What is IT Governance, and Why You Need It?

WalkMe Team
By WalkMe Team
Updated November 16, 2023

IT Governance (ITG) is a framework that provides a formal structure for organizations to align their IT strategy with their business objectives. 

It encompasses processes that ensure the effective and efficient use of IT to achieve organizational goals. This includes decision-making processes, such as evaluating and prioritizing IT investments, and oversight processes, such as implementing and managing IT systems. 

While IT management looks after the day-to-day success of technology, the IT governance team makes decisions about the acquisition, use, and value of technologies. When implemented effectively, IT governance ensures that a company’s technological investments align seamlessly with its business objectives. 

This process necessitates a deep understanding and expertise, underscoring the importance of specialized knowledge and experience in its successful execution.

Business leaders have been excited about the possibilities of digital transformation for years, and with the advent of AI, transformation challenges will continue to be on the agenda of all leadership teams. 

IT governance is a well-established discipline, but in 2023, it is not always effective. For 2023, Gartner’s analysis suggested that IT governance would be one of the most important items for auditors. 

This article aims to illuminate these core principles, providing a comprehensive understanding that can help steer strategic decision-making. 

It will: 

  • Define IT governance; 
  • Explain why IT governance is so important for today’s organizations; 
  • Introduce some of the most common and reliable IT governance frameworks.

While a single article may not fully encapsulate the expansive realm of enterprise IT governance, it can certainly serve as a robust starting point. 

What is IT governance?

IT governance is a wide-ranging business practice that regulates and monitors all aspects of technology within a business. 

The core aims for IT governance include_ (1)

The core aims for IT governance include:

  • Aligning IT systems with business objectives through procurement, implementation, and monitoring.
  • Ensuring best practices for IT in organizational structure and accountability hierarchies.
  • Managing the risks of emerging technology.

In 2023, IT governance is more important than ever. The rapid growth of hype technologies like Web3 and AI have challenged traditional risk management frameworks. For example, the rise of shadow AI has shown how IT governance can defend business goals from new and unpredictable risks.

Responsibility for the IT governance process usually takes place within a specialized committee. 

Their visible actions often include governance activities such as:

  • Asset management
  • IT audits
  • Enterprise architecture
  • Supplier management
  • Data security and data management
  • IT risk assessments
  • IT strategy
  • Quality assurance

Although these are common features of IT governance committees, they are not universal, and activities will depend on the precise business needs of an organization. 

Organizing IT governance is very complex. As a result, it is often regulated by an industry-standard IT governance framework such as ITIL, COBIT, and the ISO/EIC standards. Experts in the field can get certifications in these libraries that ensure their skills are up to date.

You may have realized that IT governance isn’t the same as IT management or data governance, even though they are parts of IT governance. While IT governance is part of the overall corporate governance, it is not the same.

Why you need IT governance

Why you need IT governance

IT governance is essential for providing a good ROI from technology investments. 

This section introduces five ways that strong governance processes can help achieve that. 

IT governance allows you to acquire the most suitable technology, establish responsibility structures, ensure legal compliance, and minimize risks, thereby reducing your expenses.

Purchasing the right technology

It’s tough to make informed decisions about which IT solutions to invest in. Without a structured IT governance framework, organizations risk purchasing technology that doesn’t align with their business goals or lacks compatibility with existing systems.

IT governance streamlines the technology selection and procurement process, helping businesses make savvy decisions that boost innovation and efficiency. This helps them stay ahead while also being cost-effective.

Hierarchies of accountability

In complex IT environments, establishing clear hierarchies of accountability is essential. Without IT governance, responsibilities and decision-making authority can become blurred, leading to inefficiencies, conflicts, and potentially costly mistakes.

IT governance provides a structured framework for defining roles and responsibilities within the organization, ensuring that everyone understands their part in managing IT resources and processes. 

IT governance enhances operational efficiency and fosters a culture of transparency and responsibility by establishing these accountability hierarchies.

Achieve legal compliance

Adherence to regulations for data privacy, security, and industry-specific requirements is non-negotiable. 

IT governance plays a pivotal role in helping organizations achieve regulatory compliance. It provides the necessary structure and policies to ensure IT processes and systems align with relevant laws and regulations. 

Implementing IT governance practices can help organizations prevent expensive fines and legal repercussions and foster trust with customers and stakeholders. A robust IT governance system serves as a vital protective measure.

Reduce Risks

Implementing effective governance practices enables organizations to pinpoint, evaluate, and reduce potential IT-related risks, ranging from cybersecurity threats to operational disruptions. This holistic risk management approach protects sensitive data and critical systems and bolsters resilience against unforeseen challenges.

IT governance provides a structured framework for risk assessment, compliance monitoring, and incident response planning, enabling businesses to navigate the digital landscape with greater confidence. 

Ultimately, it’s a strategic investment in risk reduction that ensures the stability and longevity of an organization’s technology functions.

Reduce Costs

There are numerous ways to achieve IT Cost reduction

With an effective governance framework, businesses can identify inefficiencies in IT processes, streamline resource allocation, and minimize wasteful spending. 

IT governance ensures that investments in technology are aligned with business needs and strategies through enforcing policies and standards. Well-planned and aligned with strategic objectives.

Moreover, it helps identify opportunities for cost reduction, whether through automation, consolidation, or better procurement practices. In essence, IT governance isn’t just about managing IT; it’s about optimizing IT-related expenses to free up resources for innovation and growth.

IT governance frameworks: a key to successful governance implementation

As we’ve seen, there’s a whole range of great reasons why IT governance should be implemented quickly and effectively. But how can you introduce IT governance processes that actively support your business goals? One of the best ways is to borrow a governance structure from an existing library. To do so is far more effective than any other

  • Build on tried and tested best practices
  • Establish and understand key metrics
  • Achieve consistency in a complex organizational system
  • Prepare for change and scaling
  • Alignment with vendor methods.
Some of the more well-known and popular IT governance frameworks include: 

Some of the more well-known and popular IT governance frameworks include: 

  • ITIL (information technology infrastructure library) is a framework for IT service management that guides organizations in delivering and supporting IT services aligned with business needs.
  • COBIT. (Control Objectives for Information and Related Technologies) is a comprehensive framework that helps organizations align IT with business objectives, manage risks, and ensure compliance.
  • ISO/IEC 27001 is an international standard for information security management, providing a systematic approach to safeguarding sensitive information.
  • COSO (Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission) offers frameworks for internal controls, risk management, and enterprise risk management, helping organizations assess and manage risks across their operations, including IT.

These frameworks could be combined with other management approaches, such as agile IT governance, to ensure they fit appropriately into organizational culture.

Safeguard your investments with IT governance

A 2022 insight from McKinsey emphasized that merely investing in new technology does not assure its successful performance. The report also highlighted how decision-making bodies frequently grapple with finding the most effective approach to adopting technology.

The explanation from McKinsey demonstrates how an effective IT governance plan is crucial for IT value creation. 

Whether you want to harness new technology or simply manage the risks of the old methods, IT governance is one of the best tools you can use.

WalkMe Team
By WalkMe Team
WalkMe pioneered the Digital Adoption Platform (DAP) for organizations to utilize the full potential of their digital assets. Using artificial intelligence, machine learning and contextual guidance, WalkMe adds a dynamic user interface layer to raise the digital literacy of all users.