Building IT Governance: Collaboration and Support

By Adam Nelson  |  Posted 2008-11-26 Email Print this article Print

While organizations have similar goals such as controlling costs and achieving data consistency, IT departments across government, corporations and nonprofits operate differently. IT management needs an overarching governance model like CobiT, ITIL, CMM and Six Sigma to ensure that investments in technology generate business value and mitigate risks.

Building IT Governance: Collaboration and Support

As an example, one state government’s IT strategic planning group wanted higher levels of collaboration and a stronger sense of support. The sense of buy-in across multiple agencies would strengthen appropriation requests for strategic initiatives, allowing for economies of scale, including:

  • Solutions that address and automate inter- and intra-agency business processes
  • Smaller, more focused teams to drive progress more quickly
  • More statewide, standardized technology platforms and tool sets
  • Enhanced information sharing and increased reusability
  • Lower total cost of ownership for solutions.

To achieve its goals, the state government embarked on a more collaborative planning effort, beginning with an agency director approach. This top-down model was meant to align agencies having similar business-oriented goals and challenges. Facilitated discussion and collaborative decision making identified and defined capabilities that would help alleviate challenges in support of goals that could be met through technology. This transition—from business-driven need to technology-based capability—also allowed the agency directors to communicate more effectively with the IT directors.

The transition to technology occurred when enabling capabilities, such as business intelligence, were identified. More than 50 agencies were represented and more than 100 directors, chiefs of staff, and IT leads collaborated in the process to iterate balanced objectives and identify existing and new initiatives.

The state’s intent for the strategic planning process was a set of IT-oriented priorities that support state and agency business goals and can be translated into a set of recommended projects and budgets. With the iterative, collaborative process utilized, it was essential to be sensitive to time and competing priorities. In support of the process, the state established a legislative technology committee and formalized the agency director advisory committee.

The state’s approach—developing output for the framework—was designed to facilitate discussion and move quickly toward decisions in a collaborative fashion that built support and consensus.

Looking at CobiT’s Planning and Organizing domain, the very first process area is Define a Strategic IT Plan. This satisfies the business requirement for IT to sustain or extend the strategy and governance requirements, while still being transparent about benefits, costs and risks.

Another CobiT process area, Define the IT Processes, Organization and Relationships, has several applicable objectives. These include Defining an IT Process Framework, Establishing an IT Strategy Committee and Establishing an IT Steering Committee.

The state government achieved several CobiT objectives through its planning process, which had the goal of developing a long-term strategic plan—not overtly aligning with the CobiT framework. This is a model of success that other standard and framework maturity programs can learn from.

Adam Nelson is director of management and IT consulting at Keane, a global IT consulting firm headquartered in San Ramon, Calif.

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