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5 IT Governance Best Practices to Help You Minimize Risk

By: Alan Seal on October 2, 2019

As organizations work to identify their strategic objectives, they sometimes make the mistake of taking technology for granted, assuming that their IT department can implement whatever solutions are needed to meet their goals. Without proper IT governance planning that takes IT infrastructure and capabilities into consideration, companies can expose themselves to substantial risks in the form of security failures, system downtime, and compliance gaps.

What is IT Governance?

Broadly speaking, IT governance refers to the processes implemented to help an organization use its IT resources effectively in pursuit of its goals. It determines how companies evaluate and provision technology as well as the way they implement and use it to generate quantifiable business results. Ideally, IT governance planning functions as a connective tissue that facilitates communication between the people developing and managing technology solutions and the business leaders who are responsible for putting the organization in a position to make use of them.

IT Governance Best Practices

Make IT Essential to Business Strategy

The days of making key organizational decisions without thinking about the role of IT are long gone. Today’s companies depend upon their IT infrastructure to deliver services, gather data, and interact with customers. Without sound IT governance planning that incorporates technology needs and capabilities into major strategic decisions, organizations are likely to put themselves in difficult situations that force them to rethink their IT investments and make significant changes on the fly to meet business objectives. The best path to performance improvement is to lay out a clear plan for how IT-driven business systems are connected with organizational goals. This helps companies maximize their existing resources and identify where transformative change is necessary to put their technology infrastructure in a place to reach their objectives.

Put the Right Team in Place

When organizations don’t have a good IT team overseeing their business systems, they expose themselves to several risks ranging from poorly implemented, inefficient solutions to outright incompetence and frequent human error. In order to minimize risk and build an agile IT department capable of delivering on key strategic goals, they need to have the right people in place. That means ensuring that IT personnel have the skills and experience necessary to design and deploy innovative systems that allow companies to provide better services. Having the right leadership in place is also critical, starting with a Chief Information Officer (CIO) who understands the needs of the organization, the possibilities presented by new technology, and how to strike a balance between current infrastructure needs and future capacity. Without this team in place to provide accurate information and advocate for technology solutions, companies will miss out on innovation and open themselves up to risk since they’re unable to adapt.

Monitor IT Performance

Having the best technology solution in place doesn’t do an organization much good if it doesn’t have a clear idea of what that technology is doing for it. Simply investing in IT business systems is only the first step in a longer journey. If those systems aren’t producing the expected results, then adjustments might be necessary, whether that comes in the form of shifting strategic direction, reevaluating how systems are being used, or bringing in new leadership to implement a different approach. Monitoring IT performance is also an effective means of demonstrating the ROI of technology investments. Knowing whether or not technology solutions are performing up to expectations is a critical part of evaluating broader challenges facing the organization to understand where the real obstacles are located.

Don’t Forget About Compliance

As companies collect and handle more data, it’s more important than ever before for them to carefully monitor their compliance standards at all times. An oversight on compliance matters can not only cause a company to lose customers, but it could also expose them to massive financial risk in the event of a data breach. Unfortunately, the ins and outs of IT compliance are often far too complex for people without a background in the various standards to deal with on their own. Effective IT governance accounts for all the ways in which the way a company handles data or designs and implements security policies so the organization can continue to focus on achieving its goals. This could include developing information security policies and preparing for compliance audits as well as reviewing how future business decisions might impact a company’s compliance status or liabilities.

Make Education a Priority

While it’s easy to get caught up in the technical aspects of IT governance, organizations should not overlook the role of education in mitigating risk. Some of the most damaging downtime events, for example, were the direct result of human error. Cybersecurity experts might get everyone’s attention by talking about the dangers posed by hackers, but they’re also quick to point out that a large percentage of data breaches can be traced back to an innocuous mistake on the part of an employee. A good IT governance strategy needs to emphasize education as a way of minimizing risk, informing employees about standard practices for handling data, processes for accessing network resources, and the use of devices in the workplace.

By implementing these IT governance best practices, organizations can take an important first step toward incorporating their technology infrastructure into a broader business strategy. With data analysis and network capabilities playing such an essential role in the way companies make decisions and service their customers, they can no longer afford to treat IT as just another department that will be able to simply adapt to any changes.

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