The SharePoint Governance Manifesto

I recently had the opportunity to review an advance publication copy of the SharePoint Governance Manifesto, written by Ant Clay.

Ant is a friend of mine, we see each other occasionally on the speaker circuit and as I’m generally interested in the concepts of Disruptive Governance thinking I thought it might be an interesting read.

Where do I start?  Well it was certainly disruptive and I started out by hating the writing style.  It was too conversational in its writing style for me. It was a bit like being in Ants mind, or indeed taking part in a seminar and exchanging views, or discussing theory with other MVP’s.  I found myself saying a lot of “but – what if I did this with my client, what might the impact be” type things back to Ant before realising he wasn’t actually in the room with me.  As a formal and very experienced technical reviewer the almost conversational writing style just wasn’t for me – I hated it, it made me question the style so much, but then I wasn’t actually reviewing as technical book.  I was reviewing a personal exchange of information from a very experienced professional (Ant) to another very experienced professional (Me), but I could equally have been having this conversation with someone in one of my projects who wasn’t as experienced and they would likely sit up and say “but – what if I did this with my users, what might the impact be”.  How annoyingly disruptive, I loved it!

It really starts by covering why the book exists, and what it is really about – and it isn’t about SharePoint technically.  This manifesto is not about the SharePoint Governance approaches that you see today, focused only on technology and information and this is a good thing.  Too many “SharePoint Architects” (and I use that term with an offensive hatred as many laying claim to that title are just coders on a power trip) claim to understand Governance but have no concept of end to end service management, the needs of end users, corporate vision and the critical relation to strategy or the value of governing in the first place.

The book then over the course of some 200 pages of so elaborates on the value of a more holistic, positively disruptive and business led form of Governance.  Having spent many years in Government programmes of work, the value of Governance is evidently clear to me and being bound by legislative constraints I’ve seen some hairy and sizeable governance documents (I’ve even written a few door stops myself).  It isn’t about creating governance for the sake of it, and pages of literature because a large document can be more encompassing – you might still need that and it doesn’t say this is a bad thing.  It’s about being pragmatic – and oddly applying common sense to an area that is unfortunately often founded in and surrounded by nonsense.

What it does do though and do it well is to clarify much of the mistakes that are often made by those who claim ownership of the Governance area.  It introduces a raft of terminology and practical mechanism you are likely unfamiliar with: Governance snake-oil, the celery effect, complexity theory, Cynefin, waves, change management, the seven waves of Governance, facilitation, Tummelers, collaborative play and many other new and interesting facets of a disruptive approach to Governance – take out the word SharePoint and it could apply to any governance theory.  The reference value in itself is worth the purchase price, the contents are inspiring enough to make a seasoned professional such as I question and debate how I can be more effective when looking at governing enterprise – not just SharePoint.  I’ve even learned an entirely new Greek verb “Kubernao” – although I don’t know when I’ll ever us that again.

Its key strength is that the SharePoint Governance Manifesto is a light hearted, very honest but heavy read – it is difficult not to turn to the next page, and then that happens again.  It is certainly the intention of the author to cut through and often dismiss a lot of the current SharePoint Governance trend, hype and overuse and steer the reader in an entirely different path to making SharePoint consumption vastly more successful.  It disrupted my day no end when I had a ton of work to get through.

Would I read it again, well I already have.  Would I recommend it to you – absolutely!