Well if it’s Monday – and it isn’t (at least not in Australia) -Â that means it is IT Governance day at the blog.Â I could start with a fundamental overview of the world of IT Governance and set out an agenda of blog entries for the next few weeks – but I won’t.Â That would probably be too ambitious – so I’ll start with a fundamental flaw in, apparently, just about everyone’s thinking.
Tying this post back to the subject line, not only is IT Governance not just for geeks, it isn’t for geeks.Â IT Governance is ensuring that the entirety of the IT system works towards achieving business aims and strategy.Â It relates to ensuring that the portfolio of IT people, processes, and technologies is in balance.Â That role absolutely has nothing to do with IT speak.Â And yet I have been approached by journalists and clients alike in the past with the absolute underlying assumption that IT is very technical and that it cannot be managed without an understanding of the technicalities below that threshold. That is absolutely not true and in fact the opposite is true – it is probably less-than-helpful at a Board and committee levelÂ to have that technical understanding of IT.Â You do not need to be an IT geek to be on the Board and governing IT operations.Â All members of the Board are equally responsible for IT Governance, not just a board member with technical expertise.Â
No-one expects a board member to understand how the engines in the fleet of delivery vehicles work – and, news flash, the modern vehicle is fairly complex!Â Yet information technology instantly draws shudders of revulsion from some quarters and dark murmuring of witchcraft, magic smoke, and database normalisation (all of which are the blackest of black magic and therefore clearly evil and not to be understood by anyone).Â The role of the board member in IT Governance is, in my view at least, to focus on the portfolio of activities, require monitoring and feedback regarding the performance of IT, and to provide direction in the allocation of resources.Â Certainly this requires advice from IT professionals – particularly around the area of resource allocation – but good IT Governance does not require that the mechanic be at the board table just because he or she knows how to rebuild an engine.Â .
I think the situation that we have has come about because in the past IT professionals have been guilty of portraying IT as some form of dark magic rite, as that was felt to give power and direction over IT.Â There is certainly a danger for IT professionals in comjmunicating only half the story behind IT to the board.Â I have met with more than a few IT professionals in the past who complain that their IT budget has been slashed because they opened up and tried to explain to the board what was needed.Â In most casese, the board listened, heard mutterings of dark magic, and then found a language they could understand – the language of the bottom line.Â Which, with great glee, the board slashed – with little regard for what that meant to business outcomes.Â The danger here is that IT is seen as a cost rather than a benefit – and the lesson for IT in dealing with the board and those responsible for budget allocations is to focus on the benefits of IT rather than just the costs.
There is a great publication that I was involved with two years ago through CPA Australia called IT Governance:Â A Practical Guide for Company Directors, and it is a very accessible and usable publication with great ideas for implementing IT Governance.Â It can be purchased here and is something that any company should consider purchasing if they are serious about seeing value from IT.Â
I will use this guide as a framework for my future posts around IT Governance.Â I will make the note here and now that, as chair of the ITM CoE for CPA Austrralia, there is a publication focussed on the business management of information technology in the pipeline, and a publication of the IT Governance Guide aimed squarely at SME’s.Â These will be interesting future publications – probably coming out in the second half of 2007 and first half of 2008 respectively.