Good IT governance is not about committees, processes, forms and procedures. It's about involving as many people as possible. And then it's IT's job to support them
IT governance certainly has moved to centre stage. MIT's Peter Weill published a book simply entitled IT Governance; there are conferences devoted exclusively to IT governance; an IT Governance Institute conducts research on the subject and, of course, almost every consulting firm under the sun now offers services to review and redesign IT governance processes.
Everyone seems to be talking about IT governance, and most people agree that careful selection of who makes decisions about technology investments will have a major impact on how successful those investments will be. But how do you make good governance happen? The real challenge is not the designing of committees, processes, forms and procedures; it's meeting the challenge of participation.
Getting people involved is what IT governance is really about. As Weill notes: "Behaviours, not strategies, create value". For IT governance processes to make a difference, one of the primary behaviours that CIOs need to encourage is the broad participation of IT customers.
At the University of Texas M D Anderson Cancer Centre, we try to stay away from calling much of what we do "IT projects" because we've discovered that it really does make a difference if investments are viewed as projects belonging to IT or projects belonging to the business and enabled by IT. Consequently, we have "business projects" in which IT is a major and often critical component. Only infrastructure investments are called "IT projects". By changing the way we speak about projects, we have been able to shift the focus of the enterprise from the technology decision to the business decision about how technology should be used.
Thought Leaders, Opinion Leaders and Others
Just recasting IT projects as business projects doesn't, however, guarantee broad-based participation in IT governance. Building participation in the IT governance process requires three components:
• Involving thought and opinion leaders.
• Balancing individual needs and companywide requirements.
• Providing organizational support for participation.
The first step is to understand that there at least two types of participants in every organization: thought leaders (those who can think outside the box) and opinion leaders (those who are viewed as credible and trustworthy throughout the company).
In health-care organizations, for example, I have identified physicians who are thought leaders - the first to try a new technology and the first to want remote access to clinical data. They subscribe to technology publications and install sophisticated networks at home. Opinion leaders, on the other hand, tend to be more conservative in adopting new technologies, but when they do embrace them, you can be sure that their colleagues will follow.
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