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IntraTeam Conference 2014 – Day 1

IntraTeam Conference 2014 – Day 1

IntraTeam Event

For the next three days I’ll be live blogging from the IntraTeam 2014 conference in Denmark on Intranets, SharePoint and Enterprise Search. #IEC14

Day 1 is a series of short workshops, and the first slot was a tricky choice between three excellent speakers, including Agnes Molnar on SharePoint content, and Jane McConnell on ‘The Digital Workplace Journey’, but I’m a big admirer of the Essential SharePoint book so opted for Susan Hanley‘s session.

Susan Hanley @susanhanley

Taming the Wild, Wild West: Creating a Practical and Consumable Governance Plan for SharePoint Solutions

Susan Hanley and Kurt KraghSusan’s starting point is that if we’re going to spend time creating governance plans, then they have to be something people can consume.

One participant explained that they have an excellent governance plan, but nobody paid any attention to it.

At the heart of Susan’s approach is this:

Don’t teach people how to use SharePoint, teach them how to solve problems in your organisation using only the approach you want them to follow.

For example, if you don’t want people to use folders, focus on saying “In SharePoint, this is how we organise things using metadata…”

One of the problems with governance is that it means many different things to different people. In some companies it has very negative connotations. Susan says she is so over this discussion that she just calls it ‘The G-Word’.

So what is governance?

  1. Technology assurance. Making sure the trains run: backups, SLAs etc. IT should already be pretty good at this.
  2. Information security. We typically have good standards for paper documents, but not always for our digital assets.
  3. Guidance. The one people typically forget – not about rules but telling people how to do it right, or how to do it the best way. This is especially true in SharePoint where there might be five different ways of doing things, but business users don’t really want to know all the options, they want to know a specific answer.

Governance is about getting from a messy state to a desired future state using the minimal set of rules necessary. This means you need to understand the end point you want to get to before you create governance.

My next governance plan is going to be a graphic novel

What makes it challenging is that people don’t read. Any kind of governance document won’t get read. Susan used to say ‘keep it under 10 pages…’ but even that won’t be read. The trick instead is to put it all online – small chunks of very targeted information. With lots of pictures.

Principles of a governance plan:

  • No sharp edges – make sure people don’t hurt themselves;
  • Commit – you have to be prepared to do something if people don’t follow the rules.

Governance is about asking the business the right questions, and getting them to have a conversation about what matters.

Over 100 questions to start conversations about SharePoint governance, (Susan generously shares the same template she uses in her consulting): http://tiny.cc/SharePointGovQuestions 

  1. Align with business goals – that will tell you how strictly you need to enforce your rules. What the legal team wants you to do is almost never cost-effective!
  2. Align with existing policies – you shouldn’t have to invent everything;
  3. Understand existing teams and roles – may need to define new roles or relationships, e.g. to create an information architect might involve training up an existing team member;
  4. Engage HR early – you need support if changing job descriptions. HR often interested in profile governance first.

If your organisation doesn’t have a social media policy then there is a fantastic resource at Socal Media Governance.

Legal record policies for social communications is a challenging area right now. What Susan sees with her clients is that they’re treating Yammer and status updates as legally similar to email, whereas discussions (within comments and forums), being more enduring, are treated like documents.

Practical governance steps

Start with general principles then work through the details. Even if you don’t know the answer, don’t avoid asking the painful questions.  One of the goals of developing SharePoint governance is to ask the questions nobody has thought of before, e.g. ‘Is a SharePoint page a legal record?’

Example: Expertise Location and User Profiles
Conversations to have around this include:

  • About me – how much of this should be personal vs. work?
  • Ask me about – how good do you need to be to say you’re an expert?

You can change the prompt text below each box, but you’re limited to 255 characters in SharePoint. In SP2010 you could choose ‘Who can see my details’ between team, department etc. in 2013 you can only choose ‘Only me’ or ‘Everyone’.

