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Good Governance Provides Cover for Business Relationship Managers (BRMs)

Adaptive Execution / 24 Feb 2016 / By Mike Bowden

No CIO can afford to neglect good governance if they want to be successful improving business performance, getting buy-in to a new strategy, reducing technical complexity, and sustaining support from stakeholders to name just a few things.  The reverse is also true.  Other CXOs cannot afford to neglect IT governance – or they will get the IT they deserve and it won’t be great!  From a BRM perspective, collaborative IT governance, the product of CXOs sharing ownership for IT, provides the needed context, protective shield and escalation path for Relationship Managers when things get sticky.

Implementing IT Governance is a large and complicated topic but the most important thing you need to know is that your IT governance process needs to be specifically designed for your enterprise, its overall governance process, and the outcomes required by your IT strategy.  However, I will suggest a start point that you can build on to suit your own needs.

Your enterprise will no doubt have some form of Executive Committee, Executive Board or Leadership Team.  This is often the direct reports of the Chief Executive but may include other senior leaders as well.  If, as the CIO, you have a seat on this committee then your first option is to use it as the main governance body for IT.  If not, or the agenda will not allow you the time you need, then you can request that a subset of that committee is convened to become your IT Governance Committee.

CXOs rarely have lots of discretionary time but you might reasonably expect to meet with them once per quarter for about 90 minutes to cover:

  • IT Strategy.
  • IT Scorecard (value (including cost), service, satisfaction and organization).
  • IT Portfolio.
  • Major project reviews.
  • Issues, help needed from the committee and decisions required (for example, budget approval).

The tone and style of this meeting should attempt to get the executives engaged in helping you run IT for your enterprise.  They need to understand that ‘they will get the IT they deserve’ – that is, if they think about IT, consider its use as a business improvement lever, play their part in project or change initiatives, have their organizations provide resources and support, support you when things go wrong and, last but not least, help you get the job done.  It should not be the committee simply inspecting the performance of IT – you need a collaborative not adversarial process.

There are likely to be other enterprise governance processes that IT must take part in.  Two most obvious are the annual budget cycle/approval process and the capital appropriation process.  Simply agreeing a project at the IM Governance Committee and/or the Executive Board may not be sufficient – there are probably other formal approvals you need.  Don't see this as a bad thing.  Having your projects judged on the same criteria as non-IT investments and competing for capital with more general business initiatives will mean you have to properly assess, present and defend your expenditure as business improvement not an IT project somehow divorced from normal operations.

All this will not be enough.  You will need to ensure that IT governance occurs at the Business Unit/Division level of your enterprise and for Group Functions, if they exist.  At the Business Unit level, you can use the Business Unit Leadership Team or replicate the IT Governance Committee at this level.  Your organization model will no doubt have either a Business Unit IT leader or an IT Relationship Manager and this person should lead the process.  At the Group level, for each major function (for example, Finance or Marketing) set up a regular governance meeting as well using the same agenda as the enterprise meetings but more focused on the specifics impacting that particular function.  For example, your strategy might involve adding technology to your enterprise's existing products and developing a system to collect the data from those products when in use by consumers, and a mobile app for consumers to use in conjunction with the physical product.  You will obviously want Marketing to be intimately involved in the conception, design, execution and operation of this initiative, but they are probably less interested in your project to standardize the chart of accounts across your financial systems.  

In the final analysis, this is all about alignment.  When your BRMs have problems getting their stakeholders aligned or experience project or operational issues, they can come back to these governance bodies, made up of the most senior leaders in your enterprise who are aligned on IT, and ask for help getting barriers removed and everyone on to the same page.


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