I have a pretty good handle on who reads these posts based on feedback I’ve gotten. My (small) audience is chock full of system and network administrators who are just looking to get through the day. They tend to jump from one fire to the next, putting them out in order of who screams the loudest. They might have some IT service management (ITSM) processes and policies in place, such as change management or data retention policies, but there is little attention paid to IT outside of keeping the lights on.
Before we move on, let’s dig a little deeper into what governance actually is. Many a book and blog post have been written on the subject, so I won’t re-litigate definitions. When I talk about IT governance, I mean the policy and process that informs IT decision-making within a business to drive value and further corporate business goals. Be mindful that this is a separate practice from ITSM, but that it is equally if not more important. IT governance thinks about the future while ITSM focuses on the now.
In my experience, a lot of technologists or even IT managers don’t have a good grip on the “why” of IT governance, so they are missing the frame of reference needed to get the bigger picture. They are so focused on day-to-day operations that they don’t have the time or budget to contribute to the business in any meaningful way. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think this is the fault of those IT admins or their direct managers. They shouldn’t be moving the needle on corporate strategy. CXOs and corporate boards are responsible for setting strategy and ensuring IT aligns with that strategy. That being said, it is incumbent upon CIOs and IT directors to make sure they are part of that larger discussion, or they will eventually find themselves on the wrong end of a pink slip.
The “why” of IT governance is simple; if IT delivers on strategically important projects, the business derives value, i.e., $$$$, from those deliverables. Think about this in terms of delivering a new on-prem CRM system or integrating with SalesForce versus upgrading switches or installing operating systems on servers. In the end, the strategic alignment of IT with the business as a whole transforms IT from being a cost center where dollars are thrown into a dank pit of despair, never to return, into a profit center from which growth in the business can be achieved. Keeping the lights on for peanuts in budget is table stakes for an IT organization today. The point where an IT organization can cement itself as an integral and critical part of the business is by providing services to the business that enable it to make more money.
Going forward, we are all being asked to do more with less. Budgets and admin-to-server ratios are headed in opposite directions. Don’t get left behind in 2004 and replaced by an MSP or cloud provider. Deliver value to the business by understanding and aligning with the corporate strategy and objectives.