Waltzing with the Elephant
Review by Julie Garland McLellan
From time to time every board will have to make a decision on a topic that none of the individual directors knows much about. These decisions are stressful; no director likes to be totally reliant upon management or consultants. There is often insufficient time for a proper education process and, apart from getting alternative quotes and seeking information about how comparable companies are dealing with the issue, directors often take the line of least resistance and accept management’s recommendation.
IT is one of the most frequent topics where this problem seems to occur. Directors feel pressure to follow the crowd, buy the software everyone else is buying and keep the IT department happy. Purchase decisions, once made, are often then reviewed in terms of achievement of budget expectations, implementation within the planned time frame and ability to do what the software vendor claimed it would do. There is little to guide boards on how to manage their IT demand and thus they fall back upon managing IT supply.
This book puts the board firmly in control of the demand side of the IT equation.
Effective governance will never be achieved by applying a generic framework. This is as true of whole corporations as it is of the IT investments that they make. Effective governance requires an investment in understanding the issues then making proper risk reward decisions to optimise the outcomes. This book helps boards to understand the crucial issues affecting their use of information technology and provides a mechanism for evaluating potential courses of action.
It is written by an expert with a deep appreciation of IT and a thorough understanding of standards based governance. The language is precise, and hence quite dense, but very amenable to non-techno-savvy readers. The ideas are pure gold. This book should help to put readers back in command of their IT strategies. It will also be of some help to IT professionals who sell in the boardroom or who are required to brief the board on IT related issues.
The book introduces the concepts of IT demand and supply and demonstrates how each is affected by organisational change. A rational framework for identifying the type of business need is postulated and this, alone, would simplify strategic IT investment decision-making. Coupled with the standards driven and strategic insights, the framework brings clarity to a needlessly arcane science. This book will help boards to move from grappling with IT to confidently waltzing with IT.
* Julie Garland McLellan is a governance and board consultant. She is a professional non-executive director and an AICD NSW Councillor. She is the author of “All Above Board: Great Governance for the Government Sector” and is currently working on her second book “All Above Board: Great Governance of Strategy and Risk”. Her newsletter “The Directors’ Dilemma” is read in 23 countries and her training manual “Presenting to Boards” has recently been released in eBook format.