Why Lean IT Governance?


Lean IT governance is the leadership, organizational structures and streamlined processes to enable IT to work as a partner in sustaining and extending your organization’s ability to produce meaningful value for your customers. There are several reasons why this is important for your success. Lean IT governance strives to ensure that:

  1. Your organization’s IT investment is spent wisely. Organizations invest in IT to enable them to run and extend their business. From a financial point of view, your goals should be to regularly and consistently create real business value and to provide appropriate return on investment (ROI). To do this you must determine how you will execute your strategy by selecting and prioritizing the most valuable initiatives to undertake. You must also monitor these initiatives to ensure that they fulfill their promise, and if not then remediate them appropriately.
  2. Your IT strategy supports your organization’s needs. Your IT efforts should deliver consumable solutions in a timely and relevant manner AND operate and support those solutions once in production. Part of your IT governance efforts will be to ensure that this is actually happening in practice.
  3. Your IT teams are empowered to carry out their work. An important aspect of IT governance is to ensure that people and teams have the authority to fulfill their responsibilities. Many agile transformations run into trouble when the roles and responsibilities of people are not agreed upon, or when they are they are not properly supported by senior management. Another important strategy is to empower teams to own their process, to self determine how they will work together, enabling them to tailor their approach to meet the needs of the situation that they face.
  4. People are motivated to work together effectively. There are several aspects to this. First, IT teams need to work effectively with their stakeholders. For this to happen in practice IT professionals need to understand the fundamentals of the business domain that they are working in and business stakeholders to understand the fundamentals of IT. Second, IT teams also need to work effectively with their IT colleagues. To do this you must adopt processes and organizational structures that encourage people to collaborate together and to learn from one another. Third, stakeholders need to work together effectively when it comes to IT. Your organization has limited resources to invest in IT, so it behooves your IT department to work with stakeholders to invest those resources wisely. Doing so are important aspects of your Portfolio Management, Product Management, and of course your solution delivery efforts.
  5. Risks are monitored and mitigated at appropriate organizational levels. Although team-level risk mitigation is a good start it isn’t sufficient from an organizational point of view. Many small risks that are acceptable individually can add up to a very large risk for your organization. For example, one team using a new technology platform is an experiment. Fifty teams adopting that new platform at the same time is a significant risk if the platform proves to be problematic. Someone must be looking at risks from a portfolio perspective and guide teams accordingly.
  6. Your IT infrastructure is sound. Your IT department must be able to operate and support solutions that are in production over both the short and long term. Your IT governance effort should guide and monitor your teams to ensure that they leverage and evolve your IT infrastructure effectively.
  7. IT works in an open and collaborative manner. There are several ways that the DA toolkit promotes this. First, IT solution delivery is performed in an agile manner that is inherently open and collaborative. Second, all IT teams should present accurate and timely information to stakeholders, not just solution delivery teams. For example enterprise architects can make their work available to everyone, as can your portfolio management team, your data management team, and so on. Third, stakeholders can and should be educated in the fundamentals of IT so that they better understand how to work with IT teams. Fourth, IT professionals should be educated in the business domain and fundamental business concepts so that they can interact more effectively with stakeholders and understand how to serve them better.
  8. All of these things will continue to be true now and in the future. Lean IT governance balances your short-term and long-term needs. Too many organizations have allowed technical debt to grow in recent years, for the skills of their IT staff to stagnate, and to continue to tolerate traditional IT process strategies from yesteryear. This is because they allowed short-term priorities to trump long-term health. We must do better.

There are two fundamentals reasons why IT practitioners should be interested in lean IT governance:

  1. It’s happening, like it or not. Regardless of the size or your organization, the length of time it’s been in operation, or the sector(s) in which you work, someone is keeping an eye on and guiding your IT efforts.
  2. You deserve to be governed effectively. Sadly, as we’ll explore in the next posting in this series, most IT governance strategies prove to be ineffective in practice due to application of traditional strategies and ways of thinking.

Lean IT governance is a critical aspect of the Disciplined Agile (DA) toolkit. Delivery governance activities were originally built into Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) v1.x. The recent release of Disciplined Agile 2.x extended this thinking in two ways. First, each of the new process blades includes a process factor focused on governing that activity. Second, there is a specific IT Governance process blade that coordinates all IT governance activities across your IT process.

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