IT Governance

How to Improve IT Governance Maturity

IT governance is a steering wheel, not a brake. If the goal is to steer the modern enterprise on a smooth track to success, IT needs to focus on its core value as a business differentiator and an engine for growth / innovation. Pearl Zhu, in her Future of CIO blog, has several recommendations for maintaining an effective IT governance regime.

Coming from the Top

Let’s take it from the top! (The top of the organizational hierarchy, that is) Great IT governance comes from those who are tasked with governing. This seems like a redundant phrase, but oftentimes, IT decision-making power is wrongly situated with the CIO alone. Zhu states that all CXOs should be involved in the decisions that affect IT’s growth. After all, IT’s growth affects the business. These leaders may have input on several important factors:

a) Maturity of IT function and the expectations business leaders have from IT

b) Immediate and long term priorities of organization

c) Ways of working, political equations among key leaders and decision making approach in the organization

CIO and Information Flow

The CIO has an important role to play in establishing effective governance. Their function can be likened to a conduit between the business and IT, where information flows from bottom to top and from top to bottom. The ‘cost presentation’ that the CIO gives in the board room should follow, according to Zhu, the prioritization of keep the lights on, followed by ‘currently approved projects’ with a final consideration given to ‘projects without funding’. In other words, the popular run, grow, transform schema.

Value Spree from the ITSC

One additional consideration is the IT steering committee (ITSC). Is the committee focused on the “what” of each project and not the “how?” A thoughtful CIO will win small battles in the quest to improve performance, a tactic for gaining the trust of the business. Once that trust has been gained, a formal governance structure can be implemented to make IT a value center that is viewed holistically by the business.

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