Saturday, August 29, 2009

Leadership is seriously absent in governance

I gave a presentation to the NZ SAP User Group meeting this week. My topic was IT Value Management and my objective was to present the case for managing value from IT, rather than just managing IT, and to show the behaviours needed to achieve it and why this must start at the top.

Research by MIT's Center for Information Systems Reseach identified how firms successfully drive value from the use of IT and generate returns on their IT investments that are up to 40 percent greater than their competitors. These IT savvy firms have three obsessions:
  1. Fixing what’s broken about IT. Behind a spaghetti IT architecture is a broken accountability framework and decision-making model (in other words, governance). There must be agreement and commitment on how the organization will operate and how resources will be focussed on enterprise initiatives rather than product silos. This determines the high level requirements for a digitized platform.
  2. Building a digitized platform that standardizes and automates core data and processes. They start by identifying what is not changing and can be reused over and over again.
  3. Exploiting the platform for profitable growth. Executive leadership leads organizational change to drive value from the new asset (the digitized platform).
For more about this, check out Weill & Ross' outstanding book for C-level executives, IT Savvy: What Top Executives Must Know to Go from Pain to Gain. (Businesses should hope their competitors do not read this book.)

On the eve of my presentation, a timely news article aired on national television that New Zealand’s governance bodies are increasingly out of touch with the organisations they are meant to guide. Dr Liliana Erakovic, of the University of Auckland Business School, says her studies on board processes and practices shows New Zealand has a problem with some under-achieving governors who are not prepared to offer leadership.
"Even more concerning is the lack of knowledge and understanding of major customers/suppliers, company dynamics, organisational processes and practices, staff and users within organisations - along with the absence of passion and some governors juggling too many board positions to be effective,"she says.
Contrast this with the three obsessions of IT savvy firms and you can see that under-achieving boards are a major barrier to a firm becoming IT savvy. Dr Erakovic's conclusions help explain the difficulty we have getting the subject of IT value management on the board agenda.
"Boards should be actively involved in the strategy formation of that organisation, yet many governors don’t know enough about the organisation and its major stakeholders, and are not active in enquiring about more information – sometimes because they simply don’t think it is their job to ask for information outside the board papers," says Dr Erakovic.
Strategic IT direction is a board responsibility. The Val IT governance framework provides useful guidance for boards and it can even be used to improve an organization's overall governance processes.
Behaviours must change at the highest levels if firms can ever hope to leverage IT to outperform their competitors. Strong, leadership commitment to strategic governance is needed to:
  • Align IT decisions with business objectives so that the right investments are selected and managed throughout their full economic life-cycle;
  • Monitor the performance of the IT portfolio;
  • Ensure clear accountability for achieving benefits and the requisite business and IT-enabling changes.


Baz Wood said...

Jeanne Ross talks to On Magazine about her book, IT Savvy

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