Facilitated governance: Why it should be on the CIO agenda

What to do when IT is seen as the 'department of no'.

By Owen McCall
July 12, 2016

The crowd became a bit fidgety. "I reckon you need to help them here. In fact, as the paid IT experts I reckon it's your job. You need to evaluate the portfolio, match the requests to available resources (people/skills and money are the main but not only resources to consider) and present a well researched rationale and executable portfolio for them to consider."

This scenario, or ones very similar to it play out all the time in large organisations. IT is perceived as being unresponsive and slow to deliver, and it's true, they are.

On the other hand IT often feel victimised as what they have been asked to do is in many instances impractical. Both views are right and governance doesn't work.

So what to do? I believe the answer to getting governance to work properly for organisations is to reinterpret the classic governance RASCI to being RAFCI (for a background on RASCI and similar frameworks look here).

The difference? Replacing the classic IT role of support for the governance process to 'facilitate the governance process'. Playing with words? Yes, but for a reason.

 Too often, IT teams see their support role in governance as being passive, that is, they do what they have been asked to do. The result, some variation of the above, governance that doesn't work.

If you want IT governance that works IT need to actively facilitate the process. It's nearly impossible to facilitate passively. As the facilitator, your role is to ensure an effective process, not to assume responsibility for decisions. In other words, you need to make it easy for the executive team to prioritise.

So how do you facilitate governance? In the end it comes back to collaborative conversationsacross the business. Collaborative conversations that you lead - when I say 'lead', I mean facilitate rather than drive and decide.

Consider the following process for structuring your conversation:

 Understand individual priorities by department / team across the business

● Compile all priorities into one list of all requests

● Match requests to available resources and create a proposed portfolio including likely timing for executing the requests (now, next, later)

● Socialise the proposal to key influencers and adjust as needed based on their feedback

● Present the proposal highlighting any conflicts and tradeoffs. 

● Record and action decisions.

● Execute based on the agreed decisions.

● Repeat the process and update accordingly.

This looks like a fairly simple process and it is, however it takes time and it requires a focus on conversations and understanding and reflecting both individual and organisational needs. Done well, the process works.

Better yet, the socialisation process almost always resolves timing conflicts without need for escalation to the overall governance body. I have used this process for years and in doing this I have only had one major priority conflict that couldn't be resolved with peer-to-peer discussion.

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