Deciding Factors

Von Alice Dragoon

8 Avoid Draconian Measures

A governance structure that is too constraining or draconian will alienate the businesspeople you're trying to engage to help set IT priorities. It's important to strike the right balance. "We had too much governance in the wrong places, or none at all," recalls Humana's Goodman. For example, he has eliminated the old practice of agonizing every month over how many full-time equivalent IT employees should be devoted to each business area. Instead, he shoots for the right range, based on his best estimate. "We try to keep bureaucracy to a minimum," he says.

Communicating to set the right tone and ensure that everyone involved understands your governance processes is also critical. The goal should be to avoid ambiguity and surprises. "Governance by definition is somewhat constraining," says GE's Scott. "It's not a free-for-all. It's meant to control. I try to communicate up front about what is the governance process, how does it work, and how people can be successful as project leaders."

Whatever governance you have in place today, be ready to adapt it to make the most of tomorrow's business conditions. "My governance has evolved," says GE's Scott. "My governance process five years from now will be different. It will be adjusted to whatever the requirements are at time. In the end, governance is forced upon us by the environment in which we work."

Good governance can also shape that environment to a certain extent. According to Meta Group's Rubin, governance should set boundaries but not mandate the use of this technology or that. Instead of establishing governance practices that focus on constraining and setting limits, Rubin says, organizations should set policies that feed innovation and resourcefulness. "Governance policy has everything to do with thinking of IT as an investment--and the return you're getting," he says. "A governance policy that says, 'Thou shalt only do things using this technology' and doesn't look at outcomes is a constrainment policy. A best practice in governance promotes thinking that leads to resourcefulness."

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