Unless sufficient operational performance and metrics are placed in IT service delivery lifecycle perspective, IT governance is little more than a black hole out of which we struggle to get anything valuable. Until we see real-time telemetry on our dashboards, how can we drive lower costs, richer services, better quality and high-level compliance? The answer is to first shine a light on how IT infrastructure configuration and service delivery processes perform in the real world.
Accountability, an idea whose time has come (again)
IT governance is nothing less than the recognition that IT is a business within the business. Just as the governance of the corporation is coming under scrutiny, so are our activities. Section 404 of the Sarbanes Oxley Act requires that we sign off on financials and demonstrate internal controls for hiring, purchasing, etc. Forces inside are trying to pin us down on performance and compliance as well. We're hearing bold words like "command" and "control" from IT governance software vendors, but where's the beef?
Poke and hope isn't cutting it
There's a reason why success stories about IT governance are few and far between. Generally, "so-called" IT governance software is blind in one eye and deaf in the other. What do I mean? Well, the meaningful data that should be captured regarding IT supply chain activities and service delivery lifecycles are somehow reduced to a bunch of meaningless summaries on a dashboard for a view that's only skin deep. You wouldn't expect a surgeon to perform delicate microsurgery without first consulting as many X-rays and MRI and CAT scans as necessary. So why should we expect to govern our complex operations successfully without information in depth?
What you don't know…
Instead of being sideswiped by shallow data, we need to demand meaningful reporting. Take help desk tickets, for example. My dashboard can show tickets opened against time, tickets opened versus tickets closed, and escalated tickets to second level. But in most cases, I can't see the telephone calls, e-mails, and walk-up contacts involved. This significantly clouds the actual performance picture. If I were to tie in my computer telephony interface, I would also know wait times, call durations, transfers, etc., for real consolidated performance metrics against this service delivery lifecycle -- not to mention a real-world reflection of the user experience.
Proaction trumps reaction every time
For too long, IT has gotten away with truing up our budget buckets after the fact. If we're going to adhere to financial standards, our dashboards have to reflect measurable touch points and deliverables to assure timely delivery of the correct technology and services. For instance, we can drive the purchasing function if we build infrastructure standards into our processes. Acquisitions from approved catalogs will match up against available budgets and approved projects while stock handling, imaging, building and deployment remain in compliance.
ROI will be its own reward
First, fix your structural problems to enable IT governance. Check some of my past columns on IT process management to see how. Make sure you have the information about tasks, resources and infrastructure you need to control and effect positive change. Then put your vendors' feet to the fire. When the dust settles, you will find that you've better aligned IT with the business side. All they want is value for what they invest in IT and service delivery that enables them to make even more money.
What's more, your wise governance will keep you on the throne in the kingdom of IT, bringing you applause and more riches. Who could ask for more?
Greg Lenox, an expert in the processes, methods and practices of IT operations for customer support, help desk, asset management, inventory management, telecommunications management and change management, is president and CEO of Entuition Inc., a maker of operations management solutions in the infrastructure logistics marketplace. At Entuition and in previous positions, he led several major re-engineering projects. His clients included SunTrust Banks, Citibank, Target, GlaxoSmithKline, Baxter Healthcare, Nations Bank, Wachovia Bank, First Union Bank, BB&T, CCNB, CNA Insurance and others.