Keith Chappell
Keith Chappell

We know that technology is the biggest competitive weapon in business today. But knowing what to implement and how is a different matter altogether. 

A 2018 survey of nearly 4,000 IT leaders by Harvey Nash and KPMG confirms what many already suspect—that digitalization efforts are not going as planned. 78% of respondents believe their digital strategy is only moderately effective or worst. And only 32% say their organizations have an enterprise-wide digital strategy.

Here’s the problem. In many organizations, IT is still viewed as little more than a service desk or the back-office team that runs technology. Sure, business leaders could be educated and engaged, but that’s not enough. There needs to be a way for IT leaders to change the dynamic of how IT works with key stakeholders across the organization.

This is where new IT-business governance comes in.

What can it do for a company?

One, boost IT-business strategy alignment. While it’s true that the IT strategy should follow the business strategy, both IT executives and business leaders should think about technology as a competitive weapon. That might mean advising the business against making small enhancements when an overhaul is required, or steering the business towards more cost-effective solutions and avoiding vendor lock-in.

Two, manage demand. There is often too much demand for technology, and IT can’t do it all. An IT-business governance committee would establish organization-wide visibility on the company’s operations and prioritize the right IT initiatives to meet business goals. A governance committee would also review the company’s decision-making processes and remove any unnecessary red tape that may have accumulated over the years. 

Three, unite the organization. Improving the rapport between business and IT leaders is a good start but serving on a committee where crucial decisions are made will serve to ease business leaders into the idea of thinking about technology. It would also give each stakeholder a sense of shared ownership of technology across the organization, making new initiatives more likely to get funding and support.

The best IT-business committees are diverse, with representation from across the organization. The business representative leads the way on business strategy and adjusts business plans as things change. Finance tracks the impact of projects and funds new initiatives. The project management office (PMO) ensures that plans are executed on time and on budget. And IT leads the discussion on architecture, security, and data.

To sum up, an IT-business governance model provides a decision-rights and accountability framework to encourage desirable behavior in the use of IT. It ensures that technology positively impacts revenue generation, and helps IT leaders shift their focus from operational excellence to driving business growth and innovation. 

However, IT leaders should tread carefully in implementing governance. Having too many policies will make it bureaucratic and slow; too little and it’s an ineffective free-for-all. This is why governance conjures up images of bureaucracy, inefficiency, and frustration for many. But done right, an IT-business governance model will balance the need for accountability, measurability, and action to enable IT to meet the goals of the business.

Elevate the conversation between IT and the organization

Download our new playbook and find out how to steer technology decisions and get buy-in with an effective IT-business governance framework.

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Keith Chappell
Managing Principal

Keith is a managing principal and strategy expert at Wavestone US. For over a decade, he led corporate strategy organizations and professional services business units at major global technology corporations, including Unisys and Lucent Technologies.

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