrid SharePoint environments – maintaining sound governance practices may not be as easy as you would hope. My guidance for customers, and for both user groups, was to go into the cloud with both eyes open as to what you are really buying, and how different it will be for you to maintain current on prem governance solutions and standards when you are purely in the cloud, or in some hybrid state in between.

For example, in Office365, the APIs are not yet very mature and the features more limited than on premises, making your ability to access the same reports and data in the cloud as you can access on prem difficult or, more likely, a non-starter. There are a ton of benefits to moving toward the cloud – but the reality for organizations using SharePoint today is that the cloud model may not yet fit/match your expectations. What is out there (this is more about Office365) is designed and built for a different audience than traditional enterprise SharePoint deployments. So go into it with the right expectations, because from a management and governance standpoint – there are gaps.

My slides
from Berlin:

I enjoyed my time in Spain and Germany these past couple weeks, and made some great contacts. As I said at both Stuttgart and Berlin, I don’t mean to come off sounding like such a Debbie Downer on cloud and social solutions being pushed right now – quite the contrary, I am a huge supporter of the model moving forward, and actively use both. But I have to be pragmatic when I look at these new tools and solutions (and especially critical of any marketing campaigns around them) because I spent too long in project management and operations rolls not to view the world that way: identify requirements, understand what is being offered, clarify the gaps, and then make decisions based on that complete understanding (well, as complete as you can).

Project management is all about risk mitigation. And when you’re responsible for governance across all of your SharePoint and other collaboration platforms, and your CIO is pushing for the cloud, and your end users are pushing for social and mobile and whatever else, you need to mitigate those risks through understanding.

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and Office Servers and Services MVP, the Founder & CEO of CollabTalk LLC, an independent research and technical marketing services firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and CMO of revealit.io, a blockchain-based video technology company.