IT Governance and Business Agility

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While project management is responsible for the delivery of outcome from a project, the role of IT governance is to ensure uninterrupted and ongoing systems and services. These services are based on service-level contracts derived from negotiations among internal as well as external parties. IT governance, thus, has a significant role to play in the operational success of an organization as compared with the one-off success of a project.

Business architecture, as per The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF) version 9, (Open Group, 2009, p. 10), is made up of business strategy, governance, and key business processes for the organization. The business strategy focuses on two key strategic elements, "accelerate profitable growth" and "enhance operational excellence." Growth depends on leadership, improvement in customer satisfaction, and innovation. Operational excellence eventuates through margin leadership (i.e., lower costs as a proportion of selling price), efficiency in supply chain management, lowering of costs, and optimizing working capital. IT governance plays a crucial role in enabling operational excellence through management control, reporting, and continuous improvement.

Furthermore, the compliance requirements emanating from the Sarbanes–Oxley legislation has changed the way in which an organization's IT systems operate. Since the requirements of the legislations pin the responsibility of financial control and reporting through IT systems on the organization's directors, the need to impose strong systems control is on the rise.

Governance provides that overarching control of operational processes and services within and across organizations. Business processes, function, information requirements, IT assets, and even people can be covered by IT governance frameworks. According to Broadbent and Kitzis (2005), good governance enables faster, better decision making. This enhanced decision making is based on clarity of goals and conversion of IT maxims into strategic actions. In CAMS, strong IT governance tied together IT and business strategies, and then applied this to the operational aspects of the organization.

Owing to the inherently controlling nature of IT governance, every discussion on business Agility has to ask the big question—will IT governance hinder Agility? Conversely, will Agile values and principles, based on trust, honesty, and courage, support IT governance? At times it appears as if Agility and governance are vying with each other for attention. Bringing a synergy between the two, however, is crucial for the success of composite Agile in business. CAMS aspires to add Agile values to IT governance frameworks such as Control Objectives for Information and related Technology (CoBIT) or Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL). Improvement in IT services can be made through interactive gathering of requirements for improvements, demonstration of changes, and use of learning cycles.

In IT environments where organizations have grown by acquisition, IT project management, and governance have a lot more to handle in terms of integration of processes and methods—integration of systems and data. Considering IT governance in detail in CAMS goes a long way in reducing the potential methods friction that a governance framework can impose. The following are the specific advantages (especially in reducing methods friction) in considering an IT governance framework in the context of CAMS:

- Enhance trust between the IT department and the business by enabling business to understand the decision-making processes in IT through transparency and accountability in those decisions.

- Provide input into the business risk management. IT governance clarifies the contribution of IT in business and, thereby increases the ability of the business to manage risks.

- Map governance and control functions with those of project management—while projects can be managed through processes and standards, issues in project management can be better handled when they relate to existing IT governance standards and processes.

- Relate IT governance to enterprise architecture frameworks. This relating enables the architects to work within the controls and bounds of governance frameworks. Documentation of governance and the corresponding documentation of enterprise architecture models help in bringing about this productive relationship.

- Provide input into change management. IT governance helps change management, especially the one brought about by application of Agility, through its well-documented procedures. Once the existing processes are known through their documentation, it is easier to change them.

- Involvement of IT operational staff in business functions. It is important for the staff to know where and how they add value to business functions. Similarly, it helps business understand the contribution of operations staff. Agility in operational functions may not directly deal with delivery of software, yet it is crucial in helping continuous improvement.

- Bring about stability in infrastructure and systems applications that is critical to business. Implementation of governance standard can benefit the IT department by improving their quality of service (QoS), including increased system uptime, faster problem resolution, and better security. This is more so when Agile values are practiced together with the governance standard.

- Improve systems delivery mechanism through trust and collaboration with business.

- Encourage business to understand and make desirable use of IT.

Taken from : The Art of Agile Practice: A Composite Approach for Projects and Organizations

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