Governance Planning for Office365 Growth

In a CIOUpdate.com article entitled Prolific SharePoint Sites Undermine Governance, technology writer Jake Frazier outlined a common problem with the growing number of SharePoint customers: the uncontrolled growth of SharePoint sites, and how it impacts governance. Data shared at the SharePoint imageConference (#SPC14) in Las Vegas earlier this year estimates the average SharePoint farm size at just over 1 terabyte, with 50 to 75% growth per year. SharePoint continues to proliferate in the marketplace, with KMWorld reporting SharePoint licenses worldwide at over 130 million, and SharePoint Online usage through Office365 growing at a fast pace. The more sites that are created and the more content added to your environment, the more difficult it can be to change course, correct mistakes, and implement a governance model. But the business value to having a formal governance model in place is enormous. As Mr. Frazier points out,

“To accomplish the defensible disposal of information, including information in SharePoint sites, companies must put in place and enforce a record retention policy that recognizes the three major reasons to keep information: business value, regulatory requirements and legal holds.“

The difficult part of building out any kind governance plan is figuring out where to begin. While the ideal situation is to have a plan in place from the beginning, it’s just not realistic. Most organizations adopted SharePoint by trying out the free version (WSS or Foundation), only adopting the enterprise version once users had adopted the platform. My prediction is that we’ll repeat this pattern with Office365. According to Microsoft at last year’s Worldwide Partner Conference (#WPC13) which took place in Houston, Texas, 90% of Office365 customers have adopted the platform for its hosted Exchange capabilities, with 6% adopting primarily because of Lync capabilities, and only 4% moving to the platform for SharePoint Online. However, I expect we’ll see a change in the next 24 months as many organizations come to the same conclusion that many organizations reached historically with SharePoint: we are paying for SharePoint through Office365, so let’s start using it. As a result, I predict SharePoint Online usage will increase dramatically as the platform matures, far outpacing on premises usage of the platform.

From a governance, risk and compliance perspective, this sudden push into SharePoint Online should encourage some healthy introspection. Suddenly, many IT organizations will find themselves trying to clean up, organize, and administer these systems. What they need is help in building out governance in a real-time environment.  Mr. Frazier outlines two very important steps in building a plan for taking back control of governance:

  • Getting executive support. This is essential to any IT project, but especially with SharePoint governance, as you may need to enforce certain policies, using both the carrot and the stick.
  • Creating a cross-functional taskforce or governance committee. This is where your governance model is debated, designed, and approved by stakeholders across your organization.

While these two recommendations are essential steps to taking back control of your SharePoint governance, they are just the beginning of your planning process. Some additional steps might include:

  • Create a governance strategy. Formalize your plans, so that stakeholders and end users alike can provide input, and help make the resulting plan part of your company culture, ensuring long-term success.
  • Understand your usage and activity. Start your planning with data, so that you better understand who is using SharePoint, how they are using it, and where there are gaps in your planning.
  • Map out your records management policies. Different departments may have different rules they need to adhere to, and one set of rules may not apply to everyone.
  • Implement and iterate. Once the plan has been built and signed off by your executive sponsor, stakeholders, and end user influencers, begin to implement – making sure you have a strong change management process in place, so that you can make changes and adjust your strategy as you learn.

I know I often sound like a broken record on this topic, but it really comes down to proper planning. If you fail to plan, you might as well plan to fail.

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.