IT Governance: Definitions, Frameworks and Planning


Information technology is prevalent in nearly every industry and organization across the globe. It’s a diverse and challenging discipline with a lot of moving parts and critical scenarios. On top of it all, information technology is constantly evolving. IT governance ensures that IT departments are prepared for what’s next, without losing focus on what matters.

What Is IT Governance?

At its base level, IT governance is one or multiple processes that enable the IT staff to better manage risk and operate at its most efficient to the benefit of the organization as a whole. IT governance is a process that fits firmly under the umbrella of corporate governance, which is its own collection of processes that are designed to keep the entire corporation effective and efficient.

ProjectManager's kanban board
IT Governance requires secure tools, such as ProjectManager’s kanban boards. Learn more!

IT governance is a flexible methodology that can be slightly modified to suit the industry it is being used for. If you ask the business world, IT governance is all about managing performance for efficiency. But if you were to ask academia? You might get a definition that reads more about creating an accountability framework to create desired output from the IT department.

But if you break it down further, IT governance is an amalgamation of a lot of things. Having evolved from many other methods, IT governance has taken pieces of its methodology from:

  • “The Principles of Scientific Management” — a method of corporate organization focused on scientific output during the industrial era.
  • Total Quality Management” — a method focused on creating a work environment where employees strive to constantly improve.
  • “Quality Management System” — a method that acts as a collection of organizational processes focused on increasing customer satisfaction.

Desired Outcomes

The main three desired outcomes from implementing IT governance in any given organization is typically to:

  1. Ensure business value is generated by information and technology
  2. Oversee the performance of IT managers
  3. Assess risks associated with the IT department and mitigate them as needed

Key Terms in IT Governance

For those just getting a basic understanding of everything IT governance entails, it can be confusing with all the industry jargon out there. Here are some of those complicated IT terms defined.

  • IT Management: Not to be confused with IT governance, IT management is about how IT resources are leveraged from planning, organizing and directing perspective. This is different from IT governance in that IT governance is all about uncovering what an organization can really achieve when it uses its IT resources effectively.
  • IT Compliance: Compliance in the IT world can mean creating an adequate defense process that manages both the management of the compliance process as well as the integrity of the compliance system. Therefore, IT compliance revolves around taking control of protecting personal or private information, including how it’s kept, stored or shared.
  • IT Controls: These are specific tasks performed by IT staff to ensure that business objectives are kept top of mind.
  • Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC): Invented by the Open Compliance and Ethics Group (OCEG), this term refers to a certain grouping of capabilities that combine governance, risk management and performance to achieve reliable business objectives and address uncertainty.
  • Good Governance: This is a method of measuring how public organizations’ efficacy for the maximum public good, mostly from a political perspective. The concept of good governance is also a key component of managing risk and ensuring compliance from an IT perspective.
  • Certified in the Governance of Enterprise Information Technology (CGEIT): This is a certification that is vendor-neutral, designed for IT staff in large businesses and organizations that are responsible for IT governance.
  • Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA): ISACA is an independent, nonprofit that is “engaged in the development, adoption and use of globally accepted, industry-leading knowledge and practices for information systems.”

What is an IT Governance Framework?

This could have ended up in our key terms, but there are so many different types of IT governance frameworks that it merits its own section.

To put it simply, an IT governance framework is a roadmap that defines the methods used by an organization to implement, manage and report on IT governance within said organization.

The most common IT governance frameworks are:

  • COBIT: This is by far the most popular framework out there. It gives staff a reference of 37 IT processes, with each process defined with process inputs and outputs, objectives, methods to measure performance and more.
  • AS8015-2005: A technical standard developed in Australia and published in 2005, this framework is a 12-page framework that includes six principles for effective IT governance.
  • ISO/IEC 38500:2015: This framework aims to assist those at the top of the organization to better grasp their legal and ethical obligations when it comes to their company’s use of IT.
  • ITIL: Stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library, this framework includes five management best practices from strategy to design that aims to ensure that IT supports core business operations.
  • COSO: From the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission, this framework focuses on more general and less IT-focused processes, with an emphasis on enterprise risk management and fraud deterrence.
  • CMMI: Also known as the Capability Maturity Model Integration framework, this process uses a scale of 1 to 5 to better understand how the organization is performing and maturing over time.
  • FAIR: Also known as the Factor Analysis of Information Risk, this framework has an emphasis on cyber security and risk assessment, with the ultimate goal of making better-informed decisions.

And that’s not the full list of frameworks out there; there are many more IT governance frameworks that offer both a full and partial view of IT governance processes that can be useful when it comes to the application of a solid and effective IT governance process.

What are the Benefits of IT Governance?

IT managers and system administrators know technology like the back of their hands. They work with it day in, and day out and keep up with the latest trends at all times. So, to the administrator, it might seem like adding in an IT governance process is an extra step added to their busy days. However, there are many benefits to IT governance, including:

  • Getting buy-in from stakeholders, partners and customers is never easy, but showing that you have taken the extra step to implement an IT governance plan gives them added assurance that you mean business.
  • Controlling your risks doesn’t come automatically. It has to be studied in a working environment where a standard, replicable process has been implemented. IT governance helps track risks in a controlled experimental environment.
  • Ensure your company is meeting rules and regulations around compliance, so you can reduce risk and eliminate liability.
  • Better align your IT department with the company’s overall business objectives, so they can prioritize their projects better.
  • Better measure performance for your IT department and optimize their processes, so they don’t have to waste time on clunky processes that had previously been in place.

Tips for IT Governance Implementation and Planning

When it comes to IT governance, it’s best to approach the implementation and planning of a great process by understanding that one size does not fit all. Here are some tips to get you started.

  1. Understand what role IT governance is going to play in your organization, whether it be led by the CIOs or at the department level.
  2. Start with one of the templates we defined above. There are many that give you actual steps to take to implement successfully, like the COBIT, which gives inputs, objectives, methods to measure performance and more. (37, to be exact!)
  3. IT staff — once it’s implemented, don’t shy away from participation. It might seem like adding extra steps to your day, but the more you can keep your department aligned with the overall business goals, the less you have to validate your value to the company.

How ProjectManager Helps with IT Governance

Above all else, implementing a proper IT governance process needs to start with buy-in not just from the top, but all the way down. Getting everyone on the same page is what ProjectManager does best.

Need to collaborate with your IT system administrator? ProjectManager gives you cloud-based Gantt charts so you can schedule tasks, assign dependencies, collaborate with your team and track performance on all of it. Since ProjectManager is cloud-based, it also means your IT staff gets an easy rollout, with no implementation or training required. So you can load your tool right in your browser and get back to business.

ProjectManager's Gantt chart
Online Gantt charts make planning and scheduling IT projects a breeze.

ProjectManager is also rife with tracking and reporting tools, so you can always see how IT projects are progressing. Our project dashboard reports project data in real time in easy-to-read charts and graphs. If you’re looking for more traditional reporting, our software has an automated project reporting tool where you can create status reports, variance reports, workload reports and more with just one click.

ProjectManager’s dashboard view, which shows six key metrics on a project
Portfolio dashboards let you track multiple projects at once.

Clunky IT governance processes can set your IT staff back. Oversee optimized performances and analyze risk with ease. ProjectManager is dedicated to giving teams the software they need to plan processes, assign tasks and collaborate effectively. Sign up for our free 30-day trial today.

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