Why IT governance is the great enabler

Most organisations would deem anyone making the statement in the title of this article totally mad.

Most organisations would deem anyone making the statement in the title of this article totally mad.

After all, it is a known fact that all corporate governance does is add to the expenses bill, especially the IT costs. What is more, it does not help the business grow or survive, so the same must be true for IT governance, mustn’t it?

I believe that the urban myth surrounding all governance is inaccurate and far too defensive a stance. Even history proves it to be inaccurate. In the early days, IT was conducted without any standards, controls or methodologies. The pioneers were allowed to do their own thing, which worked well for years until computing became more pervasive and mission critical.

It then became apparent that standards and methodologies were necessary, but they were greeted with derision by the “old hands” who felt they were a hindrance. 

No threat to jobs

But each new way of working became the norm and improved the performance of the systems needed to support the business. It never eradicated IT jobs or the interesting part of them.

Governance is evolutionary and so here we are again moving into the next stage of IT governance. The only difference this time is that instead of calling it an IT standard or methodology, we are calling it IT governance. Just as in the past, when any new regime is established we will look back and wonder how we could have worked professionally without it.

The trick now is to work out how to use this new regime to steal a march on the competition. If a business simply wants to comply with IT governance then fine, but I believe this mindset is wrong. Look at the rules and checklists and work out the what, why and how of using IT governance to your company’s advantage.

Art and science

The debate has raged for years about IT being a mixture of science and art. This has enabled the artists to postulate that rigour will dampen their skill and added value. This is either an excuse or a protection mechanism as they fear their jobs will disappear or become mundane.

It is obvious the science part can be made in a string of processes, but even the art part can be aided by some loose procedures. We all want to do a great job and I believe there is room for freedom of thought to be complementary to controls and rigour.

Governance gets a bad name when it is taken to extremes and common sense is kicked into touch. All things implemented in the name of good governance should help the business. If this is not apparent then a challenge should be made as management need to be helped to ensure positive returns on their governance investment.  

Finally, whose responsibility is IT governance? I fear that with IT in the title, most business people, whether IT or not, will assume it is the CIO or IT director’s job. This is wrong.

Good IT governance is about how effectively IT is used to grow and develop the business. This means the board must play an active role in ensuring the organisation uses its IT resources effectively and efficiently.


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