At the recent SharePoint Conference, held at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, there were several sessions on site provisioning and governance. These sessions were highly attended, which shows that these remain hot topics and have been since the beginning of SharePoint really.
Why after all these years is there still such an interest in these topics? The fact is, if there were a universally great way to provision sites and enforce governance, there wouldn't be the interest in these sessions. My theory is that this is something everyone wants, but most have simply not found a way to achieve adequately. Even those who have some subset of this in place, realize there is still quite a bit of room for improvement.
The problem: Self-service site creation is simply not an option if you care at all about governance. That leaves provisioning new site collections up to IT, via Central Administration. Creating uniform sites, with proper approvals, appropriate controls, and proper logging is quite cumbersome. It involves many people and manual work, which leaves a lot of room for human error, and takes a considerable amount of time.
One of my favorite thoughts from a session on this topic was from Dan Holme. To paraphrase, he said, if your policies aren't enforced with the technology, then they are guidelines, not policies. This is so true. You can make all the governance documents you want, and have policies too numerous to count, but if the technology allows them to get around this, that's exactly what they will do.
All the solutions presented involved some degree of coding, via Powershell or .NET development. The sessions were good and really showcased the need to get more control and automation around your provisioning. It was a starting place, but obviously also leaves a lot for each of you to turn it into a fully featured solution for your organization. If you only need to create sites, add some permissions, and do some simple tasks, then using Powershell to automate might be the solution for you. In most companies, much more is needed however.
Here at PremierPoint Solutions we've listened to concerns about provisioning and governance for years, and believe we have a product loaded with features for you to plug in and truly begin enforcing your policies, tracking what it is out there, and provisioning consistent and fully featured sites time after time.
Our ChangeBot (formerly SPGA) product is available for SharePoint 2010 and 2013. It comes with over 50 activities (over 70 if you use our extranet product ExCM) to automatically provision and customize your sites, to your specifications, every time. You can apply templates, activate features, add list items, edit security, and many more activities to make your site exactly what it needs to be. Once your request profiles are setup, a user needing a new site collection simply goes to your provisioning site, fills out the request, and once proper approvals have been completed, the site is automatically provisioned and logged, in a matter of minutes.
If this topic is important to you, why not give ChangeBot a try? It's never too late to get control of your SharePoint environment and free up your IT staff to work on other important items.
Stay tuned for an announcement in the very near future about a free version of this product to manage site provisioning and governance for those that don't need quite as much site customization.