A colleague in Australia sent me this document by Asad Quraishi of Knowledgework (a Canadian organization as it turns out). While the ideas are not new, nor necessarily complete (what document is/can be?) – one serious omission being no reference to The Information Paradox (just, not quite, joking) – it is concise and well organized and, as such, a useful addition to the field of portfolio management (not just planning).
The language used in the document does however risk perpetuating beliefs that need to be changed in that the use of the IT label in “IT portfolio planning”, “IT value”, and “IT governance” can be read as reinforcing the prevailing view that the challenge, and poor track record of realizing value from today’s significant and increasingly complex investments in IT is an IT problem, and the responsibility of the IT function – an implication that is reinforced in the Summary which talks only about the requirement for a “highly effective IT organization.”
Whilst no-one could dispute the need for an effective IT organization, this is not enough. IT, in and of itself, delivers no value – it is how the business uses IT – in the context of IT-enabled change – that delivers value. If organizations are to truly realize the full potential of IT, they need to think and act very differently. If we are to accomplish this, one thing we must do is change the language we use. We must move beyond the term “IT governance”, which today largely focus on the “supply” side – the delivery and operation of IT services to “Enterprise (or Corporate) governance of IT” covering both the supply side and the “demand” side – determining what services are required and using those services to create and sustain business value. This requires the executive, business management and the IT function to work in partnership with clearly defined (and accepted) roles, responsibilities and accountabilities for both the supply and demand aspects of IT, supported by processes including portfolio management, and relevant metrics.
While there is still room for improvement in many, if not most organizations, in how IT services are delivered (the supply side) we will continue to come nowhere near realizing the full potential of IT-enabled change – and IT will remain the “black sheep of the corporate family” – until the business takes ownership of the demand side, in partnership with IT on the supply side, within the context of overall enterprise governance, including IT. Let’s start using language that moves us in this direction!