This is the sixth post in a series (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7) on the challenges organisations face as they move from having online content and tools hosted firmly on their estate to renting space in the cloud. We will help you to consider the options and guide on the steps you need to take.
Starting from our first post we have covered different aspects you need to consider as you take each step including information structure and how it is managed using Office 365 and SharePoint as a technology example. We will cover more about SharePoint in this post, and placemaking in the cloud.
In SharePoint there are a set of logic chunks. One could decompose the digital workplace into intranet sites, as departmental and organisational buckets; team sites where groups collaborate, and lastly your personal domain being the my site collection. Navigating between these, is a mix of traditional information architecture and search driven content. When being within a such a habitat as a teamsite, it is not always obvious how to cross-link or navigate to other domains within the digital workplace hosted in Sharepoint.
One way to overcome this, is to render different forms of portals, based upon dynamic navigation. These intersections and aggregates help users to move around the maze of buckets and collections of the content. Sharepoint have very good features, and options to create search-based content delivery mechanisms.
A metadata and search-based content model, gives us cues for the future design of the digital workplace, with connected habitats and sustainable information architecture. Where people don’t get lost, and have wayfinding means to survive everyday work practices.
This is where how you manage the content in SharePoint and Office 365 is critical. As we said in our first post it is important you have a good information architecture combined with a good governance framework that helps you to transform your buckets of content from the estate into the cloud. We have covered information architecture so we now move more towards how governance completes the picture for you.
There are three approaches to the governance your organisation needs to have with SharePoint and Office 365. You don’t have to use just one. You can combine some of each to find the right blend for your organisation. What works best for you will depend on a number of different factors. Among them:
- Restricting use – stopping some features from being used e.g. SharePoint Designer
- Encouraging best practice – guidance and training available
- Preventing problems – checking content before it is published
Each of these approaches can support your governance strategy. The key is to understand what you need to use.
You need to be clear why your organisation is using SharePoint and Office 365 and the benefits expected. This will shape how tight or loose your governance needs to be.
Once you are clear on this, you then need to consider the strategic benefits and drawbacks such as SharePoint Designer and site collection administration rights.
- You control what is being used.
- You decide who uses a feature e.g. SharePoint Designer.
- You manage the level of autonomy each site owner has.
- You find out why someone needs to use a feature.
- You monitor costs for licences, users, servers, etc.
- You measure who is using what and why for reporting.
- You stifle innovation by not allowing people to test out ideas.
- You stop legitimate use by asking for permission to use features.
- You prevent people being able to share knowledge how they wish to.
- You may be unable to realise the maximum potential of SharePoint.
- You create unnecessary administration.
- You risk adding costs without any value to offset them with.
You need to get the balance right with governance that gives you maximum value for the effort needed managing SharePoint and Office 365.
Encourage best practice
The goal from implementing SharePoint and Office 365 is to have an environment that enables employees to publish, share, find and use information easily to help with their work. They are confident the information is reliable and appropriate, whatever their need for it is. People also feel comfortable using these tools rather than alternative methods like calling helpdesks or emailing other employees for help.
Encouraging best practice by giving them the opportunity to test to meet their needs is one approach to achieving this. There are factors you need to consider that can help or hinder the success of using this approach.
- You inform employees of all the benefits to be gained.
- You train people to use the right tools.
- You design a registration process to direct people to the right tools.
- You point employees to guidance on how to follow best practice.
- You encourage innovation by giving everyone freedom of use.
- You can’t prevent people using different tools to those you recommend.
- You risk confusing employees using content unsure of its integrity.
- You can’t prevent everyone ignoring best practice when publishing.
- You may make it difficult for people to share knowledge effectively.
- Your governance model may be ineffective and need improving.
Getting the balance right between encouraging best practice and the level of governance to deter behaviour which can destroy the value from using SharePoint and Office 365 is critical.
As well as encouraging best practice, preventing problems helps to reduce time and costs wasted on sorting out unnecessary issues. While that is the aim of most organisations the practical realities as it is rolled out can divert plans from achieving this.
You need to get the right level of governance in place to prevent problems. Is it encouraging innovation and keeping governance light touch? Is it a heavier touch to prevent the ‘wrong’ behaviour and minimise risk of your brand and reputation being damaged? How much do you want to spend preventing problems? What does your cost/benefit analysis show?
- People using SharePoint and Office 365 have a great experience (especially the first time they use it).
- Everyone is confident they can use it for what they need it for without experience problems.
- Employees don’t waste time calling the helpdesk because many problems have been prevented.
- Effective governance encourages early adoption and increased knowledge sharing.
- Costs spent preventing problems are justified by increased productivity and reduced risk of errors.
- People find registering difficult and lengthy because of extra steps taken to prevent problems and don’t bother.
- People find it too restrictive for their needs and it stifles innovation.
- People turn to other tools (maybe not approved) to meet their needs and ask other people for help to use them.
- Too restrictive governance prevents most beneficial use by raising the barrier too high for people to use.
- Costs of preventing problems are higher than benefits to be gained and not justified.
You need to consider the potential benefits and drawbacks before deciding on the level of governance that is right for your organisation.
Remember, it is possible and probably desirable to have different levels of governance for each feature. It may be lighter for personal views and opinions expressed in MyProfile and MySite but tighter for policies and formal news items in TeamSites.
That is the challenge! You have so much flexibility to configure the tools to meet your organisation’s needs. Don’t be afraid to test out on part of your intranet to see what effect it has and involve employees to feed back on their experience before launching it.
The way forward is to create a sustainable information architecture, that supports an information environment that is available on any platform, everywhere, anytime and on any device. A governance framework can show roles and responsibilities, how they fit with a strategy and plan with publishing standards as the foundation to a consistently good user experience.
Combining a governance framework and information architecture with the same scope avoids any gaps in your buckets of content being managed or not being found. It helps you transform from your estate to the cloud successfully.
In our last concluding posts we will dive into more design oriented topics with a helping hand from findability experts and developers. Adding migration thoughts in next post. But first navigating the social graph being people centric, leaving some outstanding questions. How will the graph interoperate if your business runs several clouds, and still have buckets of content elsewhere?