Wednesday, November 12, 2014

What does 'Governance' mean to you?

What does 'Governance' mean to you?

To me it means dealing with politicians, Red State / Blue State, and the current raft of temporary political theories. It means Fox News vs. the John Stewart show.

In the tech world it has come to be used to refer to having policies and procedures that support a technical infrastructure. Microsoft has elevated this usage as it has promoted SharePoint. Why? Because SharePoint is an enabler for the end user. It is among 'content management' systems which allow the end user to create information storage systems. The worry is that these systems will grow like weeds, with no control, without 'Information Architecture' being considered. It is a legitimate worry, but the greater worry is 'Adoption'.

What does 'Adoption' mean to you?

To me it means children finding a new home. In the SharePoint world it means that there is a large portion of the installed base that is not using SharePoint. It could be because of missing functionality, lack of user buy-in, lack of executive support.

User Adoption is a real problem. But underlying the issue is a darker reality. A lack of User Adoption may result from the executive, or most likely IT acting in a vacuum. The tail wagging the dog.

Sure SharePoint is a cool thing to implement. But what does it do that we don't already have in place?

  • Replaces file shares
  • Allows collaboration
  • Information portal
  • Replaces Exchange calendaring
  • Search Capability
  • Document Management
Most of these functionalities are in place already in many businesses, with more purpose built systems that are, as a result, more finely tuned to business activity. SharePoint is a generic Swiss Army knife of features. It doesn't have as many embedded business rules as purpose-built systems.
(That is one reason why after-market products are quite important.)

Words Matter
By dressing up these basic requirements of our technology projects - Microsoft and IT 'elevate' the discussion. We tend to fool ourselves into thinking that we know what is best for our business. Maybe we're following the herd mentality? Maybe we are trying to stay relevant?

Until recently the term governance was rarely seen alone - most often it would be written 'Good Governance' or 'Bad Governance'. But 'Governance' became a buzz word used by consultants, and it is now frequently seen in email marketing. And this marketing drives us to implement governance before any project begins. And sure, policies are good to have. But we need to get our community behind us before any project begins.

Governance means nothing if it is a bunch of rules that the business (either explicitly, or de-facto) does not agree to. On the one hand, the IT organization writes up rules but the business management is not engaged. This is the curse of middle management! On the other hand management may be engaged but is unable to push through changes in procedure - as users will always try to find the easiest way to work - which may mean going around the system.

User Engagement
We need to practice user engagement. In a customer service context, some have called this 'customer delight'. We could call this 'user delight'. If we're not providing a better solution than DropBox, then our users are going to use DropBox. Otherwise we are like the tail wagging the dog. It kinda works, but it's never a sure thing.

User Engagement was the topic of a recent article in SharePoint Pro magazine:

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