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April 6, 2020 6 min read
A strong IT governance foundation is critical to technology and enterprise decision-making, but managing those decisions across departments, central IT, and shared domains is a challenge. Here’s how you can take a coordinated approach.

man sitting in dark at a deskA robust and collaborative IT governance foundation is critical to technology and enterprise decision-making. Managing those decisions around departmental, centralized or internal, and shared IT domains — “yours,” “mine,” and “ours,” respectively — offers an opportunity to strengthen your IT governance where it counts and take a coordinated approach. Effective IT governance is even more important in times like these when crises force a change almost overnight — like how higher education has had to move courses online. 

Defining domains.

Each of these domains has its own needs, creating challenges for your enterprise’s centralized IT function. And before you can develop a coordinated management approach, you need to understand the differences among them, from the perspective of your central IT group: 

  • Yours — refers to external IT department domains where the IT solutions used serve their internal or operational needs, are unique to the department, and (for the most part) are not used by others outside that department. Department leadership makes the ultimate decisions about priorities, enhancements and resources for these IT solutions.
  • Mine — refers to the internal IT domain where solutions are used for internal IT operational needs, are unique to the IT domain, and are not used by others outside IT. IT leadership makes the decisions about these IT solutions.
  • Ours — refers to those IT solutions that are used by several departments or enterprise-wide and where collective input is needed when changes are made. A multi-departmental team or steering committee typically makes decisions about these IT solutions.

These definitions are at play in most industries, especially if you add an increasingly common subset of Ours, to recognize IT solutions used by several departments but not enterprise-wide. These are Shared.  

The one constant is change.

While the differences among definitions may seem straightforward, they easily can be complicated by the fact that any given application or IT solution may move from one domain to another over time. Consider the following examples: 

  • In higher education, constituent relationship management (CRM) solutions may start out in alumni development or foundation areas but  move to admissions or athletics, for example, to manage contact with prospective students, or to manage interactions with athletic supporters. In other industries, CRM may start in sales but move to customer support to share post-sale customer interactions. Both examples show the move from Yours to Ours.
  • Email may have originally been handled by individual departments, but now  it’s part of the IT utility — a core service offered by IT that everyone uses. This shift has extended to the O365 suite, whose productivity tools are typically used firm-wide. The ability to achieve economies of scale and provide consistent naming conventions and security protections, for example, makes this another Ours candidate.
  • Some O365 solutions, such as Teams, might be used for customized departmental solutions, such as for communication and/or collection of structured information used by a particular function — say, home visits by state or county health and human services professionals. These departments may have created their own applications for the solutions, moving them to the Mine category.
  • Scientific and IoT (internet of things) solutions, such as for analytics, video surveillance, and large-scale data storage — might be used in engineering, research, and scientific areas. Specific  tools might be used within departments (Yours), but they might rely on underlying technologies used by several others (Ours), allowing the enterprise to leverage economies of scale and enterprise licenses. Multiple departments might also need similar tools, again expanding the domain from Mine to Shared, but not necessarily to the enterprise-wide Ours.
  • Traditionally, help desk and incident management solutions are selected by the centralized IT organization for internal use (Mine). However, as IT support teams in large departments grow, they need to easily share incident information across the enterprise, driving this into the Ours domain.  
  • Alternatively, business areas that provide customer support may need call center and support tools similar to those used by IT. These tools might even be used by multiple departments, moving them to the Shared category.

The trends are clear: Singular, point-specific IT solutions initially considered Mine tend to migrate to other areas over time and become Ours, possibly making an interim stop in the Shared domain. Higher education, engineering, and scientific departments thrive on the ability to innovate, and may have many IT solutions in the Mine domain. As the use of these solutions matures, departments may be challenged — whether by security and privacy concerns, regulations like GDPR, or the need to reduce costs — to take a more coordinated approach.

The trends are clear: Singular, point-specific IT solutions initially considered Mine tend to migrate to other areas over time and become Ours.

Toward coordinated management.

So how does an enterprise’s centralized IT function establish a coordinated management approach for its enterprise IT needs? A business case can easily be made about the high cost of redundancy, the inability to leverage enterprise licensing agreements, the complexity and fragmentation of IT support, or the increased risk to the organization. But a business case alone will not overcome the historical tensions between the centralized IT organization and departmental IT organizations (which may have grown in scope over time).

But a business case alone will not overcome the historical tensions between the centralized IT organization and departmental IT organizations.

Three initiatives can help break this tension and strengthen your IT governance foundation:

A comprehensive survey of IT stakeholders

  • Survey internal and external end users and staff on how well they feel IT is supporting their needs, who provides them support (centralized or decentralized), what opportunities are being missed, and how IT support could be improved.
  • In a recent survey we conducted for a client, we found 72% of respondents felt their IT application needs had been met, while seven of the top 10 opportunities for improvement were aspects of IT support activities. As a result, the IT organization could identify areas for significant improvement in service delivery and cost containment.

IT assessment and benchmark comparisons

  • Understanding the cost of delivering IT and how the enterprise compares to others on IT budget, staff, and total IT spend often is an eye-opening experience. Unfavorable benchmarks usually highlight technology complexity, leading to higher costs and slower response times.
  • A recent industry comparison for a client found the organization was in the bottom third relative to its peers, revealing the need to improve delivery of IT capabilities. Another organization found many redundant solutions across the enterprise, limiting its ability to build deeper skills in specific solutions to meet shared needs like business analytics. 

Information technology strategy development

  • You need an information technology strategy focused on overall needs to get everyone on the same page. Here, we stress using the term information technology rather than its acronym, IT, to convey that the focus is in fact enterprise-wide — not just for the centralized IT organization but also IT support and evolution in business units and departments.

Lastly, as we write this, most organizations are moving to a “work from home” policy to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.  A challenge in this “new normal” is the potential variety of devices and software, making it difficult to provide technical support for at home workers.  Reducing this complexity is a key IT governance challenge. 

Any of these three initiatives will draw IT governance to the forefront of your organization’s information technology priorities. And, for nearly all organizations, that’s precisely where IT governance needs to be. These initiatives can be successful because they gather IT providers from across the enterprise. Together, this group can build a strong, cohesive working relationship and develop and formalize your IT governance, a crucial base for effectively and efficiently solving enterprise-wide issues.

Want to know more about IT governance, including stakeholder surveys, IT assessments, or information technology strategy development initiatives? Feel free to reach out — we’re happy to answer your questions. 

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