It is startling how adaptive most large information technology (IT) organizations can be. Have spotty leadership? Let’s form a committee to advise our executives. Are our users or customers unhappy? Let’s create a special working group to address their issues. These and other seemingly innocent responses are part of the growing trend toward formal IT governance.
Governance may be defined as the framework of people, policies and processes for helping managers make decisions and take action. IT governance is about managing the organization’s effective and efficient use of its people, computers, data, applications, and communications. Sounds like a good idea.
There are lots of sticky decisions for IT shops to make: Who should we outsource? What policies do we need for employee instant messaging and blogging? How do we get the business units to pay for architectural standards?
Formal IT governance has grown so pervasive that organizations need charts to show who does what. Governance groups have weighty names and acronyms, such as Architectural Review Board (ARB), or Administrative Systems Management Group (ASMG). At first blush, these groups suggest thoughtful processes, group consensus, and logical decision making. In reality, most IT governance groups fail to supplement leadership gaps, and disable decision-making by those most equipped to decide. They are signs of decay, not health.
What can IT executives and managers do? Either let leaders lead without committee advisors, or find new leaders. Let those who know the most about the customer or business problems make the IT decisions. Provide incentives and consequences for those decisions. And finally, ask to participate in the business, instead of merely supporting it.