To be completely honest, I'm new to this concept and I'm sure most of you are too. I started to hear the expression SharePoint governance when we (Sharegate) released a new SharePoint governance tool
to help you find and fix things in your SharePoint. By then, aside of understanding that you needed a tool like that to manage your governance plan, I didn't know much. Since I'm a power user and SharePoint beginner, there's a lot of technical stuff surrounding this concept that I don't understand and that I just don't want to learn. The only thing I wanted to know when I first heard of this, is basically: What is the SharePoint governance? Therefore, I'm not going to elaborate on many not important things to explain this. I'm just going to make sure that after reading this article, you actually know what people mean when they speak about it.
What is SharePoint Governance?
I understand things a lot more when it's compared to something I already know and that is what I'm going to do here. What happens if you let anyone do anything they want without any authority roles and guidelines in a city? Except for the moral limitations, it would probably lead to anarchy.
That is why there are many documents that set rules and guidelines about how we are supposed to act in society. That is also why we assign authority and responsibilities to specific individuals like policemen or mayors, so they can keep the order and peace in the city. Ok, managing a city is a lot more complex than that, but you get the idea. You probably wonder where I'm going with this. Let's compare SharePoint to this city. The same thing happens if you let anyone do anything without defining sets of rules and guidelines about how they should act inside your SharePoint. A security problem might also appear if you don't define who has the right to do this and that. The result is: anarchy!
Now I hope that my little story gave you an idea of what is SharePoint governance. It's a document in which you will find:
Roles and responsibilities (ex: You need the approval of whom to create a new team site.)
Rules (ex: You can't upload a very big file without the approval of the administrator.)
Guidelines (ex: Files that haven't been modified for # days must be checked and deleted if not useful.)
Everything relevant to maintain an order in your SharePoint
Why do we need a SharePoint Governance plan?
If you are using SharePoint every day at your job like me and even more if you are administrating SharePoint in your company, you probably realized that the SharePoint structure, content and so on can become very messy and big after a while. I'm going to picture it with my own experience at work. We are a medium scale company and almost everyone works in SharePoint for different things like uploading documents, create new wikis, create new items in a list, etc. Recently, the administrators realized that some files were taking a lot of space on our server and that we were almost running out of free space. It must be a very common situation, I'm sure! That's an example where the intranet gets stuffed and messy and that's why the SharePoint Governance plan exists! Basically, the purpose of a SharePoint Governance plan is to make sure that your SharePoint stays clean and secure.
Note: A really important thing to understand is that doing a SharePoint governance plan is not necessary going to assure the well-being of your SharePoint. It's not going to be the case if the plan is not done well. If we come back to the story of the city, we can say that even our own system is not perfect right? Sometimes, even the law lets bad things happen (sorry for the law reference, I’ve been watching "Suits" a lot recently). We can say that there’s been a lot of work and modifications done on our system and that it’s still not perfect. The same thing is relevant to your SharePoint governance plan. You need to take the time to make it right and even after it’s finished, you have to make modifications if needed.
I'm not going to tell you how to apply the SharePoint governance in your business or how to create a SharePoint governance plan from scratch. This article was meant to give you an idea of what is it and why we keep hearing stuff about it. As you can see, it's pretty much important for any business from the smallest one to the Coca-Cola type. Obviously, the size of the governance plan document will vary a lot from one place to another because you will need to set more rules, more responsibilities and more guidelines if you manage the SharePoint of Coca-Cola than if you manage the SharePoint of a start-up.
There's a lot more to learn from here on this subject. If you are the curious type of person or if your boss just came to you to tell you that you need to build a SharePoint governance plan tomorrow and you are here so you don't know what it is and where to start (good luck with that!) then here's a series written by Benjamin Niaulin, SharePoint MVP, that elaborates on the subject. You'll find all the more detailed stuff that I didn't want to talk about in this article and much more.
SharePoint Governance Series