Successful Office 365 Management: Governance

As I outlined in the first post in this series on Office 365 security and the second post on compliance, much of the administrative experience inside of Office 365 streamlines and automates tasks that you previously had granular control over within the individual on-premises workloads. From an auditing and compliance perspective, this means you need to understand:

  1. Your organizational requirements, standards, and policies.
  2. What capabilities are possible within each of your hybrid components, from discovery through technical enforcement.
  3. What can be managed centrally versus within each individual system or component, and by whom.
Photo by Lagos Techie on Unsplash

Photo by Lagos Techie on Unsplash

Whether your environment is on-premises, in the cloud, or in a temporary or permanent hybrid state, it is critical that organizations clearly understand their security and compliance requirements, and whether these requirements are being met. For this post, I’ll focus on the topic of governance.


Good collaboration is definitely a cultural skill. The organizations who are best at collaboration are often those with mature cultures that have clearly defined governance and change management models that facilitate understanding and execution. Governance can be viewed as an umbrella term to describe multiple areas it involves such as data governance, IT governance, information governance, etc. Furthermore, governance has a range of definitions based on which sector it is describing such as the public, financial, and healthcare sectors.

The first step to building a healthy governance strategy is always to sit down and discuss various organizational requirements and differences between teams and come to a shared understanding — before any solution is proposed.

What Microsoft provides

Microsoft’s approach to governance in Office 365 has been to invest in two primary areas: the Administration Console, and in expanded documentation through

Governance is a broad topic, and for many years the partner community – ISVs (independent software vendors), SIs (strategic integrators, or consulting companies), and the MVP community – have provided content, tools, and expertise to help manage any and all gaps within the platform. However, Microsoft has stepped up their game in this area, investing heavily in the overall management experience of the platform, as well as the documentation in support of the features and tools that they bring to market.

Potential gaps that organizations should plan for

In 2019 research conducted by CollabTalk and the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University, when asked whether their organizations are generally good at managing governance activities across the various Office 365 workloads, the majority of respondents felt they were “Average,” “Good” or “Excellent.” However, based on the collective responses to the more granular questions about specific governance activities within each workload, the confidence level of respondents was not so high.

One of the difficult lessons for many organizations, as with most user-driven technologies, is that technology is often unleashed without proper planning or governance processes in place. As a result, many administrators find themselves in reactionary modes and having to quickly research and retroactively apply standards across their environment. Even the most proactive, process-oriented organizations struggle from time to time with managing governance across rapidly deployed collaboration platforms and services, many of which are being acquired and deployed without the prior knowledge or oversight of the IT team.

A good governance strategy will outline the ways in which you intend to uphold policy and ensure your platform is performing optimally. Healthy governance is essential to any successful platform. A strong governance strategy can have a direct impact on end user adoption and productivity, the level of management support received for current and future IT initiatives, and your ability to see measurable business value.

Governance should be a priority no matter what tools or platform you deploy, but certainly should be at the forefront of any decisions to roll out company-wide social tools. The recommendation is to begin by clarifying and documenting your permissions, information architecture, templates, content types, taxonomy within each workload— and ownership of each—and then map those requirements to your platform roadmap. Define what policies, procedures, and metrics are necessary to manage your entire environment, and then look at what is possible across your many different tools and platforms

Next Steps

For more in depth data around this topic, download a free copy of the Office 365 Operational Success Playbook. Additionally, be sure to check out some of my other posts, videos, and podcasts on the topic of governance here.

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and M365 Apps & Services MVP, and an award-winning product marketer and technology evangelist, based in Silicon Slopes (Lehi), Utah. He is the Director of North American Partner Management for leading ISV Rencore (, leads content strategy for TekkiGurus, and is an advisor for both revealit.TV and WellnessWits. He hosts the monthly #CollabTalk TweetJam, the weekly #CollabTalk Podcast, and the Microsoft 365 Ask-Me-Anything (#M365AMA) series.