IT Planning, Governance, and The CIO


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IT Planning, Governance, and The CIO

  1. 1. LAST WORDANDY BLUMENTHALIT Planning, Governance and the CIOWhy a Structured Approach Is Critical to Long-Term SuccessT oday’s CIOs face a ticking clock: Every year, ac- cording to one estimate, between one-quarter andone-third get the boot. Using the higher rate, that’s a IT planning and governance undoubtedly runs coun- ter to the intuitive response—to fight fire with a hose on the spot. Yet dealing with crises as they occur and avoid-turnover of 50 percent every 21 months. Not much of a ing larger structures and processes for managing IT issueshoneymoon for them, and a deeply destabilizing fact for is ultimately ineffective. The only way to really put out athe rest of the organization. fire is to find out where the fire is coming from and douse What gives? it from there, and further to establish a fire department Though there are no definitive answers, IT industry to rapidly respond to future outbreaks.watchers have identified one problem that seems to run Today, organizations of all kinds fight fires, large andrampant among IT leaders—a lack of “vision,” meaning small, every day. And they do so while larger forces—ad-long-term strategic business thinking. vancing technology, changing market demand, emerging This characterization of the CIO differs from my competitors, new regulations, and so on—swirl aroundexperience: Many are strategic business thinkers. The them more quickly than ever. This modern world is pre-real problem is that they are always faced with the dif- cisely what puts the CIO at such a high risk of failure.ficult challenge of balancing the business vision with While in the past it was enough to keep the network anddaily tactical imperatives. In short, CIOs constantly find systems running, today the business seeks far more; thosethemselves fighting fires when what they want and need capabilities are just commodity competencies. IT lead-to be doing is helping the organization align and adapt ers are expected to leverage IT to provide a long-termfor future needs. competitive advantage as well. Planning and governance are vital tools for CIOs to IT planning and governance effectively help theeffectively manage this challenge, and they are aware of CIO adapt to this new environment; they are no lon-this. In a 2007 worldwide survey of about 750 top IT and ger a nice-to-have but a must-do. This is because theybusiness executives conducted by PriceWaterhouseCoo- provide a framework for consistent, ordered decisionpers for the IT Governance Institute, more than half making that aligns the organization, modernizes it, and(52 percent) of respondents said that their organizations makes it agile enough to move ahead in an unpredict-have either implemented or are in the process of imple- able marketplace.menting IT governance activities. Looking at it from a more down-to-earth perspective, At the same time, there was also a belief among IT IT planning and governance just makes the day-to-dayexecutives that governance is not workable. They feel work lives of CIOs less stressful. In the words of Lizauncertain about precisely what these mechanisms are Lowery Massey, the previous CIO of the City of Los An-and how to quantify their results. They cited obstacles geles: “IT governance is crucial to a CIO’s sanity.” A&Glike “ROI” (30 percent), “lack of knowledge and un-derstanding” (24 percent), and “lack of support” (12 NOTE: This article reflects the personal views of the author only.percent). IT planning and governance can and should be costeffective, simple, and directly relevant to core business ANDY BLUMENTHAL is the chief technology officerneeds. In this paradigm, the CIO facilitates a structured for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms andand mature governance process, so that all stakehold- Explosives (ATF). His blogs, The Total CIO and User-ers, including subject matter experts from every line of Centric Enterprise Architecture, can be viewed at and in the organization, have a voice at the table He can be reached at usercentricea@and can influence the decision process and ensure more project delivery.9