13 essential elements of SharePoint intranet governance

SharePoint intranet governance covers three of our favourite topics: SharePoint, intranets and governance! Governance is one of the key elements for the success of any SharePoint intranet – it covers the policies, processes and roles that ensure your intranet works optimally, keeps its strategic value and contains great content.

In the past, we’ve written extensively about the elements you need to include in your intranet governance framework, as well as governance for other 365 tools such as Microsoft Teams. In this post, we’re going to explore some of the primary elements you need for SharePoint intranet governance, although there may be additional elements needed depending on what you use your SharePoint intranet for.

1. Strategic bodies and cross-functional groups

A SharePoint intranet is a strategic, enterprise-wide investment that has both direct and indirect stakeholders. When driving buy-in across the organisation and ensuring alignment with corporate strategy and other initiatives and roadmaps, involving cross-functional groups in your SharePoint intranet governance has real value. Typically, this might include members of Comms, HR, IT, Knowledge and other support functions.

Depending on your size, culture and needs, as well as the maturity of your intranet, there could be two groups: a higher level steering group that discusses strategy and meets, say, quarterly, and an operation-focused working group that meets more regularly. There is likely to be information flows and escalation of different issues and decisions concerning the intranet between the two.

2. Information architecture, site scope and hierarchy

Information architecture is always a critical part of any intranet, for example, in defining the navigation. It’s also very important in determining the different SharePoint sites that comprise your intranet, and, if you are using SharePoint Online out of the box, the hierarchy of hub sites and ultimately the home site that can define your SharePoint homepage.

You may also need to decide on the scope of the intranet if you have existing SharePoint sites that sit outside the intranet estate. Card sorting exercises and further testing are a good way to ensure that your information architecture is user-centric. For your SharePoint site hierarchy, how you want internal comms news to roll up to different hub sites within your intranet can also have an influence.

3. Search and taxonomy

SharePoint search is increasingly being used for your intranet search, and it definitely needs governance to scope its limits as SharePoint search can extend right across your 365 tenant. Sometimes, this can lead to issues if files on SharePoint sites outside the intranet aren’t security-trimmed with the right permissions, as they can be suddenly exposed via search.

You may have some taxonomy items that are controlled via the SharePoint Term Store that contribute to findability; the definition and management of these terms will also need to be part of your SharePoint intranet governance framework.

4. Relation to other M365 channels

Office 365 and Microsoft 365 tools are increasingly integrated, and have some overlapping capabilities. In terms of governance, it helps to map out the relationship between SharePoint and other tools and channels in terms of integrations, user experience and which tools gets used for what content and communications. For example, you may want to delineate between when Teams gets used for more local, team-focused content and when your SharePoint intranet gets used for content that is of wider interest.

You may want to clarify the relationship between Yammer and SharePoint – when do you use SharePoint commenting, and when do you use Yammer? How are Yammer sites integrated? The future relationship between your intranet and Viva Connections may also need to be decided, as well as how you evaluate and introduce future additional tools and features to the 365 suite.

5. Personalisation and targeting

A successful SharePoint intranet will rely on personalisation and audience targeting to deliver a relevant experience with related content. The approach to personalisation and ensuring the integrity of your data needs to fall under your governance framework in terms of which groups to target, how this relates to other Office 365 groups, how the right metadata and tagging is added to content and how your Active Directory data is kept up to date, for example, by synchronising with your HR system of record. The tagging you use will also need to be aligned with your information architecture; this falls under how you control your taxonomy.

6. Approach to customisation, plug-ins and integrations

Many intranet teams are now choosing to use SharePoint Online straight out of the box, although others will use an additional “in-a-box” product like LiveTiles. In both these scenarios, some limited customisation might be in place to enhance design or add new features. Plug-ins might be utilised, and most intranets will also introduce some integrations.

In order to ensure there is tight management of the platform’s upgrades, as well as to ensure a good user experience, there needs to be governance in terms of control over what level of customisation is allowed, which plug-ins are in use and the integrations that are employed

7. Roles and responsibilities

A central part of any SharePoint intranet governance framework is working out all the different roles and responsibilities, relating to both central team and distributed roles. This needs to cover the management, content and technical aspects of all your intranet operations. Having clarity here means everybody is far more likely to meet expectations and carry out the tasks they have agreed to do, helping the intranet to run optimally. A RACI matrix (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) is a good way to establish the different roles and responsibilities your framework should cover at a high level, including:

  • Strategy
  • Day-to-day management
  • Managing the intranet homepage
  • Central communications and content
  • Technical support
  • Development and integrations
  • Adoption and engagement
  • Design and branding
  • SharePoint administration
  • Search and taxonomy
  • And more!

There are many other important roles related to content governance which are also included below, and which support decentralised publishing on your SharePoint intranet.

8. Content strategy

At the root of intranet governance is a detailed content strategy that establishes what you want your intranet content to do, the benefits it will deliver, how you intend to deliver that content and how you will keep it up to date. This can cover elements such as the role of news and communications, different content types and buckets, the utilisation of imagery, how metadata is being used and even how you intend to measure success. You content strategy will be closely aligned with your digital communications strategy and your intranet strategy. From here, you can then define other content-related elements of your SharePoint intranet governance.

9. Publishing standards

Although there are many aspects of SharePoint intranet governance, ensuring the quality of your content is essential. An intranet with poor content is an unsuccessful intranet. Defining and documenting publishing standards will help ensure your intranet content is engaging, well-written, timely, up-to-date, accurate, purposeful and on-brand. Intranet teams who work with a decentralised publishing community should have detailed published guidelines available, as well as a more succinct summary of the main points to help content publishers maintain good content.

10. Content roles and responsibilities

Another key element of SharePoint intranet governance is the associated content roles and responsibilities. This might include establishing who is responsible for central content areas like your homepage, news centre and lists of apps and tools, as well as detailing the responsibilities and tasks of local publishers and individual page owners at a site or section level. Part of establishing content roles is ensuring there is clear and visible ownership of every page, driving accountability for your content.

11. Content lifecycle management processes and approvals

There should be several content processes within your governance, including any necessary approval workflows, author reviews of content, translations of content, action on user feedback about content and more. These should cover the entire content lifecycle, including archiving and deletion.

12. Terms of usage and other policies

Any SharePoint intranet governance framework is likely to need a terms of use policy for users about what they can and cannot post. This might cover acceptable usage, GDPR and privacy elements, posting copyrighted materials and also what happens if employees do not follow the terms of use. There are likely to be further related policies and processes, such as what happens when a person reports a piece of content or when content is archived.

13. Templates and webparts

You might establish site and page templates to help your publishers maintain their sites and drive consistency throughout your intranet. You may also want to restrict the use of particular web parts, although this is not always easy to do with SharePoint Online out of the box.

SharePoint intranet governance

SharePoint intranet governance can help create a successful and sustainable intranet that supports employees, drives value and provides great content. We’ve outlined some of the main elements in this post, but there will likely be other processes and policies to consider. If you’d like to discuss SharePoint intranet governance, then get in touch!

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