One Size Does Not Fit All – Create an O365 Governance Plan They’ll Use

I’ve noticed that when I discuss O365 governance my audience generally gets that “deer-in-the-headlights” look on their faces and quickly lose interest.  It’s just not a sexy topic, and the thought of preparing a governance plan can be daunting and overwhelming to the business.   Creating a simple governance plan scaled to the business can provide the necessary standards and guidelines yet remain flexible enough to embrace change within the O365 platform.

First, let’s agree on what O365 governance is:

  • Standards and guidelines for use of the O365 environment
  • A process for addressing new questions and issues
  • A process to ensure that business needs are met efficiently and effectively
  • A process for accommodating growth and change within the O365 environment

A governance plan does not:

  • Inhibit growth and change
  • Provide an answer to every question

Understand the Company Culture

Understanding the culture of the company is critical to developing a successful governance plan.  Is the company highly structured with detailed business process?  Or is the company less process oriented with a fluid or nonexistent hierarchy?  A highly detailed governance plan with may be a good fit in a highly structured company, but in a smaller less formalized business it simply won’t work.

You’ll also need to consider the company’s employees and their level of skill with the O365 environment.  Are the O365 apps completely new to them?  Have they used the O365 environment in the past?   Understanding the general O365 skill level will assist the governance committee in setting guidelines for which O365 tools should be available for the business, and those that may require more training before rollout.

Keep It Simple

Begin with a governance kickoff meeting to provide the business with an overview of O365 governance and how it benefits a company to set standards and guidelines for the O365 environment early on.

Create a Governance Committee and Assign Roles/Responsibilities

The O365 environment can be managed by three roles with distinct responsibilities:  the Business Sponsor role, the O365 Product Owner role, and the Technology/Admin role.   

  • Business Sponsor role: liaison with business, gathers requirements, communicates governance decisions to business, represents business interests on committee, communicates with executives
  • O365 Product Owner role: responsible for awareness of upcoming O365 roadmap and improvements, makes recommendations for improvements to the system, documents committee decisions, main champion for use of O365 environment
  • IT Admin role: administers the system, offers technology insight into O365 environment and products

The committee can consist of as many or as few members as desired, as long as the described roles/responsibilities are covered by the membership.  The governance committee should plan to meet once a month, so you’ll need to consider membership of the committee versus the ease in scheduling meetings and reaching decisions.  Are there enough members to fill the roles/responsibilities?  Will members be available for monthly meetings?  How often should committee membership change?

Create a governance process

You’ll need a governance process to implement change and growth in the O365 environment.   Develop a simple linear process which considers:

  • How are requests made?
  • How does the committee vet the request?
  • How are committee decisions communicated?
Document O365 Standards and Guidelines

You’ll need to document the answers to questions on how to use the O365 environment – these answers are your Standards.

  • Example: Should external sharing be allowed, and if so, what are the parameters around sharing externally?

Guidelines provide more general parameters on the use of the O365 tools.

  • Example: Use OneDrive to store personal and draft items.  Use SharePoint to store items on which you need to collaborate with your colleagues.

The documentation can be as simple as a list of questions and decisions reached by the committee.  Create the list in SharePoint to easily share the updated governance decisions with employees.

O365 governance can be overwhelming, yet it is an important topic for the business to address.  Creating a simple governance plan scaled to the size and culture of the business can provide the necessary standards and guidelines for effective use of O365, yet remain flexible enough to accommodate change and growth in the environment.

About the Author

Kathleen Zoller is a consultant with Statera specializing in the O365 platform.  When Kathleen isn’t working she’s hanging out with her husband and golden retrievers, practicing yoga/pilates, or hiking in Cherry Creek State park.