In SharePoint Planning, The Business Matters

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It is common to hear consultants talk about aligning SharePoint to “business goals,” but theory is often easier than putting it to practice. After all, if this was not the case, then business goal alignment would not be near the top of the list for SharePoint challenges. So why is there such a huge gap between theory and delivery? Why is it so difficult to ensure that all aspects of SharePoint delivery clearly align to organizational aspirations, that all stakeholder needs are considered, and, at the same time, your activities create a shared understanding and commitment through an inclusive, collaborative approach?

There are probably many procedural and cultural answers to those questions within your organization. What may be the hardest part of SharePoint delivery within your organization may be different in other organizations. That’s the problem with "best practices" — what is a best practice for you may not be a best practice for others. But one thing that is common across the majority of organizations is that most misunderstand governance.

In my experience, the problem is that people try to solve too many problems at once. While governance is not a simple problem, most organizations complicate their problem-solving approach, further confusing an already complex business problem by trying to do multiple things at the same time rather than define each problem — and each solution — on their own. While there may be many components to your ultimate governance solution, the core of the issue is about bridging the gap between what the business needs and what service or services you consume. SharePoint is a service. It either meets the business needs, or it doesn’t. Governance is what you put in place to fill that gap.

At the European SharePoint Conference in Copenhagen last year (2013), I gave a keynote address with my friend and fellow MVP Dan Holme (@danholme) on the topic of governance, and Dan added a slide from his regular deck on the topic that became one of the most talked about slides of the conference. He told the audience, in no uncertain terms, that SharePoint doesn’t matter — only the business matters. The point that we wanted to make was that the bells and whistles of any new technology are irrelevant if you are not meeting the needs of the business. That one slide (in the photo above) inspired many tweets and emails during and following our presentation, but right behind it in popularity was a slide that I reused from a webinar given by myself and SharePoint MVP Nick Kellett (@NickKellett), CTO of StoneShare, in a joint presentation on proper planning for governance:

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The point that Nick and I tried to make, and what Dan and I tried to summarize in our keynote address – and that I continually write and talk about as I speak at events around the world — is the idea of simplifying governance down into its basic parts: begin by understanding your compliance requirements, map those requirements to your technology (in this case, SharePoint), identify any gaps between requirements and your technology, and then build ongoing operational measurements and processes to fill those gaps. It’s never difficult to make a problem more complex — but in my experience, solving problems always boils down to these fundamentals.

I hope you find these presentations helpful. As always, I’d love to hear your feedback.

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.