DAILY INSIGHT: Is IT governance the answer for your district?

By Rich Valerga, CIO Advisor

Last time, I blogged about the concept of IT governance and profiled a district’s experience with governance. Since then, our district is well on its way to implementing our own IT governance.

Our IT governance committee has met several times, established our charter, and has begun writing policies. We will soon be ready to review new technology purchases.

As I told you in my last article, there is no specific set of rules for IT governance, merely guidelines. The book IT Governanceby Weill and Ross defines it as “specifying the decision rights and accountability framework to encourage desirable behavior in the use of IT.”

According to Weill and Ross, IT governance should include five elements:

  1. IT Principles
  2. IT Architecture
  3. IT Infrastructure
  4. Business and Academic Application Needs
  5. IT Investment and Prioritization

And the content must answer:

  • What decisions must be made to ensure effective management and use of IT? (how much should we spend? What are our standards? Who are our key vendors? How should we allocate capital?)
  • Who should make these decisions?
  • How will these decisions be made and monitored?

Research has proven that firms with above-average IT governance that follow a specific strategy (e.g., customer intimacy) had at least 20% higher profits than firms with poor governance following the same strategy. In other words, the implementation of your IT governance is the key.

Although the principles of IT governance are not new, the actual implementation requires new thinking because of the special nature of IT. This is not like a typical deployment—governance is an ongoing activity that requires a mentality of continuous improvement and responsiveness to the rapidly changing IT environment.

As organizations continue to look for new ways to connect to customers, there is increasing emphasis on how IT can be utilized to add value to business strategy. The need to effectively manage IT resources and avoid IT failures and poor performance has never been greater.

It’s important to remember that IT governance is not just an IT issue or one that should only encompass the IT function. In its broadest sense, it is a part of the overall governance of an organization, but with a specific focus on improving the management and control of information technology for the benefit of the primary stakeholders. That’s why we think it’s the right thing to do for our district.

Rich Valerga is CIO for Memphis City Schools.