IT Governance 101 - What every IT department should know

I often speak to CIOs about their IT operations, and it’s amazing how many organisations struggle to implement successful governance. It’s not as easy as it sounds. We all know that IT is an integral part of a company’s...

Share

I often speak to CIOs about their IT operations, and it’s amazing how many organisations struggle to implement successful governance. It’s not as easy as it sounds. We all know that IT is an integral part of a company’s performance.

An organised IT function can act swiftly and efficiently on customer and business needs. But before IT can be truly effective, a governance structure must be built. Involving relevant stakeholders, keeping your eye on the important issues, and building slowly and deliberately can yield successful results. How does this happen? By focusing on the following three components:

  • Senior business leader involvement. First, assemble a group of senior business leaders that will assume responsibility for reviewing and approving proposed IT investments. Who should serve on this IT steering committee? At Accenture, the committee consists of the chief operating officers from each line of business. These senior leaders are essential for prioritising IT investments and ensuring the business supports what IT is doing. Key business sponsors are also necessary to establish a baseline for business benefits. The business sponsor should present the proposed investment project and review the business case and benefits with the committee.
  • Business needs. As referenced above, a business case should be developed for all proposed IT investments in order to align technology initiatives with the needs of the business. The IT steering committee can then evaluate each investment based on the needs of the individual business unit and those of the company as a whole. It’s equally important for the IT steering committee to measure the benefits achieved from the investment after completion. By following through and auditing the results, business sponsors are held accountable and the business cases are sure to be much more rigorous. This double scrutiny ensures that the most business-focused investments move to the top of the IT priority list.
  • Timing. Though the initial governance plan may be far-reaching and complex, the IT governance model need not be perfect from the start. In fact, it is better to build piece-by-piece to demonstrate the value of IT governance to the organisation. This will ensure continued executive buy-in as well as buy-in from the rest of the organisation, who will appreciate projects that are collaborative rather than those that are thrust on the company. Because basic technology needs are similar across many companies and industries, those building the IT governance framework can deliver basic needs quickly while also focusing on future needs in various areas. Building slowly also allows the stakeholders and the IT organisation to periodically review whether the governance strategy is going in the right direction and to set standards and react to any changes in business needs or demands.

Keeping your business needs - and the senior business leaders who drive those needs - at the centre of the governance process will help you maintain the necessary focus to build a stable and far-reaching IT governance program that will produce long-range benefits for your organisation.

Bob Kress, executive director of Business Operations at Accenture