Governance can be a difficult part of the SharePoint conundrum for businesses to grasp. Even Microsoft’s definition – that governance is “the set of policies, roles, responsibilities, and processes that control how an organisation’s business divisions and IT teams work together to achieve its goals” – can seem a little vague. Does SharePoint really need this degree of top-down management?

There are dozens of hypothetical situations in which a business might eschew a governance plan. It might feel it only needs a simple file store, for example, which looks like it won’t take much work to maintain. Or perhaps it wants to promote an environment in which every team has free reign to use the platform as it sees fit, without answering to a central intelligence. Maybe it wants to give full ownership to a single department that it feels is best placed to meet the demands of the wider user base.

These cases might seem compelling, but in reality they all show a business getting the wrong end of the stick where SharePoint governance is concerned. Developing a governance plan isn’t just about telling people what they can and can’t do – it’s about ensuring that SharePoint delivers genuine business value, and as much of it as possible.

If you can’t work out why your company requires a SharePoint governance plan, here are a few reasons you might not have considered.

SharePoint is prone to different usage styles

Even if your employees just want a place in which they can store their files, SharePoint governance is essential in order to keep their habits in check. Ten different users might come up with ten different ways to organise and classify documents, for example, which makes the whole process of collaboration much more arduous. The guiding hand of governance can banish this creeping inefficiency from your SharePoint project.

You might have compliance objectives to consider

Again, even in the case of a simple file store, an organisation might have to uphold certain regulatory requirements that users won’t necessarily take into consideration when uploading information to SharePoint. If a UK company processes personal information, for example, it needs to ensure it complies with the Data Protection Act when handling that content. Governance gives us the opportunity educate users on concepts like security and fair use, which they might otherwise fail to think about.

Your requirements might change in time

Your company might need SharePoint for one thing now, but the chances are that your circumstances will change before the end of the implementation’s lifecycle. Governance is more than just a way to set out your expectations at the start of the project – it’s an opportunity to review your objectives on an ongoing basis, ensuring at all stages that you’re leveraging SharePoint to its full potential.

A governance plan sets quantifiable targets

Finally, while a SharePoint project isn’t necessarily doomed without a governance plan, it’s critical if you want to quantify your accomplishments. An ungoverned implementation might result in a dozen individually-managed sites that all, on the surface, look successful, but are they actually contributing to a better bottom line for the business as a whole?

Your SharePoint governance plan gives you a chance to set measurable targets for your organisation, whether that’s saving time in routine HR operations or cutting down on the number of iterations an individual document goes through. If you haven’t expressed these goals in concrete terms, you don’t have a way to quantify your success.