2.6.4 How is ICT Governance used in HE?
The variations in institutional structures, the different cultures influencing management styles and the ubiquitous nature of ICT within every HE institution leads to wide ranging differences in ICT governance. However, our research findings can be used to highlight the practices that have been found to improve the delivery of strategic ICT. We present these findings across four areas:
The growing importance of ICT in supporting institutional strategy and the need to provide agility requires that an institution is able to have a clear institution-wide view of both current use and future requirements for ICT. Institutions have achieved this by:
- The formulation of a documented and approved institution-wide ICT strategy. (Some institutions are formulating separate IT and IS strategies)
- The cross reference of the ICT strategy to reinforce alignment to the institutional strategy
- Using a process for review and updating of the strategy
The horizon for institutional planning is changing and the ICT strategy needs to reflect this as a working document. To become more flexible and agile it must synchronise with institutional strategic planning and change.
The synergy required for the alignment of ICT and institutional strategies across strategic and operational planning and reporting is concisely illustrated by the following example of an institution's strategic alignment map.
Governance decisions and mechanisms
With deployment of ICT across teaching and learning, research and administration areas this requires a co-ordinated institution-wide ICT governance structure to accommodate an institution's management and ICT delivery structures.
Well aligned examples from our research exhibited some or all of the following:
- The ICT strategy was approved and implemented by a governing committee made up of senior management, Chief Information Officer or an equivalent role, together with representative management from across the institution. This supports institution wide awareness and buy-in. We found this committee to exist under various differing titles and we shall refer to it as the Information Systems Strategy Group (ISSG)
- Decision making in relation to Portfolio Management was improved by introducing the use of a Portfolio Decision Making Matrix that identified the appropriate positioning of services and solutions as 'bleeding edge', 'leading edge', 'on a par', or 'lagging behind'
- ICT strategy formulation was conducted with institutional-wide consultation involving senior managers and unit heads
- The ICT strategy was approved by the Senior Management Team
- All ICT investment was approved by the Information Systems Strategy Group
- Capital and operational budgets were allocated and approved by the Information Systems Strategy Group
- An exception process was established (development without architecture). This ensured that exceptions to strategy were visible and if agreed proceeded against a approved business case which provided greater understanding and feedback on the value and cost of exceptions
- ICT principles, policies and standards defined and adhered to. These assist in better decision making and management. It is expected that these will facilitate better investment proposals, progress reporting and measurements for value and ROI and therefore support improved accuracy and availability of information to assist decision making and management.
Communications have always been accepted as key to the successful delivery of ICT projects. However, the ability to address and balance the priorities within strategic planning intensifies the need for communications between institutional management. In addition to consultation on strategic requirements there are other techniques that have been found to enhance institutional awareness and buy-in to strategy:
- Obtain Senior Management Team buy-in and promotion of ICT governance
- Use Committees across the institution to add awareness and create influence
- Use a Chief Information Officer and a compliance function to own and promote ICT governance
- Identify and try to win over management who don't comply
- Provide a portal or other home for ICT governance information to ease its use and assist in visibility
Governance allows for the measurement of performance in two areas:
- Services performance
- Definitions for ICT service levels, and project progress reporting provide both project and operational management and reporting to the Information Systems Strategy Group (ISSG) and Senior Management Team. Service levels defined and agreed as part of the ICT governance were found to be actively used for service communications and monitoring. However, interviewees commented that more work was required to establish improved metrics and reporting in relation to project progress and final delivery against objectives
Performance against institutional strategy
This is a quick assessment for the senior management team to gain a measure of how well ICT governance is delivering ICT services that meet the core institutional strategic objectives. Each senior manager will have his or her own perspective which will inform against an overall assessment. Our research did not find any HE examples of this in practice to provide further feedback.
The assessment typically requires:
- the definition of a set of strategic objectives or outcomes. For example cost effectiveness, transformation, business improvement or agility
- each member of the management team to assess for their domain
- the importance of each of the outcomes
- the influence of governance on the success of each of the outcomes
- where and why is governance effective
- where and why is governance less effective?
The information provides an additional and visible measure of performance as a basis for senior management discussion and review of governance.
Although frequent change in ICT Governance is not desirable governance is specific to institutional structure and management and should be regularly reviewed to ensure that it continues to meet an institution's unique requirements.