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Quantifying the success of your SharePoint governance policy

Justify the time and expense of creating a governance document by showing what SharePoint has accomplished in your organization.

More organizations are starting to realize the importance of having a solid SharePoint governance policy in place....

As such, it is becoming more common for them to invest a significant amount of time and resources into making sure that their SharePoint governance documents thoroughly address their organizations' needs.

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But whenever you put a lot of time and money into a project, it becomes just a matter of time before someone asks whether or not the project was worth the investment.

Quantifying the success of your SharePoint governance policy is not an easy task, but it has an important purpose. Even before the current economic downturn, many organizations thought of their IT departments as an expense rather than an asset.

With companies laying off employees in record numbers, it's a bad thing when any employee is not considered to be an asset. Although you may not be able to completely shed this unfair image of IT, you definitely don't want to draw attention to the department by making bad business decisions. When someone from top management asks you why 200 man-hours and $5,000 in legal costs went into producing a SharePoint governance document, you had better have a good answer.

So how do you justify the resources that went into producing your SharePoint governance document? And how can you quantify your governance policy's success? There are no easy answers, but there are several angles that you may be able to use with senior management.

Regulatory compliance
If your organization is subject to any of the various federal regulations pertaining to information management, then defending your SharePoint governance plan is easy. Just make sure that the document addresses regulatory issues. You can use the argument that you did what was required by law. Enough said.

Legal protection
SharePoint governance plans often include an acceptable use policy. Having such a policy in place may offer your company a degree of legal protection if an employee were to upload something illegal to a document library. You may be able to make the argument that the fines and legal fees associated with getting caught with illegal material would far outweigh the cost of creating a governance document.

Fewer help desk calls
If your goal is to be able to quantify the success of your governance plan by comparing the cost of producing a SharePoint governance document against the return on investment, then the best place to start may be at your organization's help desk.

 Once employees begin to interact with SharePoint in a uniform manner that is proven to work, you may see a decrease in help desk calls.

A governance policy typically dictates the acceptable use of SharePoint resources, and it usually requires employees to use document libraries in a uniform, specified manner. Once employees begin to interact with SharePoint in a uniform manner that is proven to work, you may see a decrease in help desk calls.

Various research firms have produced estimates as to how much each help desk call ultimately costs an organization in terms of resources used, lost productivity and things like that. You may be able to use these figures to justify the costs that went into producing the SharePoint governance document. Even if the reduction in the number of help desk calls hasn't offset the cost of the governance document, you may be able to show evidence of substantial savings over the long term.

Better use of resources
A SharePoint governance policy typically states what the SharePoint servers can and cannot be used for. Because a server has a finite amount of disk space and CPU power, such a policy can help ensure that the server is being used in the intended manner. This can save an organization money in the long run because using server resources responsibly adds time to its useful life and keeps you from having to upgrade or replace the server as soon.

Continuity of business
Although most medium-sized and large businesses have a disaster recovery policy that addresses continuity of business, SharePoint-specific disaster recovery procedures can and should be documented as well. SharePoint document libraries often contain critical data, and there is a cost associated with losing that data or with the server being down for an extended period of time. You may be able to justify the costs of creating a governance document by explaining that the document creation process forced the IT department to develop detailed contingency plans that will save the company money if a disaster ever strikes.

 The justification for a governance document is a lot like the justification behind implementing SharePoint in the first place.

In a lot of ways, the justification for a governance document is a lot like the justification behind implementing SharePoint in the first place. If your organization is using SharePoint, you must have had some good reasons for employing it. If those rationales worked before, they will probably work now.

Maybe your organization needed a good content management tool, or maybe it needed individual departments to be able to create websites on the fly. Whatever the reason, somebody used it as a justification for implementing SharePoint.

You may be able to use similar reasoning to justify your SharePoint governance document.

For instance, you might be able to say that the organization invested a lot of money in a SharePoint deployment in order to accomplish a specific goal. Your governance document ensures that you remain focused on that goal, and it will prevent your SharePoint resources from being squandered on unimportant projects.

A SharePoint governance document probably will not contribute directly to a company's bottom line, so try to focus on areas in which having the document helps to save costs. You may also be able to focus on ways the document may be able to insulate the organization from the fallout from various legal situations. Ultimately, it can be really tough to quantify the results of your SharePoint governance policy, so you may have to get creative. In the end, it will be worth the effort.


  Brien M. Posey, MCSE, has received Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional Award four times for his work with Windows Server, IIS and Exchange Server. He has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and healthcare facilities, and was once a network administrator for Fort Knox. You can visit his personal Web site at

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