The Drive to Structured IT Management

IT management is at a crossroads as dramatic as the advent of distributed computing. Innovations in discovery and the striking rise of the configuration management database will help integrate and rationalize disparate and overlapping investments in IT tools. Check your progress toward an evolved strategy.

The Dossier

Turn IT Resources Toward Strategic Business Advantage

The good news: IT expectations continue to rise. The hard part is that those expectations must be met. Doing so has become nearly impossible for organizations that have little ability to track investments, account for the time spent on projects or measure the true business value generated by their applications. To improve business/IT alignment and enable CIOs to "take the reins" of their vast herd of information resources, organizations need to explore the potential of emerging industry best practices, tools for project and portfolio management (PPM) and other solutions that fall under the category of "IT governance."

Get out of reactive mode. Regulatory compliance, security and other demands for business performance accountability put pressure on the IT function. The only way out is to employ tools to improve IT executives' business understanding of resource allocation and the value of current and future investments.

Send more IT to outside service providers to handle business processes. While some organizations see contracting with third-party services and offshore providers as the economic silver bullet, many are discovering that IT governance is essential to managing disparate resources and avoiding a global IT quagmire.

Develop process models that extend service-level management (SLM) gains. For PPM tools to support IT governance, businesses need to understand and model IT processes. IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) offers guidance. Other industry standards programs such as COBIT and CMMI merit similar attention.

The inertia of existing systems stalls IT governance and SLM. Few organizations can just move off of old systems; they must retire them gracefully. However, gaining a higher-level view should allow you to reap full value while modernizing.

Best practices adoption involves changing behavior. Mature organizations have trouble conforming processes and practices to new tools, much less whole new methodologies. Don't forget the people issues.

Success with service orientation calls for "agile" governance. Governance is critical to making service-oriented architecture (SOA) work well and support end-to-end processes. But with business agility a major goal of SOA, governance has to anticipate change, not impede it.

Graduate from isolated, "silo" management to integrated, structural management. Particularly in the wake of mergers and acquisitions, businesses count on IT managers to rise above proprietary or domain-centric tools and move toward a strategic, business-oriented perspective.

Consider ITIL and configuration management. ITIL best practices, fused with configuration database technology, could deliver a common management platform--and a competitive IT advantage.

Apply governance to overall risk management. Security, privacy and regulatory pressures are major drivers of IT governance. With an enterprise view, you can make necessity the mother of invention.

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Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
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Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing