It was a big deal with lots of arguments—usually the same argument over and over actually… It didn’t seem right to live right next to the biggest frozen pond in 25 miles and not be able to go ice skating on it. By my mother was adamant—it was too dangerous. There were too many chances to crack the ice and the spongy bottom of that boggy pond would make pulling yourself out a difficult task indeed.
So many years later when I talked to IT manager after IT manager about their planned SharePoint deployments, as the conversation shifted to features like MySites and Self Service Site Creation, I recognized the look immediately—no way…. too dangerous and the bottom of that pond is just as boggy…
Really I couldn’t blame them. Meeting rooms in countless offices are full of talk about things like “increased agility from user provisioned IT resources” and the benefits of “social networking in the workplace”, but as real and powerful as those ideas are, it’s not the spin that my IT manager friends see in their future. They see ballooning storage, fragmented and disorganized site sprawl, and, if social sites like Facebook and MySpace are any indication, people aren’t all that shy about the types of inappropriate things they are willing to post about themselves. “Governance”, “Control”, “Management”—these are more than buzzwords for these folks. They are essential job priorities.
These IT Managers are great at their jobs because they are skeptical. It’s their job to assume that users will do the worst thing possible; their job to design polices and safeguards against such transgressions; and most importantly, their job to fix things when those policies aren’t followed. One of the design goals Microsoft had for SharePoint was to get IT out of the day to day management of business unit technology provisioning (anyone remember the hell of the custom designed intranet? The calls from Marketing wondering why their site or content had not been created yet?), but many of the IT managers I’ve spoken to have not designed their SharePoint infrastructure according to this utopian ideal where users control their own technology. They have implemented a provisioning model that looks a heck of a lot like it did before SharePoint landed—locked down, IT centric, request driven. SharePoint administration is time consuming enough—no need to increase the workload that eager but unaware end users will create.
Of course this flies in the face of the agility that SharePoint promises in an organization, but control and governance come at a cost. How do we solve this contradiction? How do we give business units the agility and control they want while giving IT the tools and control they require?
Let’s start by increasing IT’s visibility and reach into the SharePoint infrastructure. What is the storage growth trend across the farm? What is happening with permissions down at those sub-sub-subsite levels as users create and provision their teams resources? What are those users actually doing, creating, deleting, viewing? Once we give IT the vision of what’s actually going on in the Farm(s), let’s give them far-reaching set of tools to configure or change settings; drive down policy-based configurations like quotas, search settings, permissions etc. across multiple site collections simultaneously. That List, Library or Site that was created in the wrong place? Let’s give the administrator the ability to move it with just a few clicks (and keep all its metadata intact). That site that Accounting created that should have been a Site Collection? No problem—now it is. In short, let’s give IT the toolbox and goggles they need to really manage and support this new “self service” infrastructure they are now charged with.
But we need more than just making the bottom of this boggy pond firmer and easier to spring back from after a crack and fall—We need ways to proactively control the environment so the cracks are fewer and farther between. We need a way to prevent that inappropriate blog post from getting into SharePoint in the first place; a way to ensure that the video from “last night’s drunken disaster” still requires a Facebook visit and not simply a view of the new receptionist’s MySite. And how will we deal with the storage spike that all of this new user content will create? Let’s give IT and integrated, business logic driven way to offload SQL storage of SharePoint content while retaining the visibility and accessibility of those documents that made SharePoint attractive in the first place.
This set of tools and capabilities is not a wish list or dreamer’s dream. Rather, it could be a feature list from an AvePoint flyer. With the DocAve platform and it’s capabilities around Administration, Compliance, Storage Management etc., Administrators now have a set of tools worthy of the task that faces them. Every organization needs to look at how best to deploy and govern SharePoint in their organization, but as much as possible, those decisions should be based on business goals, policies and logic—not on fear of being able to control or manage the environment. Imagine getting on that ice without a good sharp pair of skates? I cant.