The word “governance” is enough to make any old-time techie reach for a gun – either to shoot himself in a fit of depression or to get even with those whose sole mission seems to be to take the last scraps of fun out of computing.
But governance and IT governance are phrases that will not go away. With millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money disappearing into ill-conceived or badly implemented government schemes and the role of IT looming large in big corporate scandals like Enron, effective governance becomes essential to IT not being dragged into the mire when things go wrong.
In the higher echelons of corporate and IT management, the need for effective governance is apparently accepted, but in practice it is often accepted in much the same way as “corporate social responsibility” is in many cases – something that needs attention but by someone else and perhaps not now.
Part of the problem is finding a definition of governance that everyone can not only understand, but also generate a degree of enthusiasm about. As Paul Williams points out in his article on page 30, “Ask two CIOs to explain what IT governance is and it is likely that you will get different answers.”
But however IT governance is framed, whether a basic set of rules and processes for keeping the fat out of the fire or an overarching corporate philosophy, it needs attention at the very top of the organisation and a meaningful dialogue between IT management and more general business executives.
We continually hear that IT must learn to talk the “language of business”, but equally, senior business management need to learn a little of the language of IT – or at least fully understand IT’s crucial role in corporate success or failure.