Prolific SharePoint Sites Undermine Governance

The benefits go further than these business process advantages. Gigabytes of email traffic can be avoided, as well as the top-tier storage of hundreds of multi-megabyte attachments, such as PowerPoint presentations, that often have only minor changes from version to version. From a security standpoint, all these “loose” copies would not be created, and teams would access the material from a secure site requiring the proper credentials.

Because the launch is a critical business objective, the team’s request for SharePoint sites is taken very seriously, and IT fulfills the request quickly. Setting up a site is rather straightforward from a technical standpoint, and the licenses for SharePoint are “free” or at least relatively inexpensive.

So far, so good.

However, what happens to the SharePoint site after the drug is launched? What about when the product has reached end-of-life? How does IT know when it can “shut down” the site, and what will be done with the documents in the site? What about the wiki’s and blogs and other structured content? What is the total cost to IT of owning all this content? The retention policy may actually answer these questions, but as the CGOC study illustrates, the more important question is how the policy will actually be enforced.

The reality today is that inactive team sites are sitting indefinitely on top-tier storage. They are being backed up every day and represent tremendous latent risk as one day a future document request could require them to be reviewed by outside counsel for privilege.

The solution

The CGOC’s report outlines a roadmap to better information governance. The report notes that 30 percent of respondents are well on their way. How were these organizations able to bridge the gap between what the policy states and how to make it actionable?

The first step is executive support. To quote one of the CGOC’s survey respondents, “Executive support is a MUST to move forward with information governance.” One tried-and-true method to gain executive support is to “scare them straight.” Fortunately (or perhaps more accurately, unfortunately), there are myriad examples of companies in almost every industry that have had a very painful and public “root canal” from an e-discovery standpoint. Some research to find if one’s own company, or a close competitor, has had such a procedure forced upon it is well worth the time and effort. It is then easy to prepare a very short presentation outlining the legal and PR risks to the organization when proper information governance policies are not in place – and followed.

In fact, several executives also have skin in the game. For example, the CSO’s office will benefit from tightened governance controls via reduced data leakage of trade secrets and other proprietary information. The general counsel is obviously a key ally and co-presenter, as well. CIOs and CTOs may be the top beneficiaries, though, for several reasons.

And, while SharePoint is often considered to be “free” (or almost free), and from a licensing perspective this is reasonably accurate. However, Microsoft SharePoint Server (MSS) licenses for housing the data, the top-tier storage they sit on, and the addition of time to the daily backup window, carry steep costs.

As soon as executive sponsorship is established, the next critical step is creating a cross-functional taskforce or governance committee. In the CGOC survey, 57 percent of respondents noted that they have such a committee in place. This step is not overly difficult. As representatives from the CTO’s office, the CIO’s office, the GC’s office, the CSO’s office, and other departments such as HR and records management all come together and communicate, they can quickly find that their respective interests are aligned.

For example, the software that helps facilitate the archiving of important data (which allows a SharePoint site to be shut down) also has tremendous benefits for how the data is stored while a SharePoint site is alive. External Blob Storage (EBS) is one data management capability built into SharePoint that can yield tremendous savings in MSS licensing, and Remote Blob Storage (RBS) is a great vehicle for archiving content once a site can be decommissioned. RBS can deliver reduced technology spend and sound information governance as the document retention policy can “take over” managing the information once it’s archived.