Governance: Guidelines and design standards

Copper Contributor

Our organization is looking into implementing sharepoint as platform for internal communication, and knowledge sharing.

as a general principle, the approach we intend to implement is to leave as much autonomy as possible to the different department/content owner to manage their space independently, while internal comms will own only a landing page / newsletter where they'll collect/curate interesting content from the different spaces (I am obviously simplifying here a lot for economy of space).


Internally we are having a debate though on governance and quality standards:

Should we setup some standards and guidelines to make sure that the different sites , even-though managed independently, follow common standards and guidelines, or should we leave total freedom?

And, should we setup a central responsible body to monitor performances of the different sites and proactively suggest actions to the different spaces (following the agreed guidelines), or should we take a reactive stance, and provide help only when asked by the users?


i know there is no straight answer to this and it all depends on the context, but do you have any official microsoft material on this topic to help us in this conversation? 

4 Replies

I think some high level but optional guidance is usually helpful to people newly responsible for communication site. This can prompt their thinking on the topic, if every site owner chose to implement the guidance, would result in more consistency in experience for end users. 

I agree with Kady that some guidance will be helpful. 


In my experience, content owners / site owners and users tend to be overwhelmed by all the options that SharePoint gives them. Some examples, guidelines and best practices are then useful to guide and inspire them. The added bonus is that even though they may not be mandatory, most people tend to follow those best practices, ensuring consistency. 


Consistency will also help the consumers of the content to navigate the pages: similar types of content will be shown in a similar way across sites, making it easier to find it.


The idea of a central responsible body to monitor performance is an interesting one. I'd love to hear from anyone who has experience with such a body.


Great question... I have been doing SharePoint implementations for a long time and every one that does not set standards in advance has great difficulty in the long run.  The goal is to have automated and simplified standards that don't cause a lot of friction for your users.  Consider segmenting your SharePoint implementation into Tiers - 


Tier One Hub Sites - for your main divisional sites. Shared design elements, navigation and structure.  Defined set of people who can publish this authoritative content about what's happening in that division or business area.  Long lifecycle site that may exist for as long as the organization (think Human Resources, Marketing or IT).  Usually no external access.

Tier Two "spokes" e.g. Communication/Teams Sites - Aligned to a Hub.  May be a key initiative or project site or a simple site spun up by your employees to facilitate collaboration.  May in the future be aligned to a Microsoft Team via O365 Groups.  Freedom of design based on out of the box elements; owner managed and a shorter expiration date.  May allow external guests. 


As to a central body that really depends on company culture but is often too restrictive.  It is better to empower Champions in your business areas with additional training but more business context to improve the structure and performance of the sites.   Some company's will have an editorial group for the main Tier One sites as they often communicate broad company information.  But that is a separate function from what you describe below.  


Governance best practices is one of the topics we'll cover in depth in my Office 365 Champions program here.  We have a dedicated forum you may not be seeing if you aren't a program member.  You can sign up at  


Just remember the best governance is invisible to your users.  It takes more planning but is ultimately much more successful in the long run!  Feel free to ask any more questions here.  


BTW Susan Hanley is a world class expert on this topic.  You an find her site here:

Setting up governance and guidelines is super important. I have seen too many SharePoint implementations become the like the wild wild west or just a dumping ground for documents.

Do you also have a plan for how you are going to deliver this guidance to users at their moment of need? So for example, if you wanted people to follow some naming guidelines when uploading documents, how will they know those guidelines when they are actually uploading documents?