The phenomenal increase of technology development, deployment and growth has given rise to a new emerging area known as information and communication technologies (ICT). In many countries including India, governments are exploring the potential of ICT to create new dimensions in economic and social progress. For example, the Indian railway’s online passenger reservation system, web enabled portals for the Right to Information (RTI) act provide information related to various government schemes, legislations, etc., are some examples of ICT applications deployment in public services.
The pervasive use of technology in ICT projects has resulted in a critical dependency on IT shifts with specific focus on IT governance. Governance refers to leadership and organizational structures and processes that ensure IT sustains itself while extending the organization’s strategy and objectives. Therefore, IT projects in public sector have extensive requirements and goals because here IT plays the role of fulfilling economic and political objectives.
Most of the best practices in ICT governance are developed to improve transparency and accountability and for reducing cost. Governance in IT also applies to all types of organizations (government, corporate and non-governmental organizations). Governance in ICT is essential for efficiency and to organize resources for the next growth of IT developments, keeping in view the costs and budgets for ICT projects. The importance and need for governance in ICT is due to the following reasons:
- The role of IT is pivotal in achieving business or socio-economic objectives
- Helps the organization to overcome IT risks
- Creates awareness of ICT in public services
- Reduces cost in service delivery
Due to these reasons ICT governance is becoming critical in organizations and hence an effective governance approach must first identify answers to three key questions:
- What are the decisions required to ensure effective use and management of IT?
- Who makes these decisions in the organization?
- How can these decisions be implemented and monitored easily?
In ICT governance, decisions are highly important. Normally, IT decisions involves the role of management in IT objectives, architecture, business application requirements, infrastructure and investment. These important decision areas support organizations to understand whether their IT is able of deliver expected business needs along with resource management, performance and alignment. Therefore governance in IT is not just an IT management function instead, it is an ongoing activity with specific focus on enhancing and controlling IT for the benefit of primary stakeholders, customers and employees. Governance is the ultimate responsibility of the senior management or Board of Directors to ensure IT is adequately owned and used in the organization.
Developing and implementing ICT governance principles involves addressing a number of process issues practically. Some of the best practices or critical success factors in ICT governance initiatives are summarized below:
- Enterprise wide IT approach should be adopted. IT along with business units must define all requirements and controls (in-house and external). A more cohesive approach to implementing governance will ensure clear understanding and approval of all involved parties on policies or directions and the scope of ICT in the organization.
- Accountability and top level commitment. The management responsibilities and accountabilities must be clearly defined in the organization. ICT governance can be successful when there is clear direction and objectives from the executives or Board.
- A framework for IT controls should be developed and required in the organization. This framework will be developed through consensus, by defining IT processes and controls required for managing the IT function effectively. Here again the processes in governance must be enterprise wide and not confined to IT functions. It is also important for the management to create awareness with all members involved in the organization so the objectives are understood and the practices are adhered to fully.
- Gain trust internally and externally for IT functions. Trust is gained by aligning IT services with customer requirements. Here the IT Head or the CIO assumes center stage for developing awareness programs, workshops and acts as a link between business and IT.
- Performance measurement in IT. In this practice, performance metrics are established on business terms and approved by stakeholders. This is a good approach to raise awareness of IT governance initiatives.
- Costs play a big role ICT governance programs. ICT projects offer opportunities for financial savings when the project is implemented fully and when users are satisfied. Financial savings in the organization provide support and open new potential for more ICT projects.
ICT services are deployed to allow improved delivery of organizational objectives and goals. ICT governance structures are made to analyze and evaluate ICT investments, provide architectural guidance and guarantees quality assurance in projects. Governance best practices also helps the organization to monitor IT alignment with business, provides strategic directions for managing ICT investments and leadership.