SharePoint governance and the technical writer

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When I was out under quarantine after a medical test the other week, I made extra efforts to catch up on some professional reading and take an informal survey of where my local job market is at for technical writing positions. Out of the usual job requirements that never seem to leave the job boards, there was a call for a technical writer contractor to help an organization to develop their SharePoint governance documents. Proper SharePoint governance is not about a draconian rule. Rather, it should be about putting in the appropriate policies and framework to help maximize your organization’s investment in the SharePoint platform while offering users maximum productivity while securing an organization’s proprietary information and related interests.

The enlightenment of this move was not lost on me because the right technical writer can be a real active contributor to a SharePoint rollout, implementation, or upgrade if they are put in the right position.

I’ve seen SharePoint work well and fail and can trace the successes and failures back to the governance the organization had over their SharePoint implementation. SharePoint should be a tool for productivity and collaboration, not another arbitrary impediment. A technical writer working on SharePoint governance policies can work with management and other key stakeholders on the following policies that make up a cohesive SharePoint governance strategy:

Site creation policy

My direct experience with SharePoint implementations in the wild runs the gamut from where the IT group has granted access to all the features enabling teams to create SharePoint sites at will to an environment where everything was so locked down it required two levels of approval to get a new SharePoint site live. A technical writer developing a site creation policy can interview end users, IT staff, and stakeholders to develop a site creation policy that takes into account the mission, technical considerations, security, and user requirements. The technical writer can also help end users develop requirements for a potential blog and wiki site.

Content review process

Moving content from user accounts, local drives, and shared drives to SharePoint shouldn’t happen without a process to vet the content for technical accuracy, applicability, and security. A technical writer can be key player in the development and execution of this process plus be an active participant in an ongoing content review process after a SharePoint site goes live.

Site management policy

Opinions on SharePoint site management vary widely in my experience with some of the best site management policies giving guidance to project teams and departments to manage their sites. Responsive site management is one of the keys to the successful care and feeding of a SharePoint site. Localized site management is my preferred method of the organization providing an overarching site management policy to maintain a consistent SharePoint experience across an organization.

Information management policy

Managing information access is one of the many things that SharePoint can do well provided it is accounted for as a requirement for the implementation. A solid information policy should account for a governing set of rules that manage the availability and behavior of important corporate/organizational content. This policy enables SharePoint admins to control and evaluate who can access information on their sites. Such a policy should also govern how long to retain information on the site, and how actually site users are complying with the policy.

Content management policy

Implementing SharePoint within an enterprise brings the need for content management to the forefront. A technical writer with a background documenting content management systems can bring a lot to an organization making their first serious attempt at establishing a policy for how they manage site design and content across the SharePoint sites in their enterprise.

Custom app development policy

Custom applications are an excellent way to extend SharePoint within an organization, but a custom app development policy can ensure that custom apps whether they are developed internally; by an outside consultant; or purchased from a third party. A technical writer with a grounding in software development and implementation can be a real help in establishing a custom app development policy to ensure that all custom SharePoint apps in their enterprise meet their technical and business standards.

Security policy

Moving business processes and document management to SharePoint should not be done without a security policy in place. A technical writer with a background in developing security policy which also has SharePoint experience can help foster the development of a security policy by asking the right questions during the policy formulation.

Other documentation requirements

Other documentation requirements that come with implementing SharePoint governance including job aids, user guides, training guides, and other more specialized documentation depending on how an organization is using SharePoint where the right technical writer can shine and be a strong contributor.

Is a technical writer playing a key role in the development of your SharePoint governance?

Will Kelly is a technical writer and analyst based in the Washington, DC area. He has worked with commercial, federal, higher education, and publishing clients to develop technical and thought leadership content. His technology articles have been published by CNET TechRepublic, Government Computer News, Federal Computer Week,, and others. Follow Will on Twitter:@willkelly.

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