Improving Key Hiring Decisions – Selecting Your IT Governance Leader

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A quick search of IT job sites reveals many postings with the key words “IT governance” or “governance of IT.” Clicking through the descriptions reveals a wide range of requested duties and experience, much wider than is typical for a head of application development, security or finance. Due to my exposure to a wide range of enterprises and service on several industry standards and practices committees, I’m often asked, “What makes a good IT governance leader?” This post offers a few insights from what I have seen across countries, industries, business-IT models, IT organization models and enterprise sizes.

To begin, let’s level set on what “IT governance” is about. Governance, in general, has a variety of rather wordy legal, human resource-ish and academic definitions. A more simple, outcomes-focused definition is “Getting the right information to the right people at the right time to make the right (or at least better) decisions with accountability.” The “better” is because there is a cost/benefit in gathering more decision information. Managing that balance is crucial.

Governance purely exists only with the board of directors. However, as a practical matter, it is often delegated. In this context, two requirements are generally necessary – 1) clear charter from the board or higher level governance body and 2) that the people involved are acting in the interest of the enterprise as governors -- in contrast to daily management silos. These people (governors) represent the various business line, functional and geographic units that fund (especially those who own P&L) and leverage IT to generate risk-return balanced value for the enterprise (or achieve mission in governments). This value should be very demonstrable, having impact on ability to launch products, acquire, expand and satisfy customers. It should be able to be measured by investors (whether shareholders or an acquiring firm).

Because of the requirement to act in the interest of the enterprise, balancing across silos, the preferred term is often “enterprise governance of IT.” This helps guard against the tendency to use “IT governance” to mean managing the IT shop or the CIO’s staff meeting. The enterprise governance of IT leader is therefore often principal advisor (strategic, financial, operational) and secretary (coordinator, facilitator, catalyst, peacemaker) to this governance body. Thus, key expertise includes:

• Business skills

• Business strategy (competitive, market, industry, economic)

• Business products and processes

• Financial (portfolio management, investment risk-return analysis, capital budgeting, make/buy)

• Risk-return management (across financial, project and operational areas)

• Strong knowledge of industry best practice (e.g. ISACA’s Val IT, Risk IT, COBIT or academic research such as from MIT Sloan Center for Information Systems Research)

• Technology (directions, trends, competitive advantage, cost/benefit implications)

• Broad exposure to IT operations (not necessarily that deep, but enough to interlock with needs)

• Inter-personal skills

• Independent, executive presence

• Collaborator seeking common ground

• Facilitator understanding each governor’s perspective

• Curious, questioning

• Negotiator with eye on shared objectives

• Calming influence

• Leverages by nature, doesn’t get bogged down reinventing the wheel

• Personally committed to key governance measures – informed, transparent, agile and accountable

Some of these attributes, such as negotiating, significantly increase in importance with federated organization models or the more dissimilar the business lines. Technology trend skills are more important the more dependent the enterprises’ offerings are on technology for differentiation in the market. Others shift with the intensity of competition, riskiness of business initiatives or complexity of business operations.

Finally, there are points to delete from the job description or include only as liaison points – compliance, control or audit. These are not only incidental to the focus on driving and balancing risk-return value, but also often bring in personal attributes that are “square peg in round hole” relative to other requirements. Armed with this information, you can create a more focused job description, screen, interview, hire and then – crucially – enable your governance leader for success.

Social Business @ IBM - Global Social Media Summit

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Social Business has moved from entertaining periphery towards the center of business for just about every institution According to IBM’s Institute for Business Value 89 percent of Gen Y consumers who are 18 to 35 years old have accounts on social sites. Gen Xers—ages 36 to 47—aren’t far behind at 79 percent and Baby Boomers are catching up at 72 percent.

We live in a hyper-networked, real time world of mass participation in product design, development, marketing and distribution in which trust and hence value-creation is chiefly mediated through social and expert relationships and the scarce commodity is attention The landscape in which we interact with our clients, prospects and employees is changing rapidly across a number of dimensions.

