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IT Governance: Visibility of IT to the business

IT governance has a bad rap in the data center. But the service management aspect of IT governance actually enables data center managers to streamline operations and tailor resources to better distribute workloads.

Don't be afraid of IT governance – it can be your friend. The term "IT governance" may sound intimidating for those...

who haven't encountered it yet, and it may have less than pleasant connotations for those dealing with the compliance component of IT governance. Although IT governance does include compliance, it's actually much broader in scope.

IT governance can be your

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 friend because it provides IT visibility to the business. Naturally, this is important for the CIO, but it's also important for IT departments, including those of you in the trenches of the data center. So let's take a quick look at what IT governance can mean for data center personnel.

Business value and visibility of IT departments
The first point is visibility and awareness. It's my contention that IT is not fully valued by the business because much of what you do is invisible to your users. It's true that you are extremely visible when there is a problem, but in most cases your users and their managers don't have an appreciation for the effort that goes on behind the scenes to keep things running.

As an analogy, we expect water to come out whenever we turn the spigots in our homes. And honestly, I have never pondered the effort that water company workers must expend every day to deliver the water to us. Nor do I regularly thank my lucky stars for those workers and what they do every day (my apologies to any water company employees reading this). But I still expect my water to flow whenever I need it, and I'm upset when it doesn't. Such is the case with IT in most organizations.

IT governance provides visibility on several levels. First, it can capture the dollar value of IT services used by different groups or constituents in your company. Although most companies don't chargeback their services to departments or divisions, there is tremendous value in reporting the value of the services used -- making managers aware of the dollar value of IT services consumed.

Without this visibility, IT services are viewed as "free" resources. As a result, they are not valued or conserved as they should be. If you never receive a bill for electricity and gas, how differently would you treat that service? You probably wouldn't turn off your lights or turn back the thermostat a few degrees during the cold months, putting a significant strain on electric company resources.

But increased management awareness of the IT resources they are using is a good first step. Although cost does not have a direct relationship to value, it still provides a sense of value.

IT service management and governance
Another level of visibility is service request or service catalog solutions that can capture the demand for IT services. They provide a connection point and bridge across service management and IT governance.

Users request IT services from these solutions, which in turn are fulfilled by IT. But most importantly, the demand for IT services is captured in the process. Such visibility into the demand for IT services can be eye opening, allowing IT leaders to appropriately staff the department based on demand, as well as offer the correct mix of IT services.

Armed with a better understanding of demand, IT managers can deploy project and portfolio management solutions to help prioritize IT projects based on their value to the business. So, rather than running off to do every project that sounds like a good idea, there's a way to sort through them to choose the best ones for IT to focus on.

Using governance to determine resources
Governance can also reveal resource usage issues. This directly affects data center personnel because it takes into account resource capacity and skills. As task or job assignments pile up, IT governance can provide visibility into resource issues, which enables data center managers to reallocate workloads, provide justification for additional staff funding, or choose to eliminate services.

Several of the large management vendors like HP, CA and IBM offer IT governance components. They are building these solutions through a combination of acquisitions and organically grown solutions. Additionally, they are continuing their work on integrations among their IT governance components, their service management solutions and their operational solutions.

There is a lot going on in IT governance, making it an area to pay attention to. And perhaps you'll find a new friend in it. To share your thoughts on IT governance, send me an email at arasmussen@ptaknoelassociates.com.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Audrey Rasmussen has over 28 years of IT experience. She served as vice president at Enterprise Management Associates, a systems engineer at IBM, and co-authored the Network World Fusion Network and Systems Management newsletter for several years. Audrey is currently an analyst at Ptak, Noel & Associate.

This was last published in September 2007

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