IT managers are rarely provided with good, clear and precise information about business priorities. However, this is critical in order to assign resources effectively to meet the demands of different business units with different priorities.
The need to chase demanding project targets from even more demanding customers often conflicts with the need to maintain current services. This situation appears to be getting more complicated and more emotive as each year passes.
Time spent fighting for key resource within the IT department is no way to ensure that the business is getting what it needs from IT for the good of the organisation.
The solution to this issue lies in the creation of a transparent decision making structure for IT, in order to provide managers, teams and individuals with clear and agreed priorities, as part of an overall approach to IT governance.
Without a suitable decision making structure in place it will be impossible to ensure that IT is delivering to the best interests of the entire organisation and not just the most powerful business units.
The questions that you need to be asking yourselves are:
- What is the most effective way to engage all the directors to ensure that the technology investment supports and drives the business strategy?
- What is the best way for the business and IT managers to work together to maximise the investment in technology, in order to maximise business value and reduce business risk?
- How do I ensure that the organisation's technical direction is delivering technical innovation to the business?
- How do I improve IT processes and procedures to improve consistency of delivery and reduce risk to the business?
- How do I produce relevant and transparent performance information across IT to support the decision making structures?
If you can answer all these questions then you will almost certainly have a clearer statement of prioritisation from the organisation's leadership.
As a result this will lead to business value being increased, resources being deployed more appropriately, risks to the business being reduced and the IT department will be able to provide increased surety of delivery.
Unfortunately a good decision-making structure is only part of the story: you then have to make sure everybody knows about the changes brought about by IT governance and that IT staff are aware of the decisions.
This communication needs to reach executives and the board, members of the IT department and colleagues in the business. If people don't know what is being asked of them then it will never be delivered.
The whole area of communications is typically poorly managed, either because people think a presentation will do the job or because senior managers struggle to engage with their staff.
Communication of IT Governance requires several approaches, so you need to consider:
- How is the importance of IT governance presented to the organisation, especially the decision making structures?
- How will business and IT stakeholders be managed so they support IT Governance and are fully aware of the prioritisation decisions that are being made?
- How people will get opportunities to ask questions and engage in the IT governance process?
- How to ensure that senior management 'walk the talk' and visibly support prioritisations made through the decision making process?
- How will anybody playing 'lip service' to the prioritisation process be brought in line?
Finding practical answers to these communication challenges and embedding effective communication into normal, day-to-day activities is essential to making IT governance transparent.
Only then will you be able to ensure that IT delivers to the business as a result of clear prioritisation and realise the associated benefits this bring to an organisation.
Iain Parker CEng, CITP, MBCS, Computing September 2005.