I discovered 5 myths of IT governance while following a recent discussion of college CIO’s which are common misconceptions of IT governance. This post picks up from the Definition of IT Governance: What many colleges get wrong by focusing on more general thinking behind IT governance that leads to getting it wrong.
Since there was certainly more that could be said on the many perversions of IT governance which leads to all sorts of dysfunctional decision making, I figured I would do a follow-up in the hopes of advancing the dialogue and igniting an IT governance revolution.
5 Myths of IT Governance
IT Governance is About IT
IT Governance is not actually about IT. It is about corporate governance focusing on achieving the strategic goals and creating value through the use of information and technology investments. It is about how the organization manages the demands for scarce resources for those initiatives that produce the greatest movement towards the goals. Or, how it allocates resources so there is a balanced movement on all goals. This makes IT governance an organizational issue focused on the funneling down demand side by deciding what IT should work on based on its capacity.
IT Governance is About Decision Rights
It is easy to forget that decision making responsibility is the other half of the common definition of IT governance. This is where accountability is attached to the decision makers and project sponsors to deliver the value they promised in the business case behind their initiative.
So when a project sponsor advocates for committing limited resources for project A over project B because it represents a greater value, they must be accountable for delivering that value. But getting approval is actually the easy part of IT Governance and the real challenge, the real value of IT Governance is in the accountability systems used to produce the expected returns.
IT Governance is About IT Projects
Another distortion is equating IT governance solely with IT project management. The reality is that there are very few ‘IT projects’. Instead we have business initiatives with technology components. This means the accountability systems must monitor progress towards achieving the full value of the business case long after the technology project has been completed – 1 year, 3 years, 5 years out.
IT Governance is Shared Decision Making
Proper IT governance can disrupt the cultural power structures or decision making models by forcing the use of more objective criteria in decision making and the accountability for the results. Done properly, it IT Governance relies on stakeholder input. But many IT Governance models confuse stakeholder input for a democracy where everyone gets a vote instead of using it to inform the decision. This myth can also surface when IT governance does not remain focused on the strategic, value creating major initiatives – the big rocks, and instead gets pulled into refereeing the decisions on the small rocks.
IT Governance Oversees IT Operations
IT Governance should not become involved in IT management decisions which should be the responsibility of the experienced professionals who are accountable for the results. IT governance, to use Gartner’s definition, has two components – the supply side and the demand side. When organizations allow IT governance committees to take over the supply side they create “IT management by committee”. This situation is usually very offensive to the IT leadership and would no more be tolerated by any other manager.
CIO’s can’t run away from the fight over IT governance for fear of being accused of running an IT Monarchy or a Benevolent Dictatorship. If you do it right, there will be no basis for such accusations. Part of doing it right though includes having clarity around the differences between the supply side and demand side of and what the CIO’s role is in each.