Photos too can be an issue. One of Susan’s clients hired a pro photographer and even a makeup artist to take top quality profile photos rather than the usual security badge shot with the ugly filter turned on. Tell people ‘head and shoulders’ only, so clothing, holding pets etc. is less of an issue.

In government depts, be aware that your photo may fall under the Freedom of Information act and be requestable.


  • Break governance up into small chunks – a wiki works well;
  • Make governance consumable right at the point of use (e.g. link in the prompts of a template);
  • Use Content Query Web Parts to pull related pages together using metadata such as ‘everything for moderators’;
  • Once you have your governance, socialise, promote, verify.

Overall, a very informative session from Susan, full of examples from her work.


Dale Roberts @DecisionHacker – Decision Sourcing

Move over Org Chart, Make way for the Social Graph

Decision Sourcing (book) by Dale and Rooven Pakkiri. We’re heading towards a world of near perfect information, does that mean we’ll make perfect decisions? What’s interesting is that it is a very common theme in the straplines of search and big data vendors. Is it right?

Marcia Blenko at Bain & Company investigated the quality of decisions that companies made and correlate it to their success (book ‘Design and Deliver’ recommended by Dale, as well as Herb Simon’s ‘Rational Decision Making’ model).

Linear decision-making sounds good – assess need, generate list of options, compare them, make a choice. But if you think of things like landing a plane in an emergency, we don’t do this; we make decisive, fast, intuitive calls. The challenge with this is that we can only make such decisions based on experience, and emotion and bias play a role.

Sydney Finkelstein (another recommendation [Worst CEO blog]) looks at worst practices, usually bad decisions made even when full relevant information was available. For example Iridium satellite phone, Quaker acquisition of Snapple, Unilever focus on 400 brands. In 80% of cases they hadn’t considered options, they were making them ‘one plan at a time’ [as if the plane was about to crash].

Finkelstein recommends a range of safeguards about this: debate, discuss, analyse. They all require collaboration. Clay Shirkey says we tend to over-estimate the impact of access to information, and under-estimate the impact of access to each other.

The cognitive leap: we use a circular process of sensemaking:

  • Look for and filter information (curating);
  • Generate hypothesis and test;
  • Discuss and agree;
  • Execute decision;
  • Monitor results and assess.

Right now there’s a gap in terms of how systems support the above process. They’re good for sourcing information and disseminating the decision, less so the steps in-between.

With the rise of social tools on the web, what’s shifting is things like parity of information: consumers have access to the same levels of information as vendors, and have more of a voice through things like TripAdvisor and Glassdoor. Inside organisations, social tools make it practical to do collaborative decision making in a way that wasn’t possible before, because it would have been too time-consuming. Indeed, it perhaps never was that efficient for a small leadership team to make a decision and then have to go out and sell it to everyone else.

One way to think of it is a shift from static decision making – where the people involved are determined by the org chart – vs dynamic decision making – where the people involved and their roles are determined by the decision to be made. This protects us from the risk of bias [I like the idea but I’m not sure I fully buy this – if we don’t’ select by hierarchy we may well select by social influence, which isn’t objective either ~ Sam].

Some pithy quotes from Dale:

“In organisations, a fact isn’t a fact until we all agree.”
We need tools to do our work and what we got was SAP.”
As customers we’re fed up of being treated as transactions.” (We might say the same as employees.)
Do you know how air traffic controllers go on strike? They follow the rules.”

Dale Roberts

For the last slot of the day, I’m giving a session on SharePoint governance in the real world – how to make it stick. More tomorrow!

Sam Marshall

I'm the director of ClearBox Consulting, advising on intranet and digital workplace strategy, SharePoint and online collaboration. I've specialised in intranets and knowledge Management for over 19 years, working with organisations such as Unilever, Astra Zeneca, Akzo Nobel, Sony, Rio Tinto and Diageo. I was responsible for Unilever’s Global Portal Implementation, overseeing the roll-out of over 700 online communities to 90,000 people and consolidating several thousand intranets into a single system.

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