Governance is always important

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There are many times I’m called in to help people design their Microsoft 365 compliance environment. In other words, help with SharePoint, Teams, etc. I generally use my trusty framework that I have spoken about here before:

A framework for file migrations to Microsoft 365

Most of the time I find that people have already ‘given it a go’ themselves but generally ‘mucked it up’ and that’s the reason I’m now there.

I have no issues if someone has in fact ‘mucked it up’ because at least they have tried and it is generally easy to rectify. What I do seriously wonder about is the response to the first question I ask them – ‘Why did you do it that way?’.

The answer to this question I receive is generally a blank stare or silence, even a shoulder shrug. I point out that this is largely why things has been ‘mucked up’ in the first place,  because there was no governance.

In short, what I really want to see with collaboration in Microsoft 365 is the fact that thought has been invested beforehand. Why? Simple. A collaboration system in Microsoft 365 is something you build, not something you buy or magically appears. Microsoft 365 gives you the tools to create the best system, in the world for you. Tailored exactly to your business. Uniquely flexible for your business. Able to adapt to your needs, unlike any off the shelf system. However, it can never achieve that if it doesn’t know who you are what you want. You have to tell it (via governance) what you want it to be. In short, it is clay that you need to mould and governance tells you the shape into which you want to mould it.

Like any good project, the secret is to stop and think before acting. Planning before diving in makes a world of difference to the outcome. But most importantly, write down what you want to achieve! The one common thing about EVERY ‘mucked up’ Microsoft 365 collaboration project I see is simply the lack of documentation prior to commencement.

This documentation doesn’t have to be complex or involved and should be at the very minimum a single page that defines the ‘need’ for a collaboration system. What business pain point does it need to solve? What are the expected benefits? Why will it be used? Think of this document like a specification for the project, the plans if you like. You’d never build a house without foundations and plumbing before you put the walls up now would you? A plan helps make sure that you know what the desired outcome is, helps you understand how to get there and how avoid problems along the way. Without that, you are building something effectively blindfolded.

That one page governance document should hopefully be born before the Microsoft 365 collaboration project even starts. However it is by no means a static document. It is a living breathing entity. It should be added to, edited, enhanced, expanded constantly. But above all else, it should become the single point of truth for why we have this thing. Having such a document is both a guide and a reference. As you move through the various stages of development, which occur over a period of time, you can reference this document and understand the reasons for doing things the way you did. As the system grows it again becomes the reasons for what you are looking to achieve and how you approached that. If you don’t already have a governance document for your Microsoft 365 collaboration environment, then now is always the best time to start one.

The importance of this is that at some stage, maybe, the people initially charged to build the collaboration system move on or there is a decision to out source or change builders. If you have a document that sets out your manifesto for the Microsoft 365collaboration system it is so much easier for everyone involved. Everyone is on the same page and knows where to go to get answers if needed. That’s what I want to see if I become involved as a ‘collaboration consultant’. It means I can quickly understand what you want Microsoft 365 to achieve for your business. It is the platform on which your future solution is built. Remember, collaboration in Microsoft 365 is not a product you buy it is a solution you build.

Sadly, even the most generally organised business overlooks the need to have governance in any Microsoft 365 collaboration system. Governance at the very least should be everyone’s understanding of what is project is and what the aim is. The best way to achieve that, is to write it down beforehand! Without it then, there is no a single reference point that be used to guide the outcome and things unsurprisingly get ‘mucked up’.

As they say – ‘failing to plan, is planning to fail’. Governance is important for Microsoft 365 collaboration, if for nothing else because it is succeeding through planning!

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