• From limited channels, to pervasive networks - think about reading the newspaper in its entirety every day ten years ago compared with how you discover news today

• From scheduled programming to self-directed search and discovery – think about what you used to watch on TV and when to how you find, for example, video content now.

• Asynchronous to real-time – think about your level of satisfaction when you get an automated email response from a company’s customer support that says they will get back to you in a couple days versus your level of satisfaction when you are able to “chat now.”

• Virtual reality to integrated reality – just a few years ago we imagined that we’d all be floating around in Second Life…but today we look through our smart phones to see a digitally augmented world.

• Interruption based paid media vs. paid, owned and earned media – look at the trend in declining investment in advertising dollars directed at commercials that interrupt content and the increase in investment in sponsored content experiences and social activation.

In this world, every meaningful brand has to be based on an enduring idea, has to choose how it differentiates itself, has to choose who it serves, and how it is experienced. IBM is based on the idea of progress. It aspires to be differentiated by its values as it serves the forward thinker – forward thinking clients, forward thinking governments, forward thinking communities. But most important to this conversation – IBM is experienced through its employees. Interactions with IBMers are the IBM brand. These are increasingly digital. or social interactions. In a transparent world, it's no longer possible to put forward a segmented view of one's enterprise, or institution in the social sphere. This poses a significant challenge to the organisation and its management system, as it becomes insufficient to merely communicate to employees. Instead the workforce needs to be continuously enabled to live the organisation’s values and ensure its authenticity.

At IBM some choices were made about how social would play at the company. In 2006 it co-wrote comprehensive Social Computing Guidelines with its employees, literally using a wiki to collaboratively write this policy, with hundreds of employees participating in the process. In the following five years the company encouraged its workforce to openly and actively engage in social media, such as through blogging, podcasting a.o. – to collaborate with one another and build their knowledge and skills with the emergent technologies and platforms.

In 2011, it created a mandatory cybersecurity training for all 400,000 IBMers around the world that taught the benefits and the risks of engagement – and provided solid examples of how to mitigate these risks. At the same time the company started to optimize the digital footprint of its employees in key roles, and created an initiative called The Digital IBMer: It’s a company wide collaborative effort, led by the IBM Offices of the CIO, Marketing & Communications., Legal and Human Resources, and designed to help IBMers live the company’s values in the digital world. IBM has started to cultivate a Subject Matter Expert engagement system to scale interactions, using tools such as an expertise locator and link it to a demand system with social media registration and content mapping capabilities.

The company can now observe social media interactions and behavior profiles. It is starting to get a unified view across multiple dimensions of an individual by building an intentional system of engagement based on guidelines, education and systems to externalize its subject matter experts into appropriate digital contexts. In doing so, it is creating intimate and authentic experiences for its clients with IBM’s experts and expertise. When you look at this on a scale, it is only a beginning, but it is a fundamental shift in how the company thinks about taking advantage and mitigating risks for its people and its brand in a world driven by a new magnitude of interactions enabled through rapidly advancing technology driven innovation.

So, what is next?

When we define “workplace”, we traditionally associate it with the physical place in which we work. As the “place” becomes less of a single, consistent, physical location, companies have a challenge in helping co-workers prepare for this “workplace of the future” – and supporting the many ways they perform their jobs.

As with the definition of IBM’s values back in 2002, thousands of IBMers from around the world will come together virtually once again by the end of this month, in a company wide “online jam” to share their thoughts and ideas about how best to transform IBM into a workplace of the future. The jam will focus on IBMers becoming even more “social", using new tools to analyze and interpret all of the data they gather and act on it, being able to work anywhere, anytime – and with the device of their choice – in a secure environment. The virtual event will provide people with the opportunity to gather views and ideas not only on how to do their jobs more effectively and efficiently, but also better serve their customer and external clients. The input will be used by IBM’s CIO leadership teams to identify and prioritize both near-term “quick wins” and longer-term actions in keeping with the company’s strategic mission and execution roadmaps, and achieve its goal of enabling the social enterprise.