Having a ‘well-stocked’ IT department, complete with a well trained staff and all the latest technological trinkets, is certainly something that most large businesses need.  Likewise, a solid IT sector needs to be under the near-constant watch of a knowledgeable and experienced management team if it is to properly function within the context of a larger business.  However, there is distinct difference between what qualifies as IT management and IT governance.

Arguably, the biggest IT failures of the past are directly related to inabilities to accurately enact an IT governance strategy that takes the goals of the parent business into consideration.  But before we examine this link any further, let’s define IT governance.

In a nutshell, IT governance is all about strategy; or rather, applying IT assets to specific situations or problems.  It’s also worth noting that true IT governance is something that requires the guidance of one or more individuals who are able to clearly visualize the “big picture” in terms of their company’s status, capabilities, goals and decision-making.  At its heart, IT governance is dedicated to bringing the abilities of the IT department into complete congruity with the complete strategy of an organization’s leadership.

IT management can perform their duties well (from inside the tech sphere) and still remain largely unaware and unconnected with the true ambitions and desires of the business they serve.  In other words, IT management is completely different from governance; once again, operational excellence provides no direction when it comes to implementing external strategies.  This doesn’t mean to imply that IT managers cannot participate in governance however; it might even be argued that they, along with those on the “inside track” on the business end of the spectrum, should be working alongside one another (where IT governance is concerned).

What does IT governance specifically entail?

  • Alignment – Aligning the overall IT strategy with that of the business itself (which they are a part of).
  • Value Delivery – Particular attention is paid to the potential ROI with regards to governance strategy, actions and purpose.  At the end of the day, the goal is to show shareholders the value of the IT department as a whole.
  • Risk Management – Given that IT is an investment, precautions must be taken to ensure that long-term functionality is possible.  Additionally, since most IT departments these days are carrying out increasingly important tasks and roles, their status and security must remain very high on any list of priorities.
  • Resource Management – IT governance isn’t just about diverting known resources to areas where they might be needed and/or ensuring proper maintenance of said assets, there should also be focus on resources which might be required in the future.
  • Performance Measurement – Through performance measurement it is possible to determine what’s working and what isn’t.  Likewise, PM allows one to spot potential problems that might be cropping up before they become systemic issues.

So, while IT management deals with simply maintaining an IT operation, governance seeks to direct the entire production toward ensuring participation in bringing corporate strategies to life.  Additionally, governance might also be used to guarantee that a business’ IT department is in alignment with any critical compliance issues (like Basel II or Sarbanes–Oxley, for example).

What’s the best way to create a powerful IT governance system or improve upon the one you already have?  Simply put, having specific employees explore certification for IT governance is a really good idea, and it’s a very affordable option as well.  If you are an IT professional with an inclination toward business (or perhaps you just have a lot of great ideas with regards to IT-business integration), seeking out training and certification in IT governance is going to be a really good move for you.

As corporate leaders continue to place increased focus on the abilities of IT, the demand for individuals who truly understand IT governance will continue to increase.  Furthermore, given that the technologies driving IT continue to grow and expand (as well as the overall influence of IT itself), often in unexpected ways, the importance of IT governance can only increase.  In other words, those who are pursuing IT governance typically understand that the role of IT within business is shifting and they’re positioning themselves as leaders within their field.

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