Practicing IT Governance

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Herndon, VA – Chief Information Officers (CIOs) face daunting challenges in managing fast-paced IT organizations which are involved in enterprise-wide solutions for managing key business processes across departments. Projects executed within a department face minimal issues and delays, leading to success. Inter-departmental projects and business process initiatives often are stuck in cross-departmental politics, disputes, and miscommunication.

CIOs encounter these obstacles and challenges associated with cross-departmental interaction and collaboration. Overcoming these obstacles and challenges require setting up an effective project governance framework. Old methods of relying on setting up HR policies and procedures will not be effective in the present day and age.

Project governance practice has been around for years. Recently, governance framework has been created by many small strategy boutique practices, as well as big consulting firms. These frameworks have found their way on to the CIO’s table in the form of presentations and white papers. Nevertheless, a realistic framework needs to be comprehensive and describe the key elements in a contextual environment.

Governance framework has five core elements for effective governance practice:

1. Establish Structures – Create organization units or committees with clearly defined governance roles and assign responsibilities to facilitate clear and efficient organizational alignment to achieve business objectives.
2. Define Governance Processes – Clearly define governance processes, rules, and regulations and be an aid in management across planning, delivering, and operating IT.
3. Establish Goals and Metrics – Establish standards for governance within the project goals and metrics to provide insight and guidance for business and IT leadership to make decisions.
4. Prioritize Projects and Tasks – So that you work on the most achievable ones first.
5. Confer Real Authority to lower level managers to enforce governance rules; i.e., to empower technology leads and business process experts with real authority. These empowered managers will provide effective decision-making environments.

Governance is about leadership and decision-making to deliver business value. These key elements do not work in a vacuum and require a contextual environment, which will drive decision-making for IT investments, IT operations, IT management, and business/IT interactions.

CIOs need to validate and implement these core elements in the contextual environment, namely ROI (Return on Investmen) driven business and IT alignment, building operational efficiencies and common architectural standards, accountability and reporting established at every level of organization, and finally, key performance indicators and metrics aligned to achieve business objectives, financial targets and strategic business goals.

Setting up the above governance framework across an organization would enforce interdepartmental communication and safeguard CIO’s initiatives from becoming a casualty of internal politics and cross-departmental disputes.

Governance is a project and an effort in continuity. Seldom is it a one-time, fits all initiative. Regular evaluation and revisiting of implemented governance practice is imperative. Continuous improvement and adapting to changes in environment, people and processes will define the maturity level of IT governance.

IT governance maturity generally spans 5 phases: basic governance phase; learning phase; self-learning and adjusting phase; developed IT governance phase; and lastly, leadership phase. An IT organization which has reached the leadership phase drives business to perform at the highest level. IT organizations in leadership phase are capable of delivering long term benefits. These include:

  • A proactive business environment
  • Business value creation as the primary driver
  • Creation of formalized and comprehensive business and IT decision-making bodies (structure)
  • Alignment of IT investments and business priorities
  • Joint business and IT interaction
  • Balanced scorecard-tracking with continuous feedback
  • Rewards tied to value creation
  • Consistently applied key measures

IT governance is an important tool in a CIO’s armory to align business and IT decision-making. It provides a contextual environment to achieve business objectives and goals, and to simultaneously develop a performance driven, value creating organizational unit.

HR policy and procedures cannot provide operational guidance for performing daily jobs; IT governance succeeds in fulfilling this gap. CIOs should not wait for the stars to align in implementing an IT governance framework; it is time to raise the bar to extract the most from shrinking resources – as a wise man once said, “Offense is the best form of defense.”

Amod Desai
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Amod Desai is an IT management consultant who writes about futuristic science and technology. Desai, an engineer and management consultant, specializes in information technology and business transformation. He is an alumina of George Mason University School of Management. 

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