Why Ownership is Important
SharePoint is not a set it and forget it type of technology. To be successful with SharePoint, its different feature areas need to be actively owned and managed by the right people within your organization.
Without clearly defined roles and responsibilities (including ownership), you may find that your implementation will struggle for a variety of reasons.
If you feel like your SharePoint implementation is struggling and your team isn’t able to make decisions about your portal with confidence, you may need to consider whether you have the right owners and decision makers in place.
Getting off to a Rough Start
When IT deploys an Enterprise business tool without fully comprehending the business needs and scope, the situation becomes challenging for all stakeholders.
Unless key business decision makers are involved and take ownership, SharePoint is likely to struggle for success. These types of deployments are missing a very important factor: ownership.
Enterprise applications without an owner have a much higher risk of failure than those with clearly defined ownership and owners roles.
Who is Requesting SharePoint
In years of providing SharePoint services, we have only seen SharePoint deployed at the request of the business a handful of times. Most often, an IT Manager or Director has made the decision to deploy SharePoint. In the end, it is typically deployed by IT to address (known or sometimes unknown) opportunities within the business.
As Office 365 has become more popular, we have also seen the business deploy SharePoint without the participation of IT. The business uses SharePoint Online as a solution tool, sometimes without any involvement from IT.
With respect to business versus IT driven SharePoint implementations, in both cases we have seen a mixture of success and struggles. Business driven implementations can be successful because they are delivered to solve a specific business issue. IT driven implementations are successful because the base technology platform is solid and sound.
The Spectrum of SharePoint Ownership
Platform: The base of SharePoint technology and services is typically owned by the technology team. Ownership of the platform includes the management and administration of servers, services and SharePoint health. The platform layer is best owned by those in the organization with a good understanding of how to manage and operate assets like this.
Applications: Applications that are built and deployed within SharePoint should be owned by the members of the business who are most affected and invested in the core benefits delivered by the app.
IT is a secondary owner who may manage a mix of deploying, maintaining and updating the app.
Content: Content should almost always be owned by the business unit that is responsible for creating, consuming and maintaining the content.
Security: In tightly controlled areas like applications or in confidential areas, IT may manage the security using AD groups and tightly controlled site permissions. The business may also manage permissions in team sites, department and social areas.
The key is that each securable area within SharePoint require a dedicated owner.
Configuration: Certain aspects of SharePoint configuration should only be managed by IT. These include back end services like the Search Service Application or the Timer Service. Areas in sites and team sites can be configured by the business. List and Library configuration, or site level Features can be managed by the business.
Owning a Strategy
SharePoint is an Enterprise business tool and as with all Enterprise applications, you are best advised to have a strategy for it. Defining a strategy for SharePoint is a key component in ensuring a successful deployment. When defining a strategy for SharePoint, think about its stages of maturity as a tool within your organization and which types of problems it will be good at solving as it matures. This should be done by members of the leadership team and other key stakeholders.
The Importance of Steering Committees
It is highly recommended that important decisions regarding SharePoint direction, strategy and planning are driven by a steering committee. If you already have a steering committee for enterprise applications, perhaps SharePoint can be added to the portfolio already being managed by this group. When you consider the versatility of SharePoint and its feature depth, a dedicated steering committee may also be advisable. Members of the committee will act as owners of the application and will provide key decisions based on the mission, vision and guidance from the business' SharePoint subject matter experts.
Content ownership is a key principle in SharePoint. If a piece of content does not have an owner, it should not be in SharePoint. We have seen several instances in organizations where documents are emailed to IT support and requested to be uploaded to SharePoint.
IT should not be responsible for content unless they the authored the content or have agreed to take complete ownership of the content.
Division of Labor
The most successful deployments we have seen are those where the business governs the application. The role of IT is to support the platform, provide guidance and best practice recommendations to the business. Permissions, approvals and managing the information life cycle are in the hands of the business.