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ECM Governance - Part Five

In this post, I will finish off the definitions of the different principles and then we can move on from there to venture more in-depth about ECM governance.

Collaboration Principles

Collaboration principles are principles that describe the way in which we plan on using the team, project and other collaboration site capabilities of the solution. It should include things like the site design (in which lists and libraries are standard), the security roles used in collaboration, content types for templates and anything else you want to control in the collaboration portion of your solution.

Collaboration principles are about the control of who can do what, where and when. They provide a foundation for collaborative interaction and as such are always used in your solution in some way. As an example of a collaboration principle, I have included “collaboration sites will inherit the top menu navigation from the parent site”, which encompasses the fact that collaboration sites are more loosely controlled than portal sites and control revolves more around the user experience.  Later when we examine the application of policies, we will see that as we move down the hierarchy from portals to collaboration sites and then to my sites, we change from highly structured and restrictive control to a looser user enabled control.

Collaboration sites will inherit the top menu navigation from the parent site.

Principle – Collaboration sites will inherit the top menu navigation from the parent site.

Implication – To maintain a consistent user experience, the same top menu is used throughout all collaboration sites. Site administrators will have no control over navigation.


Business Process Principles

Business Process Management is a core function that every ECM needs and SharePoint is no exception.  The one caveat I have to say is that SharePoint isn’t ideal for creating workflows and forms. Nintex does a far better job in the forms area and makes it possible for power users (with training and mentorship) to create some complex workflows.  The developer will never disappear for the complex workflows, but his work is minimized, providing a better return for the organization.  Come to think of it, the ROI of a tool like Nintex seems like a good topic for another blog post, stay tuned for that too!

Regardless of the tools used, BPM needs some structure around how workflows, integrations, and forms are created, where they are stored, how they are executed and anything else you think will need a boundary around.  In this example I have created a principle for the management of alerts and notifications, which fall under business process management.  The principle is intended to reduce the overhead of managing alerts and notifications, while ensuring users are responsible for managing their own alerts and notifications.  Coupled with this principle are other principles around training for users and principles for notification and alert creation.

Each user is responsible for the management of alerts and e-mail notifications.

Principle – Each user is responsible for the management of their own alerts and e-mail notifications.

Implication – While anyone can assign alerts to others, each user is responsible for the maintenance of their own alerts and notifications. Each user needs to ensure they receive the notifications they need.


Esthetic/Site Design Principles

I changed the name of this category (many ECM governance practitioners will call this user experience) because for me, it is more than just the user experience. It encompasses the brand, navigation, search style guides, master pages, XSL transformations and anything else that affects the look and feel of the solution, including site and page templates.  These rules are often the most important because they directly affect the user experience and adoption.

I remember a developer that once worked for me, he had recently come from China and I asked him if he could brand our product SharePoint site.  He said “yes” and with a slight head bow, immediately set to work.  He ended up spending the evening at home working on it, so when I came in the next morning, he proudly presented me with a SharePoint team site branded in bright red and gold, or as his cohorts called it the ketchup and mustard brand, very much like the 1980’s McDonald’s I grew up loving… but alas there was no Hamburglar anywhere on the site.

That little story illustrates why this is so important, every user has a different idea when it comes to look and feel and if I had simply used a governance principle that said his brand had to align with the corporate style guide, there would likely not have been an issue.  I have included a couple examples in this case, one that identifies the importance of user experience, the other ensures no one thinks they can make up their own brand.

Prioritize findability over authoring convenience.

Principle – Ensure that “findability” governs design decisions – optimize metadata and site configuration to provide the best value for the end-users, not just the content contributor.

Implication – In situations where design trade-offs must be considered (more metadata versus less, information above or below “the fold”, duplicating links in multiple places), decisions should be made to make it easier for end-users rather than content contributors. “Findability” means designing sites so that important information is easily visible and that navigational cues are used to help users easily find key information. It also means using metadata to improve accuracy of search results. Both the “browse” and “search” experience for users will guide design decisions in initial site development and modification over time.


All publishing and collaboration sites will be consistently branded.

Principle – All publishing and collaboration sites will be consistently branded.

Implication – In order to maintain consistency in the look and feel of the intranet, standardized brands will be used for collaborative and publishing sites and will not be modifiable by the site owners.

Content Principles

Where the esthetic principles are the most important principles for user experience and adoption, content principles are about making the solution fit for purpose, after all this is an ECM we are talking about (emphasis on the “C”). My experience has proven that the content principles will outnumber all of the other principles combined. Whether we are talking about a metadata field, a vocabulary, taxonomy, document, list, image, template page or alert, it is all content and that means that principles that affect any part of the system will probably affect the content principles.

Because content principles are such a vast area, I have included several examples to help you get started, but understand even in the beginning this category is the main part of a governance document. Some of these you have already seen, which reinforces my point of overlap, yet I am sure you can see how they apply to more than one category.

All content is owned.

Principle – All content must have a clearly identified “owner”.

Implication – Users need to know who to contact if content on a site is out-of-date or inaccurate. The content owner is accountable for all the content in a site and for ensuring it is up-to-date. Each site should have a clearly defined owner that is visible on the main page of each site.


Maintain a single source of truth.

Principle – All content exists in only one location.

Implication – This means that the official version of a document is posted once by the content owner. For the reader’s convenience, users may create a link to the official copy of a document from any site, but should not post a “convenience copy”. Users should not post copies of documents to their personal hard drives or My Site web sites if they are already on a site.


In situations where some documents or records need to be available offline due to a very slow or inconsistent connection to the SharePoint sites, SharePoint Workspace can be used to make these records available offline.

Use built-in versioning.

Principle – Edit documents in place. Do not download or make copies for editing, if possible.

Implication – Version control will be enabled in document libraries where prior versions need to be retained during document creation or editing. If prior versions need to be retained permanently for legal purposes, “old” versions of documents should be stored as records. Documents should be edited in place rather than deleted and added again, so that document links created by other users will not break.


Sponsors/Owners are Accountable

Principle – Site Sponsors/Owners are accountable, but everyone owns the responsibility for content management.

Implication – All content that is posted to a site and shared by more than a small team will be governed by a content management process that ensures content is accurate, relevant, and current. Site Sponsors/Owners are responsible and accountable for content quality and currency and archiving old content on a timely basis but site users are responsible for making Site Sponsors/Owners aware of content that needs updating.


Business Intelligence Principles

Business intelligence principles encompass the use and presentation of BI data, reports, dashboards,  charts, graphs and KPIs.  They are intended as with any other principle to provide both consistency and ease of management, with the later being very important.

In this example, we define a principle that ensures we are controlling access to the BI tools, which require an enterprise license in SharePoint.

The Business Intelligence Centre can only be accessed by the BI User role.

Principle – Only the BI User Role will have access to the BI Centre.

Implication – To control the enterprise license in SharePoint the BI Centre exists in it’s own web application and can only be accessed by users who have the proper licensing.  The BI user role has been configured to ensure compliance with the Microsoft licensing model.


Originally posted by David McMillan on Moss Adventures