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REVIEW: "IT Governance", Peter Weill/Jeanne W. Ross

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  • Rob, grandpa of Ryan, Trevor, Devon & Ha
    BKITGOVR.RVW 20070105 IT Governance , Peter Weill/Jeanne W. Ross, 2004, 1-59139-253-5, U$35.00 %A Peter Weill %A Jeanne W. Ross %C 60 Harvard Way,
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 14, 2007
      BKITGOVR.RVW 20070105

      "IT Governance", Peter Weill/Jeanne W. Ross, 2004, 1-59139-253-5,
      %A Peter Weill
      %A Jeanne W. Ross
      %C 60 Harvard Way, Boston MA 02163
      %D 2004
      %G 1-59139-253-5
      %I Harvard Business School Press
      %O U$35.00 617-495-6700 800-545-7685 http://www.hbsp.harvard.edu
      %O http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1591392535/robsladesinterne
      %O http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/1591392535/robsladesin03-20
      %O Audience a- Tech 1 Writing 1 (see revfaq.htm for explanation)
      %P 267 p.
      %T "IT Governance"

      The preface promotes IT (Information Technology) governance, but is
      vague on what that might be. It also talks about decision rights (who
      gets to influence or make the decision), IT architecture (though the
      book only later notes that this involves integration and the creation
      of standards), and business strategies.

      Chapter one does give (and repeats in different places) the definition
      that IT governance specifies the decision rights and accountability
      framework that will encourage proper behaviour in using IT. Thus,
      governance is not about specific decisions as such, but entails the
      factors regarding who determines and contributes to decisions. (The
      OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) provides
      that corporate governance is a structure for determining
      organizational objectives and monitoring performance and progress
      towards them. The book suggests that effective governance arises from
      factors involving what decisions ensure effective management, who
      makes those decisions, and how the decisions are made and monitored.)
      Concerning the encouragement of proper behaviour, certain management
      structures will suit certain activities. For example, the need for
      innovation is not supported by a requirement that business units carry
      the entire capital cost of infrastructure demanded by new
      technologies, whereas assistance from the corporation as a whole (plus
      the ability to charge other departments that come to use the new
      tools) encourage such developments.

      There is frequent confusion in regard to the term governance and what
      differentiates it from management. Chapter two notes that management
      might be said to increase direct performance, while governance may,
      through analysis, redirect activities to great effect. (In a sense
      this only moves the question back one level: this simply seems to be
      the distinction between strategic and operational management.) The
      text also notes that five basic classes of decisions must be made in
      IT: principles, architecture, infrastructure, business application
      needs, and the priorizing of investment. However, the examples given
      are not particularly helpful: it is clear why one set of IT principles
      and policies might support certain given business objectives, but not
      why they might be chosen over others. Principles should, according to
      the book, clarify the desired operating model, IT's support for the
      model, and the IT funding structure: the examples given definitely
      don't illuminate financial support. Infrastructure is defined as the
      common (long-term) services supporting an activity: whether utilities,
      data, or human capital. There is little of use in the discussion of
      business needs, and most of the investment material is quite generic.

      Chapter three lists six governance archetypes, where decisions are
      made by executive management, IT management, business unit management,
      a consensus of executive and business unit management, a consensus of
      IT and business unit management, and anarchy. A grid is created
      noting (from survey data) which of these archetypes has input to, or
      decision power over, five IT decision areas. There is little useful
      analysis, and a few case studies. Types of decision-making mechanisms
      are catalogued and discussed in chapter four. Three basic types are
      the basis for the outline, decision-making structures (such as
      committees and teams), alignment processes (policy audits), and
      communications. Chapter five is an attempt to assess what type of IT
      governance works best, but the means are questionable and the
      appraisal is weak. The raw data seems to indicate that it is best to
      obtain input from executive management and the business units, but
      that decisions are best left to IT management. As this runs counter
      to common business practice, the text tries to suggest alternative
      models. Case studies in chapters six are presented as linking
      strategy, IT governance and performance. The links are weak, and
      similar stories in chapter seven do little to explain distinctive
      governance issues for government and not-for-profit organizations.
      The leadership principles suggested for IT governance in chapter eight
      are generic, and unrelated to the research or analysis cited in the
      prior material.

      Some of the figures and illustrations (such as the governance
      arrangements matrix) are helpful and explanatory while others (like
      the governance design framework) are of little use.

      The writing in the book is not engaging. The material presented is
      true, but not compelling, and is slow to develop. Content is repeated
      in later chapters or sections, usually with expansion, but the lack of
      initial development leaves the reader wondering if anything of value
      is going to be said or done. There is some merit in the deliberation
      that this work makes on management, decisions, and sources of input,
      but there would have been greater worth in compressing the few ideas
      into fewer pages.

      copyright Robert M. Slade, 2007 BKITGOVR.RVW 20070105

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