Thoughts on User Adoption and Governance from the SharePoint Conference 2011

Did you know that there were 22 sessions at the SharePoint Conference devoted to governance? Me either, until I started building my schedule and found that there were way more talks than I could possibly attend. I did manage to catch three of the governance sessions, one each on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and found a couple of common themes to mull over about user adoption and governance that I thought I’d share with all of you.

Here are the specifics about the talks I attended:

Theme 1: User adoption: It’s not "build it and they will come" but rather "build where they are"

In "The City of SharePoint", Craig Roth spoke about how in city planning, to be successful the process needs to follow the pattern “first life, then spaces, then buildings – the other way around never works” (quote from Jan Gehl, Gehl Architects). In other words, you can’t build the buildings and hope people come populate them. You need to structure the city around the people. The same goes for SharePoint:

  1. First, find out what the users need – business activities and priorities
  2. Then, plan the spaces (design the services and applications)
  3. And finally, plan the buildings (the architecture and topology needed to support it)

This was echoed in the “Best Buy Governance” talk when Sarah Haase talked about how their completely decentralized system was getting deeper use in certain departments due to specific enthusiastic site administrators who figured out how to improve their business processes by switching them from spreadsheets and e-mail to SharePoint lists. These administrators later banded together and became a steering committee that started to work together and start a user group and training, and started calculating the return on investment for their SharePoint applications. Although it didn’t follow the same pattern, the successful sites concentrated on specific business needs and processes, then worked out how to support those processes in SharePoint and how to understand the impact the change to those business processes was having on the bottom line.

Susan Hanley’s talk “Practical Approach to SharePoint Governance” also emphasized the need to establish the clear business goals and business outcomes you want to achieve by using SharePoint. She has this as part of the mission of the governance committee, but I think really that this work is part of the planning for the sites and infrastructure – you have to know what you want to build and why before you can build it.

Theme 2: Training is key to success

In the “Best Buy Governance” talk, one of the things that really opened up the use of SharePoint in the organization was providing training and “open labs” to get info about how to use SharePoint in the organization. They’re also establishing common metadata in the organization and providing training about how to use that.

Following up on this in the “Practical Approach to SharePoint Governance” talk, Susan Hanley emphasized that training about governance concepts really needs to come in context. Bite size chunks of training on roles and responsibilities, policies and guidelines for authoring and design, and so on, need to happen in context of the how to training for those areas, targeted to the people who are going to do the work. No one’s going to read a 100-page governance plan from front to back and absorb it, but if you incorporate the policies of which tools to use or best practices for authoring in the training for content authors, then it’s all in one tidy package and they absorb both.

More info from Microsoft on Governance and Training

Of course, this is only scratching the surface of what was covered in these three talks, and what was covered overall at the SharePoint Conference 2011 on Governance, but it got me thinking, and I thought it might get you thinking too. If you’re interested in more information on Governance, check out the Governance Resource Center and Governance content on  TechNet. If you want information about what training is available from Microsoft on SharePoint Server 2010, see the Learn SharePoint Server 2010 page on TechNet and the Training Courses and Videos available on And let us know your thoughts on governance and training in the comments on this blog or on those pages, or by e-mailing us at

- Samantha Robertson

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