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Bits & Bytes e-zine, Vol2 #2: I.T. Governance 101

IT Governance does not focus on what decisions are made within the IS/IT department, rather, IT governance pursues the issue of which people have the right to make decisions, who has input rights to the decisions, and which people or groups are to be held accountable for the decisions. (Peter Weill, 2004)

IT Governance isn’t one thing, it’s everything. (Steve Romero, 2012)

The term IT governance is being used more and more frequently in offering solutions for Jamaica’s ICT adoption quagmire and charting a growth path for the nation. For sure, it is recognized that organizations that employ IT governance methods see upwards of 20% greater profits and even greater growth rates than those pursuing similar strategies without using IT governance. Nevertheless, IT governance is still a blind spot for many senior managers. While not attempting to show how to implement IT governance strategies or assessments, this article is aimed at shedding light on the overall value and intent of proper IT governance.

What is IT Governance?

IT Governance is the framework consisting of processes and structures throughout an organization specifying:

  1. Who makes decisions pertaining to goals, policies, investment (human and financial capital), infrastructure, and architectures.
  2. How decisions are made, implemented, and managed as well as how disputes are settled.
  3. Who is held responsible and accountable.
  4. Who provides input and how issues are analyzed .
  5. How to align IT strategy to organizational goals.

If you are thinking that IT governance is about:

  1. How persons, departments or groups and functions are organized and led, or
  2. Whether rules and regulations are being followed , or
  3. Has anything to do with managing the IT/IS department or making operational or project level decisions Then you are following the wrong path.

Who needs IT Governance?

There is no single “best formula” for IT governance, but hoping for the best and operating in silos is no recipe for growth. It is disruptive and non-constructive when everyone is doing something in a silo. Sometimes they are unique and innovative but there is no re-use or maximization, so several customizations flourish, diversity is fecund and knowledge resources become viewed as clerical resources. Most structures rely on localize resources, insular and self-serving, catering to localized culture. There may be the Finance IS, Tourism and Sports ICT, Health IT with departmental System Administrators, IT department, and outsourced vendors. These many pieces and parts are needed to successfully implement projects. There are no simple projects. Managing everything on a granular micro-managerial level is just not practical in today’s day and age. What does work? A governance structure!

Governance strategy at work

These ad-hoc structures may work, but they are ineffective in aligning IT with the needs of the broader organization, the “big picture” so to speak.

An effective governance structure needs to allow IT to focus on the following strategic areas aligned to the business strategy. Governance is about specifying who has the decision rights, and who should be accountable for the decision. A decision should not be made in a vacuum. The first step is to assure proper information or input is given to help the decision maker, by providing clarity to the problem and the advantages and disadvantages of different solutions.

Many existing IT Governance processes and structures involve a confusing hybrid of one or more centralized units, autonomous units, departments, independent research teams, individual leadership and committee consensus. This has resulted in:

  • Conflicting policies and IT planning efforts,
  • Ineffective and inefficient use of resources,
  • IT Governance structures that were not designed, but rather evolved. With an effective IT governance structure an organization can have:
  • Strategic Alignment: Making sure the IT strategy advances the business missions, needs and objectives.
  • Value Delivery: Assuring that the IT strategy delivers benefits and provides value through optimizing expenses and proving the value of IT.
  • Resource Management: Providing optimal investment in and proper management of IT resources, including applications, information, infrastructure and people.
  • Risk Management: Understanding and awareness of IT risks, and effective and appropriate management of these risks addressing the safeguard of IT assets, disaster recovery and continuity of operations.
  • Performance Measurement: Tracking and monitoring of IT strategy implementation, project success, resource usage, process performance and service delivery through established metrics.

Many persons look to systems such as CoBIT and ITIL® to guide the adoption of IT governance but it is the essential principles that make the difference. In the end, whether at an organizational or national level, an effective IT governance structure is necessary for optimization of resources and growth. Think of what a 20% increase in GDP would do for the nation.

Reviewed by :

Dean M Smith President,
Jamaica Computer Society

Kenrie Hylton PhD,
Dean of the department Computer & Information Science,
Northern Caribbean University

Arnett Campbell,
Head of School of Computing and Information Technology,
Faculty of Engineering and Computing,
University of Technology

George Stewart PhD,
Snr. Project Officer,
Office of the Campus Principal,
University of the West Indies,
Mona Campus

Category: Bits & Bytes