When you read about governance, it is often focused on what I call the “foundational governance”. In the case of information technology we focus on foundational information governance, or the way we intend to use our information within the organization.This however, is only one of two parts of the actual governance needed for the management of our information. The second portion which is often not considered governance, encompasses the processes and procedures needed to maintain the systems that are used to manage and transmit information. I refer to this governance as operational governance and it consists of the structure, policies and procedures to ensure a stable and consistent information management solution.
The governance of the sustainment processes within an organization are typically hit and miss. Most organizations will have some type of backup and recovery process, but how many have a process for the creation of sites in an ECM like SharePoint? Now don’t get me wrong, some organizations are very dutiful in creating what they perceive as needed for processes to maintain and administrate their systems. The problem is that many do not create the processes, and those that do don’t necessarily get everything they need. As a consultant, I come into organizations that are experiencing pain, usually in the governance of their solutions, and my job is to determine the gaps and remediate them. One of the best ways to evaluate gaps in the operational governance of a solution (regardless of the technology) is to interview the administrators and key business users, perform a health assessment of the system and make recommendations on best practice based on the gaps. In some cases, we would then move to remediate those gaps as a final step. These steps serve to quickly identify what exists and what does not exist and helps me understand the technical skills of the administrative team.
In this post we will walk through identifying our current state, and in a future post we will look at the rest of the operational governance that should be considered to ensure a properly sustained environment.
The first steps in the process are the interviews. In a SharePoint solution, I like to sit down with the farm administrators, the site collection administrators and the service desk manager. These three groups or persons can provide insight into pain and into items that take up a significant portion of their daily activity. Following are a few questions I will typically ask and why I ask them. It is also important that you are clear about your purpose, as a consultant coming in they may perceive you as critiquing them on their job, but we are there to help them be heard and to fix their pain.
In other solutions, you may have different roles, as long as you can extract the pain and issues for the solution, your interviews can be with whoever can best provide the answers.
Farm administrators are your best source of information when it comes to issues with operational governance. They know the solution better than anyone else and have to deal with everything and anything that goes wrong. Often it is easiest to just sit down over coffee and a notebook and ask them what is wrong with the solution and what they would fix, then sit back, let them vent and take notes; but I like to have a plan so I typically compile a list of questions to ask before hand (let me know if you have some good questions and I can add them):
Notice I didn’t ask them questions like how many farms, the servers on the farm, the number of content databases and their size. These can be asked, but typically you know those things before you begin the engagement and even if you don’t, reports from SPRAP or any other health assessment tool will clearly give you all this information. At DevFacto, we have developed our own health assessment tool to answer all the farm questions and to touch over 100 different areas in the farm. I have included the areas in my post, “What should I Check With a Health Assessment?” and would love any feedback you have on the points and questions.
Once completed, we can move on to the Site Collection Administrator questions. Site Collection Administrators have less knowledge of the configuration, but provide a direct point of contact with your key stakeholders.
Based on question number five above, you should have an idea of which Site Collection Administrators are needed for this portion of the questioning. In smaller organizations, the Site Collection Administrators may be the Farm Administrators – you should be able to figure that out quickly when beginning the engagement. The Site Collection Administrators are a SharePoint solution’s first line of direct contact and problem solving in the business. They are the most likely to know what the users want changed and what issues are recurring the most from a user experience perspective.
Remember these questions are really meant to draw out the pain points and issues with the environment. You may hear the same response from many different people, which should raise the importance of the issue. Some of the answers may be symptoms of a deeper problem, and it will be your job to determine that before attempting to remediate it.
The Service Desk Manager can provide you tangible feedback on where issues are occurring, open tickets and typical complaints that users have made about the system. They are the support of what has been discussed with the farm and site collection administrators and will provide additional insight and numbers behind the importance of certain issues that have been identified.
Remember the questions above are a starting point, you want to draw out their pain experience. In some cases it might be better to talk directly to the business units, but always remember these interviews are about insight into issues pertaining to the environment.
As mentioned above, the Health Assessment portion is usually done through a tool that compiles all the information about the environment. It analyzes your solution and provides feedback on all areas that need to be considered. Please refer to my “What Should I Check with a Health Assessment?” post for actual check points and complete it in whatever manner you wish.
From the interviews and health assessment, a report of gaps and issues with the design can be created and presented to organizational decision makers. From the resulting report, you will be able to identify and prioritize of the issues involved. Use this information to build a remediation plan that includes the issue, it’s criticality, a prioritized solution to the issue and the effort needed to resolve the issue. Then, sit down with the decision makers and work out the remediation plan to resolve the issues. The plan should provide a timeline for each resolution and the resource allocation needed to resolve it.
Originally posted on Moss Adventures.