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Emphasize the Governance Function

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2007-08-03 Print this article Print

At too many companies, technology managers aren't on the same wavelength with the top business executives. Here are 10 ideas for improving that dynamic.

1. Emphasize the Governance Function
With so many big-project failures under their belts, you'd think companies would have figured out a way to make their biggest I.T. investments successful. In many cases, they haven't. More than 50% of big I.T. projects still fail to produce the expected business benefits, according to most estimates.

The companies that are doing better are using a variety of tactics to improve their governance. Project management offices and frameworks like COBIT (Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology), developed by professional I.T. organizations, have helped some companies with the critical function of making sure that the right projects are getting funded. "Typically, companies going through the effort to think this through have better I.T. alignment," says Eric Dorr, a senior business adviser with the Hackett Group, a strategic advisory firm.

But even big companies are feeling their way with the kind and size of projects to put through the process. For instance, there is a natural temptation, if a project falls below a certain dollar level, not to put it through a compliance review. "That's exactly when you're going to get yourself into trouble," says Jeanne Ross, principal research scientist at the MIT Sloan Center for Information Systems Research. Problems can arise, she says, if a small project has a chance of turning into something that could be deployed throughout an enterprise. "It's really hard to make sure that things aren't falling through the cracks," Ross says.

Smaller companies, too, need oversight mechanisms for their I.T. investments. At Progressive Medical, a $175 million insurer based in Westerville, Ohio, chief information officer Angelo Mazzocco meets every other week with business executives. More formality than that wouldn't make sense at a company so small.

At that level "I'd still be putting in place the discipline of governance, but I'd be doing it to show the rest of the company what good governance looks like," says Vaughan Merlyn, executive vice president of consulting firm BSG Concours.

Next Best Practice: Establish an I.T. Steering Committee

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