Technical Infrastructure requires specific Governance

By Jelle Wissenburgh

In practice, organizations do too little 'governance' when setting up and developing the Technical Infrastructure. And this has to change!

Technical Infrastructure governance 
IT governance 
Information provision

In many organizations, the Technical Infrastructure is actually the common utility for the information provision. In practice, development and maintenance of the Technical Infrastructure is mainly a matter for the IT department. Given the importance of a well-functioning Technical Infrastructure for the organization, it is actually remarkable that 'the business' is not in some way structurally involved in the (continued) development of the ICT foundation of the organization. This argues for a governance model on the Technical Infrastructure in which the business gets an explicit role

IT departments facilitate the organization with good Technical Infrastructure. To this end, they make annual plans for improvements, innovations and further development to keep this on track. The ICT department independently makes many choices when investing in the design of the Technical Infrastructure.

ICT governance is the set of measures that guarantees transparent decision-making within an organization where ICT is concerned. This ensures that, in addition to meeting legal requirements, ICT adds value to the business, resources are optimally utilized, and risks are controlled. Many organizations have something similar, especially when it comes to the processes and applications used. In practice, however, the business is often only marginally involved in developments related to the central server systems, storage systems and networks. Dialogue -and more often discussion or even argument- only arises when bottlenecks in the Technical Infrastructure (threaten to) arise or when (large) investments are needed. An example: when investing in new Technical Infrastructure, the ICT department thinks about the purchase of Thin Clients. A nice reduction in costs', the IT department thinks, while later it turns out that the business can no longer do video conferencing with its customers. And then all hell breaks loose....

Technical Infrastructure is seen by the organization, precisely because of its technical nature, as something that the technical specialists should take care of. They have to make the choices. In practice, the ICT governance with regard to the Technical Infrastructure is therefore often implemented in a one-sided way. Business is hardly involved and hardly gets involved. And this has to change, because the chosen technology and design of the Technical Infrastructure determines to a large extent:

  • the agility: the ability to change functionality;
  • the scalability: the ability to increase or decrease capacity;
  • the reliability: the degree to which the ICT exhibits predictable desired behavior;
  • robustness: the ability to recover from information provision disruptions at a significant proportion of IT costs.

These non-technical aspects largely determine the success of the Technical Infrastructure, the information provision, and therefore in part the success of the organization as a whole.

Organizations must therefore, as part of IT governance, explicitly provide Technical Infrastructure governance. This governance has the following characteristics:

  • It is the responsibility of both directors and managers and is part of Corporate Governance.
  • It directs, monitors and evaluates the management organization. However, it is not day-to-day management!
  • It is a repetitive process with regular interactions between business, ICT and board. Thus, it is not a one-time event.
  • You derive the governance model for the Technical Infrastructure from the bundled business objectives. These include process goals and activities that link the Technical Infrastructure to characteristics relevant to the information provision and business.

Technical Infrastructure requires specific governance. Yes, it is quite technical, but that does not relieve directors, business managers and IT specialists of the obligation to act together in this. In many organizations this is still a white spot, while there are plenty of best practices, approaches and tooling available to clean up this spot and make your organization's Technical Infrastructure better aligned with your business goals. And what executive doesn't want that!

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