IT governance is not a luxury but an essential element in a business's long-term survival, according to a BCS seminar on the subject earlier this month.
Good IT governance provides direction, encourages better customer relationships, improves performance, drives transparency across an organisation, helps manage risk, provides a robust service delivery and pushes towards a higher degree of professionalism, the seminar heard.
In any organisation the executive should ensure that technology helps drive the business strategy. Management should enable technology, create business value and manage risk, while those in charge of architecture drive technological innovation forward. Additionally, quality assurance needs to encourage consistency and deliver appropriate management information.
Good IT governance requires stakeholder management and communications, decision-making structures, efficient IT processes and procedures and strategy-driven performance management.
The BCS seminar heard that performance measurement was a vital area. Companies often get themselves into a "measurement trap" where the wrong things are measured the wrong way. Companies often focus too much on delivering measurements rather than services.
Managers need to identify key goals across IT to help support business strategy. This will also help provide a balance between "lag" and "lead" key performance indicators. One must, however, remember that these are simply indicators that can help people see where they fit within the organisation. When people know how their job links into the overall business strategy they are more empowered to deliver. Only in an environment of good communication can business and workers thrive.
IT sustains and extends an organisation's strategies and objectives, however, one size does not fit all. Strategies vary, as do structures and an organisation's culture. Effective governance builds with, and on, trust, but is contingent on culture.
A balance is required between precise measurement (eg call duration at call centres) and customer empathy (ie did we solve our customer's problem?), the seminar heard.
It managers have to accept that they cannot measure everything. One cannot measure intangibles, one can only design indicators for them. A business model can create common purpose and shared identity, but it still requires meaningful and relevant indicators.
A few years ago the Harvard Business Review famously stated that IT was "just a utility" and "didn't really matter". This attitude needs to change. However, this requires that business has the foresight to allow for changes. IT is a utility, but an important one, and it needs to become more visible if it is to be recognised for the significant contribution it makes to a business' well-being.
There is often insufficient opportunity for IT managers to engage with the executive and directors, and often very little dialogue regarding IT and IT governance. IT governance requires sponsorship from the top of an organisation throughout its implementation.
Businesses need to encourage better learning and knowledge sharing within an organisation. There is a real need for improved performance and quality measuring. Essentially, performance is everyone's everyday job.