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FCW : May 15, 2014
May 15, 2014 FCW.COM 27 In this series of columns, I am present- ing the five key elements to help ensure the success of major IT programs. A key element includes putting a program gov- ernance model in place that recognizes the proper roles and authorities of the important stakeholders. Too often, I have reviewed pro- grams in which the program manager is attempting to address executives’ differ- ing — and, in some cases, opposite — views of what constitute the program’s priorities. In such cases, even the best manager fails if the program governance model does not work. Governance drives alignment among key decision-makers in an organiza- tion. We have heard for decades that IT programs fail because of ill-defined or poorly managed requirements. Although true, that failure is a symptom of a more fundamental underlying cause: the inability of key stakeholders in a pro- gram to agree on desired outcomes and the approaches to meet those outcomes. Alignment is an ongoing process that is critical throughout an investment’s strategic planning, design, development and implementation. And for complex IT systems, there are several stakehold- er organizations that must be aligned, including the strategy organization, the business or mission owner of the sys- tem, IT, finance, procurement, legal, security and privacy. Ensuring that all key stakeholders are involved in impor- tant decisions is an essential element to achieving genuine alignment. Governance works best when there is a single, transparent reporting rela- tionship for a program manager to an oversight (program-level) governance board. The executives from key stake- holder organizations must be empow- ered to make decisions that are bind- ing for their organizations and create a partnership among all the stakeholders. The function of the governance board is not to usurp the authorities of the pro- gram manager. Rather, it is to provide a forum by which the program man- ager can bring key issues and trade-off decisions to an informed, empowered body that has a vested interest in that program’s success and views the pro- gram manager as a trusted adviser and subject-matter specialist. In today’s environment of more incremental and even agile develop- ment, a program in design or develop- ment should have a governance board that meets no less than monthly and in some cases biweekly, depending on the type of program and the life-cycle stage of the investment. Not only does an active program governance board support accountability, it also fosters transparency. Creating a culture of partnership and trust is vital to the true alignment need- ed to support IT programs. Therefore, I recommend that governance boards be co-led by the business owner and IT executive to promote a partnership model and ensure that no one organi- zation dominates. Collaboration brings forth the best ideas, melds varied inter- ests and unifies efforts. Further, decisions made by a gov- ernance board should be consensus driven, not reduced to a vote-counting exercise. If a program governance board cannot reach a key decision through consensus, the decision should be esca- lated to the board at the next highest level (typically an investment review board) or, if need be, to the head of the agency. By doing that, however, the board is abdicating its decision-making author- ity. In an organization with mature gov- ernance, boards will force themselves to make the tough decisions — which is just what an agency’s leaders should expect. ■ BY RICHARD A. SPIRES Getting stakeholders to agree on desired outcomes and ways to achieve them is crucial to ensuring the success of IT programs Program management: Governance matters CIOPerspective Richard A. Spires has been in the IT field for more than 30 years, with eight years in federal govern- ment service. Most recently, he served as CIO at the Department of Homeland Security. He is now CEO of Resilient Network Systems.
April 30, 2014
May 30, 2014