Governing IT to sustain business
Organisations need to deploy a system of governance in IT
to ensure that information technology is constantly aligned with their business
objectives, and that efforts are sustained throughout the year, says Jaspreet
In many organisations, IT has become necessary for the support,
sustainability and growth of business. This pervasive use of technology has
created a dependency on IT that calls for a specific focus on IT governance.
IT governance consists of the leadership, and organisational structures and
processes which ensure that the organisations IT sustains and extends
its strategies and objectives.
Concept Of Governance
The concept of governance has its roots in the changing role of the state and
in a managerial view of the operations of the public administration. These two
discourses have been challenged by another approach, which can be called democratic
governance. It emphasises the interactions between citizens, political representatives
and administrative machinery, providing a special view of citizens opportunities
to influence and participate in policy-making and related processes.
This perspective opens a view to the practices in which institutions, organisations
and citizens steer and guide society and communities. It provides a citizen-centric
view of governance which is quite different from the managerial and institutional
Approaches such as communitarianism, tele-democracy, participatory democracy
and direct democracy have been presented as alternative modes of governance.
With regard to technology, democratic e-governance is based on the idea that
new information and communication technology (ICT) can be used to facilitate
interaction, communication and decision-making processes, and thus has the potential
to strengthen the democratic aspects of governance.
Global E-Government Leaders
During its relatively short history, e-commerce and the use
of ICT in business have been more successful and glamorous than e-government
or e-democracy. This may be the reason why many government initiatives try to
emulate the success of e-commerce by using concepts, processes, technologies
and approaches pioneered by businesses.
Many government initiatives aimed at promoting the use of ICT for governance
and administration try to transfer ideas from the area of e-commerce to the
area of e-government. Most notably, one can find any number of initiatives worldwide
that emphasise the idea of citizen-centredness, which is based on the example
of customer-centredness in e-commerce.
Further, governments try to take advantage of the strengths of e-commerce to
improve their e-governance initiatives. Such attempts to import successful examples
from e-commerce into e-government refer to all sorts and aspects of information
On one hand, governments buy hardware and software originally developed for
the private sector and apply the same to their tasks. On the other hand, they
take over arguments and whole discourses from the commercial sector. Customer-
or citizen-centredness is only one example of this. Others would be the ideas
of efficiency, optimisation or cost-benefit analysis. While these ideas are
not confined to the commercial world, they have a strong association with it,
and during the past decades, they have mostly been developed in the context
of private enterprises.
The attempts by governments to improve and optimise their services are usually
met with approval. One of the central and frequently voiced criticisms of governments
is that they are slow, they do not react to the demands of citizens, and that
they are generally bureaucratic.
The business world, on the other hand, does not seem to be bothered by these
problems. Businesses are deemed to be efficient, quick and responsive. Commercial
entities that do not take their customers seriously are quickly replaced in
the marketplace by those that do. A large portion of the criticism levelled
at governments and the way they do their business can, therefore, apparently
be taken care of by doing things the way they are done in business.
In essence, e-business IT governance addresses how to design and implement effective
organisations by creating flexible IT & IS structures and processes. IT
governance in a global context needs to cater to intensive competition, cultural
diversity and various fluctuating economic conditions. A static model of IT
governance and an organisation cannot adequately address these issues.
IT governance is mainly aimed at contributing to business activities in terms
of lower costs, satisfied customers and better-quality products or services
provided by a company. Governance assumes accountability, making improving the
channels of accountability an important feature of IT governance, especially
accounting for return on investment.
Various problems need to be addressed by the IT function. These include weak
planning, and rapid business and environmental changes. The emergent process
of IT governance reveals that managers need to understand that they are neither
all-powerful nor powerless to affect change. Rather, they are in partial control
of emerging processes that result in new organisational designs.
They need to consider the importance of global business management, cultural
diversity, ethics, advanced production and information technologies as the boundaries
between the Internet and customer strategy continue to merge. Some fundamental
re-directions in e-business IT governance strategy thinking are considered,
and a framework for global e-business IT governance and organisational design
as both a planned and an emergent process is proposed.
Management strategies are concerned with reaching a specific destination, and
in particular with how to reach the destination. Company strategies are unique
and difficult to differentiate from a specific companys values, goals
and missions. Organisations cannot expect to extrapolate or borrow a strategy
from another company.
What works strategically for one company may not have the same impact on another
organisation. Similarly, e-business IT governance is affected by an organisations
unique culture and working practices, and should reflect its own goals and ambitions.
The proposed framework is not a prescriptive IT governance package that can
be replicated across all organisations or even for all time in a particular
Its purpose is to enable decision-makers to take a holistic and alternative
view of IT governance, and to enable them to find their own appropriate mechanisms
for devising an IT governance strategy that fits their particular organisation.
This approach is based on the increasing literature on emergent organisations
and its corresponding effect on IS development and IT governance.
Some authors state that IS development in IT governance is
possible without formal methods. The proposed framework for global e-business
IT governance supposes that the problem is one of recognising and accommodating
emergent activity instead of focussing purely on planned rational governance.
- IT is for efficiency.
- Budgets are driven by external benchmarks.
- IT is separable from the business.
- IT is seen as an expense to control.
- IT managers are technical experts.
- IT is for business growth.
- Budgets are driven by business strategy.
- IT is inseparable from the business.
- IT is seen as an investment to manage.
- IT managers are business-problem solvers.
|Source: Venkatraman N (1999). Valuing the IS
Contribution to the Business. Computer Sciences Corporation.
While planning is a vital aspect of IT governance, the pace of economic change
nationally and internationally quickly makes plans outdated. Business needs
for IT and IS tend to emerge because of organisational and economic factors;
thus, e-business models need to encompass emergent activities.
The business rationale for e-business requires a broader scope for IT governance,
considering both IT and business issues. A critical aspect of e-business IT
is the development of organisational interfaces, which traditional IT governance
has not had to deal with. These interfaces, for example, between a customer
and an organisation, or a business partner and an organisation, are vital for
the success of e-business IT governance.
The conclusion is that global e-business IT governance should be regarded as
both a systematic and organic approach to IT resource management.
The author is Consultant, Business Solutions, IT Risk Management,
He may be contacted at email@example.com