16 January 2009

IT Governance: Bridging the gap between Gatekeeper & Innovator

Maryanne Pilson


Veris Associates, Inc.

Today the race for Sarbanes Oxley compliance has all but reached the final lap. So does your organization continue to sponsor IT governance initiatives or has sponsorship hit the proverbial “wall” in the final lap?

One way to ensure funding for your next IT governance initiative is simply leveraging all IT governance components as intended. In doing so, IT governance becomes more than an operational expense; it becomes an asset. Over time your IT governance program is strategic to the future of your organization.

There are two distinct IT governance roles, both equally important, but not always apparent during the early phases of implementation.

For the sake of this article, I will give each role an assumed alias (Table 1) and will refer to each by alias through the remainder of the article.

Table 1


IT Governance Role



(a.k.a. IT expense)


IT governance practices aim at ensuring that expectations for IT are met, IT's performance is measured, its resources are managed and its risks are mitigated.



(a.k.a. IT asset)


To enable the enterprise by exploiting opportunities and maximizing benefits.”

In the early stages of implementation, it is easy to limit yourself as the Gatekeeper, focusing on identifying and mitigating risks. However, if you want to drive IT governance to new levels and continue making contributions - you must evolve!

As business needs are constantly changing, IT governance can lead the way as Innovator. IT governance controls and procedures need to be periodically reviewed to ensure they are still fit for purpose. You should have no problem obtaining IT governance sponsorship if you (the Innovator) take advantage of everyday opportunities to maximize benefits. An Innovator understands the benefit of being first in bringing new ideas and technologies into the organization and the Gatekeeper knows the consequences of implementing poor processes. By recognizing and promoting opportunities for improvement, the “Gatekeeper” transition to “Innovator” becomes effortless.

Listed below are common IT governance activities. We have traditional on the left and forward-looking on the right.

On the other hand, as we bridge the gap from Gatekeeper to Innovator, defining procedures is very much the same as developing solutions.



Define procedures


Develop solutions

Let’s look at an example figure 1, to help make the connection. This example is a proposed proof of concept (POC) for developing a new solution for recently defined procedures. The solution uses the concept of “reuse” by customizing an off-the-shelf web application. The objective is to improve productivity after it was decreased by Sarbanes Oxley (SOX) implementation. SOX resulted in too much time being spent on administrative tasks to create new user accounts, which took time away from core responsibilities.

Figure 1

In the example above, the current process objective was to ensure compliance with Sarbanes Oxley regulatory requirements for requesting new financial user accounts. The current process (defined and implemented by the Gatekeeper) met all requirements; however, it had a negative impact to productivity. Obviously, productivity was overlooked during the requirement phase. Manual processes are time consuming and without additional staff, your service levels will likely take a hit.

In this case, the pain was short lived. It was quickly recognized we had an opportunity to implement a process improvement/solution. In the example above, the new process would automate the user account request with minimal development effort, thus improving productivity by eliminating Helpdesk tickets and manual processing. Finally, the new process would be accomplished without compromising SOX compliance status and accessible via the web 24X7.

Later the following additional benefits were identified as result of the new process.

· Reduce end to end turn-around time by 30%

· Reduce the number of errors caused by missing or incorrect data given to the Helpdesk by 10%

· Reduce amount of manual effort spent on SOX quarterly reviews by 40%

As Gatekeeper and Innovator, you also motivate others to exploit opportunities and maximize benefits. If not, perhaps it is the next “gap” worthy of remediation!

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