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Why do you need IT governance? So you can stop adopting the wrong solutions




By Craig Alexander


Craig Alexander is a strategic transformation consultant for HP Software Professional Services with 19 years of IT experience.


Ultimately, governance—whether you’re applying it to data, organizational, IT—is there to make sure that whatever work is being done supports the business objectives of an organization. The biggest reason to care about internal organizational governance is that a lack of it will almost surely cost you money.  Inevitably, someone will buy an expensive technology solution that won’t get used.


At HP Software Professional Services we’ve seen that organizations often get themselves into a position where they are so focused on the task at hand that they lose sight of the bigger picture and forget to institute what are at heart common sense guidelines around technology purchases. This is to say nothing of business units going out and unwittingly adding to the problem of shadow IT with the cloud. (Check out this white paper on managing change to learn more about the right way to manage these transformation challenges.)


Root causes


Large organizations tend to have, by accident, not by design, multiple routes for other organizations to work with them. For example, if you have a strategy department and you have an operations entity within the same enterprise, I still find examples where they are not joined at the hip. Very often, one or more suppliers are only hooked into one or the other of those two parts of the organization. There isn’t formal governance between those two parts of the organization. That can lead to a number of issues including inefficiency, waste and dissatisfaction.


The tricky part is that if a supplier is satisfying some specific needs of the strategy organization—which is dutifully trying to provide the services they’re supposed to from a business point of view - then this can be a tick-box exercise where on paper they are doing the right thing but in reality not supporting business goals. When, in this example the strategy group, satisfies the needs of one part of the organization but neglects another, the chances are high that a shadow IT implementation will appear which in the long term can cause financial and organizational chaos.


Red flags


The good news is that these organizational miscommunications are fairly obvious. A good example of that is when a number of solutions are delivered to a department and IT or whoever is in charge of provisioning is happy, but then there are rumblings of dissatisfaction coming from a different part of the organization.


The natural first reaction is to think that maybe the solution doesn’t live up to its promise. But, after digging in with some questions, what often becomes apparent is when it got to the point where business objectives needed to be considered, the people who are actually using the technology weren’t sufficiently consulted. You don’t buy a car on behalf of someone else and give it to them and expect them to be happy with it just because it’s got four wheels and a steering wheel.


Although the solutions to most of these problems are simple - transparency and open communication - sometimes these values aren’t part of a company’s culture. Anytime you ask an organization to change, however slightly, people can feel threatened. So what should you do?


5 key governance questions you need to ask


Few organizations are so insular and self-protecting that they don’t want to hear bad news, but there are obviously smart ways to do this. The important thing to get right off the bat are the facts and to have some specifically relevant questions without being too pointed.


The key is to ask the right questions, such as:


  • Are you exploiting data efficiently across the enterprise?
  • Do all parts of the organization use IT operations effectively?
  • What was/is the adoption policy for new or updated solutions?
  • Can you measure and manage the expected outcomes of your plan of record?
  • What is the business strategy you’re trying to support?

The last question is usually the most difficult to answer. From talking to people at different levels of an organization, it can be surprising how differently people see the same business strategy. For example, once on a very small project, the CIO was the executive sponsor—quite unusual for a project of this size. The first question in the first meeting I asked them was, “what does this undertaking mean to your organization?” It seemed to me the most natural question in the world to ask. I got a few strange looks. So, clearly, if you can’t answer the question as to what the point of doing something is, should you really be doing it? Probably not.


Register for Helping IT Transform: The Rise of Organizational Change Management Services to learn how to get help improving the people, processes, and use of technology at your organization.


Craig headshot.jpgCraig Alexander specializes in the transformation of IT organizations to meet business objectives and create greater efficiency and ROI for his clients. For more than 15 years he’s worked around the world in IT and IT outsourcing for companies like Computacenter, Unisys, BT, Dell and Barclays. Since joining HP in 2011, he has built upon his experience and expertise in IT transition and transformation to help his clients evolve and compete in the global marketplace. He is @CraigTransform on Twitter.





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Yes Maangement of Change is a tricky task to succeed with. Some companies though dare to "push" that change via planned Chaos :-) See link here.

Elizabeth McClain

It is important in the overall strategy of a governance organization to become a "servant leader" to said organization and lead by example to promote the awareness of why governance matters and how it provides guard rails to the teams.  Too often governance groups become heavy handed and dole out perceived punishments to teams who do not follow to the letter the guidelines established for the organization.  This is where governance quickly outgrows it's relevance to the organization.

Diana Wosik

The right questions really help to address the needs of the enterprise

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