2.6.2 What is ICT Governance?

Weill and Ross15 have published research on ICT governance that provides a definition and framework. This is useful to support an improved understanding of ICT governance and to illustrate how it can be used to better alignment ICT with institutional strategy.

They define IT governance as:

'specifying the decision rights and accountability framework to encourage desirable behaviour in the use of IT. The complexity and difficulty of explaining IT governance is one of the most serious barriers to improvement.'

They state that ICT governance is about who makes decisions while management is about making and implementing the decisions. They assert that effective ICT governance will answer three questions:

  • What decisions must be made
  • Who should make these decisions
  • How are they made and monitored

The following are extracts and adaptions from Weill and Ross, IT Governance:

ICT governance framework, from Weill and Ross IT Governance (adapted)
Figure 7 - ICT governance framework, from Weill & Ross IT Governance (adapted)

As part of their research Ross and Weill have put forward a generic framework showing the design considerations for ICT governance. The framework diagram illustrates the requirement for harmonisation of institutional strategy and organisation with ICT governance arrangements and the institutional performance goals.

The institutional strategy, ICT governance arrangements and performance goals are enacted through the ICT organisation and desirable behaviours, ICT governance mechanisms and performance metrics, respectively.

Weill and Ross suggest that there are five interrelated ICT decisions that should be considered together with the decision making structure and the following diagrams have been adapted from their work to illustrate a HEI governance framework:

Key ICT Governance Decisions

1 ICT principles

High-level statements about how ICT is to be used in the institution

2 ICT architecture decisions

Organising logic for data, applications, and infrastructure

These are captured in a set of policies, relationships and technical definitions

They ensure the desired institution and technical standards and levels of integration are achieved

3 ICT infrastructure decisions

Centrally co-ordinated, shared ICT services that provide the foundation for the enterprise’s ICT capability

5 ICT investment and prioritisation decisions

Decisions about how much and where to invest in IT, including project approvals and justification techniques

Figure 8 - ICT governance decision, adapted from Weill & Ross, IT Governance

The institution is required to decide the governance arrangements for each key decision area. The harmonising of each decision making group will significantly affect the decisions and outcomes and is therefore able to effect strategy alignment. The groups or governance archetypes have been categorised as:

Institutional monarchy Senior institutional managers
ICT monarchy IT specialists
Feudal Each faculty, school, department or section making independent decisions
Federal Combination of central institutional and faculty, school, department or section with or without ICT professionals
IT duopoly ICT group and one other group (institutional management or academic/administrative people involved
Anarchy Isolated individual or small decision group

These archetypes are used below to illustrate an example governance structure:

An example of the ICT governance decision making structure
ICT Principles ICT Architecture ICT Infrastructure Strategies Institutional Application needs ICT Investment
input decision input decision input decision input decision input decision
Federal Federal ICT monarchy ICT monarchy Duopoly ICT monarchy Duopoly Federal Duopoly Business monarchy

Examples of groups used by institutions are included as mechanisms for governance in the above diagram:

SMT Senior Management Team, Management Board ISSG Information Systems Strategy Group
ISC Institutional Strategy Committees AG Architecture Group
CIO Chief Information Officer, Director of Information Systems or equivalent role AAH Academic/ Administration, Deans, Head of School, Department, Sections
AAL Academic/Administrative Liaison
Figure 9 - ICT governance decision making, adapted from Weill & Ross, IT Governance

In this way a governance framework for HE could be represented as shown in the following example:

ICT governance framework example for HE, adapted from Weill and Ross, IT Governance
Figure 10 - ICT governance framework example for HE, adapted from Weill & Ross, IT Governance

15 IT Governnance, How Top Performers Manage IT Decision Rights for Superior Results, Ross & Weill, 2004