To be effective any organization needs to establish a certain structure, responsibilities and a strong sense of how they will operate. A company’s board of directors is there to hold its most senior management accountable in terms of performance, compliance and managing risk. They represent the shareholders and are there to ensure the continued success of the company. They are not there to directly manage it. Thus, the tone for how the corporation will behave starts at the top with the board of directors and flows down through senior management.
Companies need information systems to operate, so they create an IT organization. To be effective, that sub-organization (IT) needs certain things:
- Terms of Reference or a Charter – What is its mission? Why is it there? What is it trying to achieve? On this last point, the COSO list of objectives for an IT organization (Confidentiality, Integrity, Availability and so on) is a good list. You should learn it.
- A basic organizational structure, arranged to insure that the work required to satisfy the Terms of Reference will get done. This implies that resources are allocated to different tasks and that someone is responsible for leading each area of work.
- Monitoring – there needs to be a “culture” of monitoring, each leader should be monitoring his/her people and each level should be monitoring the work of the level below in order to make sure the required work is being done. Monitoring also implies that when problems arise, they are addressed.
- Performance Metrics – You can only monitor if you can tell a good job from a bad job and you can only tell that if you have some way of measuring success.
If you have these things, you are off to a good start. This coming week we will look at another level of administrative controls that all organizations have, not just IT organizations (things like budgets, HR policies, etc.)
As for DentDel, I hope you all got the point. Even the most basic governance controls like assigning responsibilities and monitoring were missing. Yes the CIO picked a technology without doing due diligence, but why? Because there was no expectation set that due diligence should be done on every project being initiated. Note that they didn’t ask the client (in this case Sales) what they needed. There was a much better project out there, but it never got visibility because there was no process to check. Its all too easy to assume that governance at this level is being done correctly, but it often isn’t. Always ask the basic questions first and then follow where they lead.