IT Governance: New Term, Same Challenge

Reprinted from Melbourne’s The Age

Twelve years ago, I started a magazine called MIS, which stood for Managing Information Systems. It was a magazine for corporate computer system managers on how to manage those systems.

MIS magazine still exists, but under the slightly different title of “Managing Information Strategies” and publisher, John Fairfax. It is now one of the longest-lasting magazines in the IT industry, probably because it is not specifically about IT.

The management of IT has changed much less than the technology itself. The big questions of how to manage an IT budget, how to introduce technology, and how to deal with end users and senior management, have changed very little over the years.

The recurring theme in IT management has been what is often known as the “alignment of IT and business strategy.” When we held our first MIS conference, 10 years ago this week, we adopted that as our theme. The next year we polled our readers on what the theme of the conference should be, and they wanted the same issue.

It is a perennial theme; the issue keeps coming up again. IT governance is a new term, but it is all about IT and business alignment.

The term “IT governance” has become popular in the last 18 months or so, just as the related term “corporate governance” has become much more fashionable. It is as a direct result of the spate of corporate disasters we have seen around the world, many of them a direct result of greed and mismanagement at the highest level.

We had HIH and One.Tel in Australia, and in the US there were Enron, WorldCom and Tyco. The Italian Parmalat disaster is a recent European example. Legislators in all jurisdictions have reacted with a range of laws designed to tighten companies’ compliance with corporate laws.