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Mind the (expectation) gap

Carsten Larsen | Sept. 21, 2016
This post considers ICT governance, the patina of standards, policies, procedures, priorities and budgetary issues that guide the priorities and deliverables of technology functions.

In previous blog posts, I looked at how Simon Sinek’s ‘Golden Circle’ approach can be applied to ICT strategy – the importance of first establishing common beliefs and objectives across the business.

I then looked at how the ICT function can best deliver ICT services and where from using a well-considered architecture.

This final post in the series considers ICT governance, the patina of standards, policies, procedures, priorities and budgetary issues that guide the priorities and deliverables of technology functions.

This is where the rubber hits the road, where the organisation determines the priorities and parameters of ICT delivery (if and when) against the business objectives.

At its simplest, ICT governance is like any other governance regime. It is an arrangement of rules by which an organisational group and its stakeholders agree to operate in the interests of good decision making. Families have them, nations have them. Without them, chaos reigns.

If we don’t communicate them clearly, or fail to enforce them consistently, rules are ineffective in driving behaviours and outcomes.

If we don’t regularly review and update them to reflect agreed and relevant community practices and customs, rules can erode trust – they become ineffective and can test respect for the rule of law, lead to ridicule of our law makers and hinder our ability to realise objectives.

Theoretically, ICT governance is no different – consult and get consensus on the rules; ensure that they’re approved or endorsed at the right level; communicate them clearly; then follow and, if necessary, enforce them consistently.

The environment will inevitably change and there will be variables, so include some clear exceptions for flexibility – then review and repeat regularly.

Mind the gap

ICT governance faces many of the same challenges as any other governance framework. On the one hand, there will be promises and expectations.

On the other hand, there will be limited resources, tight budgets, timeframes slippage, skills gaps, risks and incidents to be managed.

Almost every ICT function has found itself in that uncomfortable place known as the “expectation gap” at one time or another. So, how do we ensure that our ICT function becomes trusted by the organisation to deliver on promises, rather than falling into the gap?

It can be broken down into ‘planning, prioritisation and policies’ combined with a healthy dose of ‘communication, consultation and commitment.’

Let’s take planning first. ICT executives should working with colleagues in the organisation to understand, agree and articulate the organisation’s broader vision and objectives.

The tangible output might be a corporate plan – the intangible output is a commonly shared belief (the why) communicated throughout the organisation.

From this common place, work with organisational stakeholders to understand their ICT requirements and the business drivers underlying them, and confirm that each aligns with the corporate plan.

 

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