By Siobhan King |

April 26, 2024

Does SharePoint Advanced Management make Information Governance easier?

In this series of blogs, Siobhan King, Senior Consultant and Information Governance guru here at Metataxis, takes a look at the challenges behind good information governance. Based on her experience, she will reveal best practices to effectively govern information in Microsoft 365. In this blog, Siobhan reviews the value of SharePoint Advanced Management (SAM) and how it supports Information Governance success.

Read on:

Introducing Information Governance functions in Microsoft 365

SharePoint Advanced Management

For some of us, it has often felt like an advanced degree in applied science is needed to configure even the most basic Information Governance functions in Microsoft 365. In my experience, I think it’s fair to say that the Information Governance Professional was not really the first end user Microsoft had in mind when they built Purview, and probably not even the second.

It’s not that Microsoft doesn’t offer the functionality required to govern information in M365. For the most part it does. However, to be able to implement these, the Information Governance Professional is required to become proficient in several different solutions – and in many cases – be aware of the inner workings of the software in order to deploy information governance effectively.

This means, that on top of knowing every solution available in Purview, you must also have a full understanding of SharePoint, Teams and OneDrive, as well as having a basic understanding of Azure, Defender, Entra … the list goes on.

I haven’t even mentioned the most frustrating thing – that many of most impactful functions available in M365 are either best executed or only available using the cross-platform scripting language PowerShell.

It’s no wonder that many of the clients that we’ve worked with have opted to purchase a third-party add-on to govern their information. There are many excellent products available, which in truth just do the same thing as M365 but present it in a way that makes much more sense to the Information Governance professional.

Introducing SharePoint Advanced Management

Enter the Microsoft Syntex: SharePoint Advanced Management, or SAM for short. SAM is an outcome of the work to develop Syntex, promising to provide SharePoint Administrators with Information Governance in a more cohesive and user-friendly way. This was released at the end of last year with much fanfare. Now that the dust has settled, it’s a good time to assess whether SAM is worth investing in.

SharePoint Advanced Management

Key features of SharePoint Advanced Management

So what does SAM have to offer to make an Information Governance Officer’s role an easier one. Let’s look at each of the features made available among Developer sites:

  • Block Download Policy: Provides the ability to prevent the download of files depending on type, site or security group. This has potential to go further than the current method of restricting downloads as it is now done via sensitivity label.
  • Change History: Change History produces a real time report of last actions performed by SharePoint Owners. Those with a SAM licence can access information from the last 30 days. This report accesses content previously available through Audit logs and could be useful where access to the Audit log is tightly controlled.
  • Recent Actions: Like Change History, Recent Actions produce a real time report of the last actions of the user only. Both Recent Actions and Change History might be useful to support troubleshooting.
  • Default Sensitivity Labels for SharePoint document libraries: Those with an E5 licence will already be familiar with the ability to assign a sensitivity label to a whole library, as this was released some time ago.  E3 licence-holders however, can benefit from accessing this feature by purchasing a SAM licence. Many will understand how this works, applying sensitivity labels to anything newly created, uploaded or edited. This feature also honours the priority of the label, so it won’t overwrite a label with a higher priority.
  • Site Lifecycle Management: This is probably the most overdue and most exciting addition to the SAM suite. It has so much potential to manage site retention and disposal natively in M365, rather than relying on an external provisioning tool, or having to roll up your sleeves and write scripts to generate reports and command actions. This feature will allow notifications to be sent to site owners and offers them the options to note if a site is still needed or not. Additionally, Restricted Access Control can be applied using SAM lifecycle management policies. There is still a lot more that Microsoft could offer as an easy interface for provisioning  – it will be interesting to see how they develop this feature over time.

How much does SharePoint Advanced Management cost?

This does all come at a cost. As you may have gathered, an additional licence is required to benefit from SAM. It is an add-on that you would have in addition to your E3 or E5 licence. To use this, you would need to have a licence per user, and at £4.10 a head, this could become quite expensive.

Is it worth it? I think it’s too soon to tell whether this product answers all the challenges that Information Governance professionals face when trying to manage governance in M365. Like many M365 solutions, SAM goes part of the way to fulfilment but there is much room for growth.

Key considerations of adopting SharePoint Advanced Management

Each organisation will need to consider the following factors when looking at which tool to use to govern their information in M365:

  • Scope of information to be governed: Will you only be governing unstructured information in M365 or are there other systems, such as network drives, to consider?
  • Information governance maturity: Do you already have a Governance Framework in place? Are you already utilising elements of M365 to govern your information?
  • Information governance requirements: What requirements do you have to manage your information? Are you within a highly regulated industry? Do you have large amounts of sensitive personal data? What accountabilities do you have to your stakeholders?
  • Capability and capacity of staff: Does your organisation have people who are adept at using tools such as SharePoint, Teams, Purview or PowerShell?  How much bandwidth do you have to configure and maintain an information governance system?
  • Manual vs automated: What is your tolerance for manual processes? Do you have a robust enough information architecture to support more automation?
  • Costs: Most importantly, what is the most cost-effective solution for your organisation? What licensing do you already hold for M365? Be aware that already holding a licence does not mean it will be cheaper if the effort required for configuration is high!

Are you ready for SharePoint Advanced Management?

Whether the market will think it is worth shelling out additional money for something that should have been provided from day one is another matter. Particularly interesting will be what shifts away or towards third party products there will be and whether that will be down to cost or functionality.

While I do concede that the features within SAM do make life easier, they also add yet more complexity to the licensing structure. Personally, it feels like an advanced degree in applied economics is needed to understand the licensing model, leading me to question whether Microsoft have addressed the problem of too much complexity, or simply moved it?

As information governance experts, the Metataxis approach to information governance in Microsoft 365 ensures practical, flexible, and cost-effective solutions to your information problems. We offer a wide range of information management and information architecture services, including consulting, system implementation and training. And we can also tackle the licensing challenge too.

Address your information governance and SharePoint Advanced Management requirements