Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Board as IT Maturity Evaluator

The corporate board’s IT inquiries help the business understand the critical role of IT in achieving business performance and maximizing business potential.

Information is the lifeblood of the business and technology is the disruptive force behind the digital transformation. Nowadays, information technology can either lift or fail business even overnight. Therefore, an IT savvy board should change the perspective to understand the power of information technology and make an objective assessment of IT maturity of their organization so that companies can leverage IT to improve the top line business growth and build a long-term business advantage.

Help to set guiding principles for running digital IT organization: The corporate board oversees the business strategy and sets guiding principles for practicing business management disciplines. Guiding principles let the organization know what to expect when dealing with IT. It serves as a yardstick by which to manage and measure IT internally and externally, and it can spur some great discussions with fellow C-suites to improve business maturity. To oversee the strategy, you will need a cascade of statements that link the overall vision/philosophy of the organization, value statements, Mission Statements, Strategy, Objectives, and Programs (Tactics). There needs to be a pragmatic way of applying whatever principles to the problem in a consistent manner. Otherwise, it is a waste of effort to even state them. Today IT is permeating into every corner of the business, IT management is no longer just the business of IT department, but a holistic management discipline to ensure the right people getting the right information to make the right decisions for solving the right problems at the right time. The corporate board’s IT oversight is important because it is not easy for a set of defined principles that can be applied holistically - their content contains natural conflict, and without a method of prioritizing and implementing them consistently, they become a source of contention.

Assess the overall IT performance: The fundamental accountability issue for the corporate board is to ensure the organization acts in accordance with the relevant regulations. Often, companies overwhelmed with too many business initiatives is a common scenario. The root cause of the problem is the lack of connection between strategy and implementation. There are a couple of contributing factors to project overwhelming and lack of priority, such as leadership ineffectiveness, resource under-estimation, or the “whirlwind” of the day to day operations, etc. The corporate board’s strategy oversight and performance monitoring help the business management including IT set the right priority, lead the business to a realization that the real challenge and the real opportunity in improving the corporate governance of IT are in reworking the management systems so that they are integral aspects of the corporate management systems for planning, building, and running the business to improve its effectiveness, performance, and maturity.

Evaluate the maturity of the IT organization: Is IT an enabler or an obstacle to getting things done in organizations? One of the biggest obstacles to achieving digital fluency is the gap between business and IT. IT organization is supposed to be one of the most significant building blocks of the business competency, but it’s perceived as the roadblock to getting things done. Too often, IT is involved too late in the decision-making process. This results in a dynamic where the business develops enthusiastically nice and shiny plans and goals, but IT then has to explain why this cannot be developed and fit into the plan at a reasonable investment. Thus, an IT-friendly board should oversee the business strategy with IT strategy as an integral component, invite IT leaders to the big table for providing input and sharing a technological vision. If the IT focus is on operations and controlling only, it is no wonder non-IT executives consider IT as an obstacle. IT leaders must know how to promote their organization by "selling the right things right," to have a seat at the big table and share the vision the radical digital transformation IT can catalyze. The corporate board monitors the business performance and sets the cultural tone to build a high performance organization. Collaboration, transparency, respect, and clear leadership are the keys to break down silos, and every department in the company needs to work together to be successful.

The corporate board’s IT assessment and oversight help the business management understand the critical role of IT in achieving high performance and maximizing business potential. The top leadership needs to sort through the critical issues, develop rationalizations and achieve mutually acceptable solutions that are then communicated up, down and across the enterprise to integrate IT and business and make a seamless digital transformation.


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