IT Governance is a broad topic that can assume a variety of meanings depending on the context of the discussion. As a consultancy delivering engagements within the orbit of IT Governance, we enter the dialogue over the alignment of IT with the Business, financial management of IT, the ability of IT to deliver commitments, improvement of technical operations processes, introduction of compliance, and so on.¬† These issues become topics of discussion because IT has emerged on the problem radar of the firm for any of the reasons mentioned above.¬† When these problems exist within the firm, at the root of the problem is the issue of maturity of the IT organization.
Immature IT organizations struggle to meet the needs of the Business. They are typically overly burdened with break-fix activities that result from poorly implemented or inadequate Technical Operations processes.¬† There is typically no way to prioritize requests for change, and as such every request is high priority and demands urgent attention or exception handling.¬† Newly introduced Compliance and regulatory requirements have created overlays of processes and activities on top of support and maintenance tasks. ¬†¬†The result is an over-burn of IT resources on maintenance and change activities to the extent that resourcing for Business-requested projects is inadequate. Very soon, the Business’s dissatisfaction paints the IT organization as a boat anchor for the Business, incapable of delivering on commitments and detached from the Business’s strategic direction. And indeed, in spite of intentions to the contrary, there is truth to the accusations.
Mature IT organizations, on the other hand, are characterized by their ability to enable agility for the Business. They are consistent in the execution of projects in the portfolio and are recognized by the Business for delivery of innovation and value.¬† Compliance and sound risk management are an integral part of operations.¬† IT organizations at the highest levels of maturing can be seen to exist in a state of convergence with the Business.
It’s not that IT organizations are inherently born bad and need to be saved.¬† In fact, as my friend Vaughan Merlyn suggests in his blog, ¬†it can be said that businesses get the IT they ask for.¬† That is to say, if the Business is not accountable for the value of IT investments, then the IT organization will have a difficult time realizing value in return.¬† Similarly, if IT does not insist on Business accountability for requested investments and sheepishly complies with a “fire and forget” behavior of the Business, then the results are the same. ¬†¬†In either case, it is Leadership that drives attention toward aligning the maturity of the IT organization with the long-term strategic goals of the Business, which in turn requires a directed focus on IT Governance at many levels.
The tangible benefits of a mature IT organization for the service of the Business can be categorized into efficiency/ optimization of spend, and opportunity for innovation. In a mature IT organization, investments in projects have minimal waste because processes to manage and prioritize the project portfolio and the processes for development and operations ensure a higher likelihood of success.¬† In a mature IT organization, an Enterprise Architecture has been created that is aligned with the Business’ operating model and maximizes agility and flexibility to enable the Business to address market changes and opportunities.¬† In a mature IT organization, Technical Operations processes deliver exceptional uptime and efficient use of support resources.¬† All of these factors contribute to cost efficiency.¬† Furthermore, a mature IT organization shares the confidence of the Business, and as such, is a collaborative partner and a source of creative innovation aimed at common goals with the Business.