Every custom SharePoint environment requires and a lot of thought and planning before actual coding or implementation ever takes place. Without taking this vital first step, unnecessary complexity and confusion can quickly creep up on you and your users.
Developing a proper plan and long term road map will help keep the environment under control and on a path driven by business needs. The goal is to provide a tool people can use and ultimately accomplish the business goals set forth. A proper plan also helps with user adoption by getting business decision makers involved in this process.
Strategies for Governance
- How will we control the expansion of SharePoint content?
- What security roles are going to be needed?
- What will it take to get our varied departments to work together in achieving business goals?
These are a few questions answered through a governance model. In a nutshell, a governance model is a set of policies setting out the roles and responsibilities for IT and other departments to cooperate in achieving business goals. This model is a critical step in planning for SharePoint.
The key word here is cooperate. IT should get other departments and teams involved when planning governance. SharePoint is a tool that will be utilized across the company, so varied opinions should be involved in this discussion and seriously considered. The benefit to including many voices in this discussion are twofold; you will provide solutions to the business needs in addition to getting stakeholders involved in the process. This can decrease resistance from the user stand point and improve SharePoint utilization in the long run.
Microsoft elaborates more on this topic through their TechNet. Below are a couple of links to articles that go into fine detail regarding governance.
Information Architecture & Taxonomy
After you have covered the governance of SharePoint, it’s also important to think about your SharePoint information architecture. You should consider questions like:
- What are we going to need to implement this?
- What sites are needed, how will they be organized and what will the content look like?
- How are we going to organize the security around this information?
A clear taxonomy will help design the structure of the information. This is your chance to organize and classify information in a way that it is readily accessible to all users. You can accomplish this by organizing your business’ information in a hierarchical manner. This exercise will establish the dependencies and relationships between the content.
Once implemented users will find the information they are looking for much easier to find. The flow of data and ease of use makes user adoption less of a chore and more of a natural progression.
As you work to establish these hierarchies and organize information, be sure to keep the business involved across this whole process. Rather than dictating what system they are going to use, provide users an opportunity to influence the design. This will empower them with an intuitive tool that works the way they do. As a result, user acceptance and adoption will make for a smooth transition into SharePoint.
If you need to update an existing SharePoint environment, the techniques are much the same. You should examine how the organization utilizes the existing features. Then start a dialogue amongst the key stakeholders on how the current setup could be improved.
This article is a high level overview of SharePoint planning, and these pointers cover just the first baby steps to creating a document management and collaboration system that works for your business. The key take-away is that clear and open communication is the best way to get started!
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