I have been giving alignment a lot of thought recently, that is, alignment between IT and the business.
HP doesn’t think alignment captures the idea sufficiently so it talks to IT Business “synchronization”
Maybe convergence is even more appropriate, with an end state where business is IT and IT is the business. Even if you are in the materials handling business, flows of information can be just as important, perhaps more so, than flows of goods. Just ask an aggressive zSeries reference, Univar Canada, characterized by its effective use of available resources.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It is also one way to win approval from our peers. Imitiation can transform from subalterns to peers. Consider how differently people see you when you put on a suit and tie.
“We like you because you are like us”
We are all corporate governance experts now, post Sarbanes-Oxley.
So my question is: why don’t we have IT Boardrooms, which mimic the governance structures and best practices of businesses?
This post isn’t so much intended as a question as a recommendation. You want to be taken seriously by the business? You want to implement some more effective decision-making approaches around IT?
Set up an “IT Boardroom”
Why not use the boardroom metaphor, with its mix of executive and non-executive directors for your own processes.
Insiders would be the network, security, Windows and Unix managers, dev and ops. Some “outsiders” should also be included, playing the role of non-execs- “have a line of business person on the IT board? But they don’t know IT.”
That’s exactly why their input can be so valuable. Imagine an IT Boardroom with company representatives from the logistics and purchasing departments, bringing in some valuable outside expertise. Perhaps even someone from a supplier (potential conflicts of interest notwithstanding). Certainly contract negotiation with suppliers would improve with such a structure in place.
One significant question for this model might be how to engender a split between the “CEO” and the “Chairman”. I tend to think the CIO should play CEO, perhaps with a non-executive chairman from a different company?
You could even have a mini Sarbox for IT – that is, penalties associated with not accurately reporting on the performance of the particular IT department. This approach would certainly clarify the mind around IT and business instrumentation and reporting. Not sure how to replicate the jail experience but perhaps the “guilty” party would have to wear orange overalls to the next few meetings?
Assuming IT governance, management, planning, and so on were carried out with a boardroom metaphor, even if did not dramatically improve IT Governance, it would certainly win the attention and likely approval of business leaders, which may even be more important, if career is your primary satisfaction.
“Ah those IT guys are actually working through the problems. They are really getting to grips with this compliance thing. We should take them more seriously now.”
RedMonk has an open model for dealing with compliance issues, breaking down silos, called the Compliance Oriented Architecture. But driving COA into the organization will require top down and bottom up approaches. The IT Boardroom is a good place to start thinking about how to coordinate that.
Another reason the IT Boardroom might flounder would be meeting-itis. Most folks hate meetings. On the other hand, I know of few people that don’t like to be listened to. So why not give voices to your IT leaders?
So if you want to get serious about IT Governance why not establish an IT Boardroom to help with management and resource allocation.
If you want to be taken seriously by the board-do what they do. Get a long table, seperate responsibilities and drive strategy accordingly. Get it right and you might just end up on the real board. And that’s another good reason to practice. If you are used to the boardroom model you’ll likely be a more effective executive when you get there.