Did you ever need a decision made, and you couldn't get the attention of the person or persons who had a critical say in the decision? An executive puts you off for weeks, then suddenly goes on a two-week vacation to Bali. So you make the decision yourself without his input. Three months later, the exec -- long back from his vacation and resettled into his normal pattern of chaotic inaccessibility -- stops by to ask how the hell you came up with such a questionable course of action. Multiply this common scenario by a whole department and millions of dollars at stake, or a whole company and billions of dollars, and you have the reason why IT governance drives CIOs crazy. Right now at companies across the planet, supposedly sane executives responsible for the fate of companies refuse to take part in such pivotal IT and business decisions as architecture choices, standards and infrastructure platforms. And to add injury to this insult, they lay all the accountability for the decisions' success (or more likely, lack of success) on the IT group.
But wait a minute. Should CEOs or business unit presidents really be spending their time in a discourse about the merits of standardizing on .Net, XML, 802.11, 2.5G or 3G, Compaq Computer Corp. or Dell Computer Corp., kidney or lima beans, laces or Velcro -- ENOUGH! They don't want to be drowned in a geek pool of arcana. That's what they pay you for.
The CIOs in this issue's cover story either kept or lost the attention of their executive committee members by the level of detail they inflicted on them. It turns out that architecture is best kept out of the boardroom. Architecture boards can handle that. The CIOs also use automatic thresholds to prevent every little, low-value decision from rising to the attention of this august body. They build in accountability where it belongs -- with the business users and function heads who control the processes that use these systems and operate on these platforms.
Take a cue from these governance warriors and set up a multilevel steering system that doesn't run down your executive partners. While everything may seem critically important to you, it just ain't so at the boardroom level. So what's critical for top executives? You decide. I'm off to Bali.
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