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Do we need Governance in SharePoint and Office 365?

I had an interesting conversation with a potential client the other day. I mentioned during our introductory call that they need to think about governance before rolling out SharePoint and Office 365 to users. They questioned this and insisted that governance is “not a big deal” and is not a necessary part of Office 365/SharePoint roll-out. There are different schools of thought on this. Still, I would like to take this opportunity and explain why governance is an important step with SharePoint implementation and must be given proper attention during the implementation.

“Implementing SharePoint without governance is like wearing a gown in a medical office – the chances are – your ass is not covered!”

The typical argument of those opposing governance is that “we managed to live without it until now.” True, but that was back when you just had SharePoint on-premises or only were using file shares and had tight control over the data. Using the real estate example, you were a landlord – owned the tool, the backup software, as well as the firewall (fence) around the property.

With SharePoint Online, you are not a landlord anymore. You are a tenant renting space. You have no control over the dwelling, my friend. Microsoft does. As a result, there is no backup in a true sense of it, deleted files are only recoverable for 93 days, and external sharing is enabled out of the box. Not to mention, anyone can create sites, just like they can create folders. If you are a tenant in an apartment and mess it up – you will lose the security deposit. If you mess your SharePoint Online environment – you might lose your intellectual property.

So the proper response to the above new collaboration world we live in would be to establish governance. It does not mean you have to lock down your sites and establish an authoritative regime. What you need to do is develop proper guidelines, policies, rules of engagements. In pure English, you have to decide the rules on site security, site creation, external sharing, content deletion, retention, record management. In case you are looking for some guidance and need a governance document template, you can get one here.

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