Its About the Business, Stupid

I don’t know about you, but I am getting sick of hearing self-righteous developers trash talk their customers. Granted, I don’t witness it as much as I used to, but I still come across it once in a while, mostly online in some kind of threaded discussion area, but occasionally within a speaker room or conference hallway. Thankfully, the vast majority of people I see and consider friends don’t do this – one of the things which keeps me going in this SharePoint community are all of the friends and acquaintances, most of which are brilliant, fun to be around, and who will go out of their way to help customers and conference-goers alike. Reading through a couple threads today, it reminded me of two things that all of us need to keep in mind, and I thought I’d spend a few minutes on the <soapbox>:

  1. What you say online will follow you around forever (words to live by, and a lesson I keep trying to impress upon my kids).
  2. It’s not about the technology – its about the business.

imageIn order to enable powerful collaboration that is directly aligned with business objectives, you need a few things: a shared understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish, for one. A set of metrics or KPIs or commitments that you can monitor and discuss, to help you determine that what you are doing is sticking to the plan, and whether that plan is successful. And you need to implement some kind of governance, which includes a strong change management process. Successful collaboration requires all three of these things, end of story. To put it simply, governance strategies are to collaboration platforms like a floor plan is to a home – a house would fall apart without a blueprint that was vetted by experts and built by qualified craftsmen. These same truths apply for enterprise collaboration, as governance strategies are the foundation and frame that support and secure the content and users within the platform. Rather than poking fun at end users for failing to make this connection, or for making wrong decisions about the technology, developers should be listening to their users – and working more closely with them to iterate on the platform. Because *that* is what governance is all about: listening, understanding, and coming to a consensus on how to move forward.

A governance strategy is the link that directly connects all of the business needs to the platform and can easily be defined as the set of policies that directs and enables the business and IT teams to jointly achieve business goals. Some of you may remember the huge research project I conducted while working at SharePoint ISV Axceler, prior to our acquisition. In that study, we found that nearly 65 percent of those we spoke with viewed SharePoint as a strategic, enterprise-wide platform, but that very few of those organizations understood the relationship between governance and alignment of the technology to their business objectives. According to the research:

  • Only 33.8 percent said their SharePoint strategy directly connects with their business goals
  • 60.5 percent stated their governance plans ranged from being neutral to not at all linked to business objectives
  • 30 percent of companies connect their governance plans with an end-user adoption strategy well or extremely well

Needless to say, many organizations still have a governance gap that could be seriously preventing their business from realizing the full potential of their existing collaboration platforms and employee productivity. Raw numbers aside, here are a few additional reasons why enterprise collaboration platforms need governance strategies:

  • End-user adoption – Enterprise collaboration suites are empowering technologies, however, if no one is using it or understands how to use it, the entire investment quickly goes to waste. When governance strategies are disconnected from employee adoption, businesses quickly lower the platform’s efficiency potential and miss out on building ongoing participation.
  • ROI from the platform investment – Why introduce an entirely new platform to only hope for the best? Governance plans continuously uncover the value within the platform and identifies not only who should manage the platform, but also guides the strategic direction of the platform’s content.
  • Reducing risk – In the research, just over 43 percent claimed they do not regularly run audits on usage, security, content or permissions, which is frightening to say the least. A governance plan that protects business IP and is aligned with the appropriate compliance regulations eliminates potentially devastating risk and losses in the future.

Governance enables actual business agility and protects the business from data leaks, risk and lost resources. Collaboration platforms create a deep pool of collective intelligence across an organization, arming end-users with the information and context to not only move faster, but smarter. For businesses, governance helps tap into true flexibility and innovation. </soapbox>

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.