As the pace of change continues to accelerate in an increasingly complex business environment, organizations need to thoroughly understand how their business operates and plan the technology-fueled business transformation they'll need in the future. Establishing this understanding and enabling the transition to the future state have always been the concerns of enterprise architecture programs, and EA has emerged as a critical practice for managing an enterprise's evolution.
But EA programs have existed for more than a decade, and most of them have fallen short of these lofty goals. Why? Old-school EA has been too tactical, too technology-centric, or too disengaged from business priorities to have significant impact. Enterprises need a high-performance approach to EA that is laser-focused on driving business outcomes. To plan their future, organizations have the following alternatives:
Try to get there without a formal EA program.Enterprises that have yet to initiate an EA program — or have abandoned their effort — are operating without a coherent plan to evolve toward a clearly articulated future state. The lack of an EA program may not derail business as usual, but business change is likely to occur in a siloed, uncoordinated fashion.
Stick with the status quo EA program.Highly skilled and knowledgeable architects typically staff EA programs. But resources are typically focused on project-level activities. Strategy work is likely to be about technology road maps — not business capabilities. Isolating technology planning from business planning maintains the old-school, arms-length relationship between IT and the business.
This is the conclusion of a recent research project on the future of IT governance. I am writing this summary of facts and findings hoping to get your feedback.
Here is what we did in the project: We started from the recently released COBIT 5 framework to set a baseline for what good IT governance is. We then assessed 15 case studies and selected nine that displayed characteristics of good IT governance. We also interviewed 25 technology management experts, asking them "whether and how IT governance will need to change when organizations adopt smart technologies such as a mobile, social, analytics business process management (BPM), and cloud."
What is the conclusion? The more your organization invests in smart technologies for business innovation, differentiation, and productivity improvements, the more you will need good IT governance for managing these investments. And because developing good IT governance is a learning experience filled with trial and error, the earlier you start applying good IT governance as a continuous improvement process, the faster you will benefit from it and your investments.
But what does this mean in practical terms? We identified five directions for change. They nicely fit with the COBIT principles:
1) Make technology development an integral part of business strategy.
2) Focus on cross-functional business alignment.
3) Engage employees at all levels of the organization.
4) Maintain an integrated IT governance framework and single ownership.
5) Develop separate responsibilities for IT governance and IT management.