Waltzing with the Elephant

Chris Gillies Launch Speech – 14 September 2009

Waltzing with the Elephant: it brings to mind many pictures doesn’t it? I’m sure there are many board members and business executives who feel they are being trampled by the elephant when they are dealing with IT – imagine if you really could really be in tune with IT and waltz with it rather than wonder what in God’s name is going to go wrong next.

I sit on a number of boards and chair 2 IT committees and I know that getting organisations to understand the importance of IT governance is a real challenge. Getting them to understand that good IT governance involves both the business and IT is fundamental to the waltz.

We are brilliant at financial governance but poor on governance of the other key area that can bring a company to its knees – Information Technology.
And we could say – yet another book on IT governance – hasn’t this subject been done to death? Clearly, the answer is: “no it hasn’t, because we still don’t do it well”.

So let me make a few observations about some of the gaps I have found in trying to find practical and implementable frameworks:

1. The first observation is that the theory has been done to death but not the practice and when I say practice, I mean consistent implementation of IT governance principles, policies and practices from boardroom to basement in business and IT – frameworks you can rely on in the boardroom;

2. Most publications and methods deal with the supply side of the equation – governance of IT by IT, the criticality of getting business or the demand side of the equation is often missed;

3. There are books, methodologies and publications on the subject which cover very effectively pieces of the puzzle but I haven’t really come across anything that focuses on putting together a total framework showing how IT governance works from top to bottom in business and IT;

4. With much of the material I have come across, the difference between management and governance is often very confused.
And that brings me to why this book is important:

• It deals with the subject comprehensively from boardroom to basement dealing with both Business and IT;

• It deals very well with getting the reader to understand why IT governance is critical, but more importantly it sets out the how to do it;

• It focuses on the part that many publications miss – showing the governance of the full picture – implementing business change not merely an IT system. It takes a business applications view of IT
governance and covers the people, process and change aspects that make up the overall systems on which the business operates;

• It highlights well the roles and accountability of the Business leaders – specifically the CEO and the executive team responsible and accountable for setting the agenda for use of IT – for deciding how it will be used to enable the business; for making the hard decisions about priority and allocation of resources; for ensuring that the initiatives are successful; for realising the benefits from investment in IT; and for effective ongoing operation of the business when the implementation steps are complete – the full Boardroom to basement framework.

• And finally (this is one of my favourites) – it shows how Boards can and should have effective oversight of IT not by understanding the technological ins and outs, but by understanding the job that management should be doing in respect of IT and asking pertinent questions to ensure that management is doing that job properly.

Those that feel trampled on by the Elephant should read this book. The book is in English – it has good stories and examples that bring the subject to life and you don’t have to be an IT person to understand it.

Available today at: https://www.itgovernance.co.uk/products/2627  

It’s a book worth reading and using and I am very happy to promote it.
* Christina (Chris) Gillies is an independent non-executive director serving on a number of boards, associations and charities, and advises boards on establishing IT Governance leadership in the boardroom. Chris is Chairperson of the MS Society of Australia and on the Boards of CenITex, Oakton, Corporate Express, Asgard Wealth Solutions, Emergency Telecommunications Statutory Authority Victoria and UCMS. Chris has established and chairs three Board IT committees and advises a number of others. Prior to her board career, Chris was Group Executive, Group Services at St George Bank, and a Vice President of DMR Consulting. She has in the past specialised in mergers and acquisitions and in designing and implementing major IT change programs to deliver business results.