04 Apr 2017
sharepoint governanace

Governance in Office 365 or SharePoint On-Premise

Governance in Office 365 or SharePoint On-Premise

While SharePoint at its core is a document management and collaboration platform, over the past decade SharePoint has evolved into much more especially with its continuous new offerings available in Office 365.  It also serves as a platform for business process automation, records management, business intelligence and project management to effectively manage projects of different scale.  The capabilities and functionalities that SharePoint On Premise and Office 365 offers spans a wide range and essentially is a business enablement tool for all organizations whether they are small, mid-size or large.

As most organizations adopt and roll out Office 365 or a hybrid configuration of SharePoint On-Premise with Office 365, the key to a successful implementation is to ensure that a well-defined governance plan is in place.  Governance plans define rules, roles, and responsibilities for all aspects of the technology implementation and utilization of services by end users.  These plans include ownership for both business and technical teams and outline processes for up-keeping the rules.

At a very high level, governance is broadly divided into 3 major categories as shown below.  While the first two categories are managed by internal IT, the ownership of the third category can be within business team or IT or a combination of both.  The complexity of the governance plan and implementation will depend on the organization size.  The technical governance typically gets matured within IT organizations as it is also driven by regulations such as SOX controls but information governance is usually overlooked which results in poor quality of content.  This leads to difficulty for end users in either finding information or leveraging the productivity suite to its fullest capabilities.

sharepoint Governance

For each of the governance areas listed it is important to clearly articulate the following –

  • Who has the ownership of making the rules, policies and processes?
  • Which teams are accountable in implementing these?
  • What comprises the Governance Team that oversees and ensures that the governance is followed?

The general technical and content governance in the table outlined above applies to Office 365 productivity suite as well.  Unlike SharePoint On-Premise where infrastructure and database management responsibility lies within IT, in Office 365 these areas are managed by Microsoft and focus is more on the administration, configuration and utilization of the services.  Office 365 is a productivity platform with several services having overlapping collaboration capabilities.  It therefore becomes important to determine a strategy around which services are enabled and intended for use. 

Office 365 Information Architecture

Office 365 is a platform that is evolving very rapidly and new services, functionalities and features are rolled out monthly in many cases.  The extensive choices available to end users to collaborate with various services that have overlapping functionality can sometimes lead to confusion. Business users and technology champions often seek guidance on what service to leverage when and a strategy for roll out.  While document collaboration and discussion sharing can be done using Yammer, SharePoint, OneDrive for Business or O365 groups, projects can be managed using SharePoint, Planner or Project Online.

It is very important to ensure that business strategies and objectives are aligned with the technology service offerings.  For example, while videos can be uploaded to SharePoint Online, the strategy around storing and sharing media should be developed and the services intended for their specific use such as Skype for Business or Office 365 Video should be encouraged based on whether it is live sharing or for storing purposes.  A similar example would be around managing projects.  Office 365 offers different services for project management and governance around when Planner Vs SharePoint Project Sites Vs Project Online is used depends on business use cases.  The rules, roles and responsibilities around ownerships, provisioning, maintenance and training for these offerings should be established.

The visualization below outlines recommendation at a high level on which service to leverage for what business purpose.  The key to a successful governance for the services listed below are to identify answers to the following –

  • What services will be turned on and how will these services be utilized?
  • Who will be administering these services?
  • What will be the usage and security policies around it?
  • What tools besides natively available in Office 365 will be used to monitor, govern and administer the environment?

office 365 governance

The importance of organizing and structuring content within SharePoint is of paramount importance.   A well-defined governance plan outlines processes and rules for content creation, administration and maintenance of the SharePoint platform including ownership definitions for business and technical teams.  This ensures that information is secure, maintenance and operation costs are minimized, information can be searched and retrieved easily and the organization is compliant.

The diagram below shows the two types of content that are used in team sites.  The roles and rules are significantly different depending on whether it is an outward communication site or internal collaboration sites.  The publishing or communication sites need rigid controls and are typically permanent sites that are carefully monitored and governed.  The collaboration sites have a lifecycle and should be kept flexible for users to collaborate per their needs.

sharepoint Governance model optimum

In our experience, governance is an afterthought for many organizations.  This very critical and important step is missed when the platform is launched and results in a rapid uncontrolled growth of the content that becomes unmanageable.  This also makes future upgrade paths expensive and results in a low adoption of the platform.  The key to maximizing the investment in the platform is to ensure a well formulated governance plan tailored to your organization is implemented and enforced by the appointed governance committee.  Leveraging the full suite of Office 365 with all the functionality and features maximizes the adoption of the platform and drives collaboration as well as productivity.  A successful deployment of the technology includes providing guidance on what services should be used when and help users collaborate in a manner that suits their needs without providing extremely rigid restrictions on the offerings.

In summary, the key to successfully governing and adopting Office 365 or SharePoint On-Premise is to educate and empower end users with the capabilities and guide users to use services that best suits their collaboration needs.  The amount of effort and the complexity of the governance plan depends on various factors such as the size of organization, maturity levels of O365 or SharePoint, the topology or the landscape of how SharePoint / Office 365 is set up including the infrastructure footprint and how the organization is internally structured into teams.  It is therefore recommended that the governance plan be customized to an organization’s specific needs considering all the above factors.


At Optimum, we provide SharePoint and Office 365 governance consulting and advisory services to help organizations train and educate their teams and develop custom strategies and processes for content creation & distribution, administration, and maintenance of their SharePoint and Office 365 platforms. This ensures that company information is secured and accessible, maintenance and operation costs are minimized, information can be searched and retrieved easily, and the organization is compliant.

Contact us for a free consultation to see how we can help you manage the rapid, uncontrolled growth of the content and govern your SharePoint/Office 365 platform.