Information Technology Governance

2 minute read

The term Information Technology Governance (IT Governance), represents a functional governance model fundamental to an IT organisation. It is part of the overall corporate governance structure (Brown & Grant, 2005) and applies principals similar to financial governance to IT Management (Weill & Woodham, 2002).

Recently the topic of IT Governance has been attracting significant attention from academia and business management. However, despite this attention, it remains the weakest link in the overall corporation’s governance structures (Brown & Grant, 2005; Trites, 2004; Huber, 2004).

Even with the continuous lip-service being paid in attempts to secure an accurate definition of IT Governance, the current definition fails to prevail from the futile exercise in semantics (Robb, 1997; Brown & Grant, 2005). There are several prominent definitions of IT Governance available in literature defined in the following table.

Definition Analysis
Corporate Governance is all the processes that coordinate and control an organisations resources and actions. (Meyer, 2004) Internal structure used to direct the organisation, does not explicitly consider social aspect of the organisation or externalities, such as laws, regulations, social demographic
Corporate Governance deals with the ways in which suppliers of finance assure themselves of getting a return on investment. (Shleifer & Vishny, 1997) Structured to ensure that suppliers of finance receive profit, could lead to anti-social behaviour within organisation where individuals consider their needs ahead of the organisation, does not consider external environment or social aspect of organisation
Corporate Governance is the system by which companies are directed and controlled. (Cross, 2004) Refers to an internal structure of control, organisations operate under numerous external influences that this definition does not encompass
Corporate Governance is a system of authoritative direction or government. (Colley, 2005) Refers to an internal structure of control, does not consider social elements of organisation

As Van Grembergen (Van Grembergen, 2004) points out IT governance definition provided by Weill and Woodham is most promising. It is promising not only because it is going beyond aging “command and control” structure but because it does not reduce the IT governance to a technical structure and provides freedom for the unpredictability of social systems. Instead, it would appear provides a mechanism for monitoring the organisational system for information that can be further used for self-organisation. Unlike other proposed definition that resembles aging “command and control” structure that attempt to reduce social systems into simple technical structures.

Brown and Grant conclude that Weill’s definition remains consistent with earlier explanation by Boynton (Boynton, et al., 1992), in that IT governance is not concerned with location and distribution of IT resources, but rather the location, distribution and pattern of managerial responsibilities - ultimately how IT resources are applied and then implemented (Brown & Grant, 2005).

The explanation of IT governance provided by Boynton concentrates on the negotiation of interests of IT usage within an organisation. Contrary to other definitions, it does not prescribe an operational framework but rather defines a model to be analysed. Furthermore, Boynton’s explanation does not isolate IT governance as a distinct concept but rather concentrates on the incentives for its appropriate use that are integrated into managerial responsibilities. This lack of distinction is innovative as it demonstrates that the responsibility for IT is not dissimilar to other managerial responsibilities within an enterprise.