Thursday, October 24, 2013

IT Governance Effectiveness: Consensus or Dictate?

There needs to be both top-down and bottom-up (consensus) approach to IT Governance for it to be effective and accepted.


 IT governance is mostly associated with controlling and managing IT in an enterprise, so that specific rules that apply to how IT is deployed, serviced, sourced, implemented, etc. And IT governance is key to ensure the business vision is maintained throughout the entire delivery cycle of business change and project delivery. However, what’s the more effective governance ‘style”? Do you need to always reach consensus on approach and methodology with all key stakeholders, perhaps compromise the governance process too much? Or should governance be more by top-down dictate to ensure compliance...

There needs to be both top-down and bottom-up (consensus) approach to IT Governance for it to be effective and accepted. If governance is all top down or even dictate, you'll have a revolt on the ground and foster a culture whereby people look to bypass governance. If it's all consensuses, you risk herding cats and a scenario where IT is sub-optimized by organizational units with no holistic (enterprise) view. There is no such thing as governance by dictate - that is management - governance is a concept that applies to making decisions where multiple stakeholders need to be taken into account and the general management 'command-control' style is not effective. However, some senior executives are able to both dictate and generate some level of bottom-up consensus at the same time. It's more of an art than science and takes a lot of sensitivity and advance preparation. But the point is dictating or consensus need not be necessarily mutually exclusive approaches.

Most of the time you need a combination of both since it depends on people and culture. No system works without supportive members. The ‘style’ of governance may also depend on the business culture. Centralizing works fine if you think your team members prefer to follow you and will perform better that way. Delegate more if you think your team members feel equal and have the will to collaborate freely to reach commonly debated goals, so the management teams put the focus on the oversight of key decisions. 

Buy-in is the key to governance effectiveness. If stakeholders are those who support the implementation of the approach and methodology, you don't necessarily need consensus, but you do need buy-in – to make a commitment that they will all support the process, its decisions and outcomes, regardless of whether they agree with the content completely. It helps if the process accommodates a mechanism for open responses so all opinions are "heard" in one way or another. But it takes a certain level of transparency in the decision-making process, as well as ample mechanisms for all parties to have their voices heard.

An effective governance discipline is multi-dimensional practices with better tailored ‘style’, it should sustain the transformative change in business and steer organization at the right direction.

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