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IT governance and IT processes

by andrew.clifford In reply to Minimal IT

<p>Current IT governance frameworks such as COBIT
focus on IT's internal processes. Governance can be made even more
effective by including metrics structured around systems.</p><p>At <a href="http://www.metrici.com/">Metrici</a>, we have been comparing our system governance approach with <a href="http://www.isaca.org/cobit">COBIT</a>, which is probably the most widely adopted framework for IT governance.</p><p>COBIT is very broad, and system governance is not a replacement, but complementary. Our <a href="http://www.metrici.com/metrici_advisor.html">Metrici Advisor</a> product can be used to capture, analyse and report on many of the key metrics that COBIT uses.</p><p>But
there is a difference in emphasis between COBIT and system governance.
COBIT is arranged around IT's internal processes, and system governance
is arranged around systems.</p><p>The focus on process is absolutely
appropriate to ensure that the IT function works effectively. But an
exclusively process-based approach has drawbacks.</p><ul><li> The approach is too inward looking. It over-emphasises IT
functional activities (such as ensuring IT staff are properly trained,
or how well IT suppliers are monitored) at the expense of the IT
deliverable - viable, working systems that deliver valuable business
benefit.</li><li> It requires a reasonably high degree of process maturity. Without
this, most organisations find it hard to understand and adopt a
governance approach structured around processes.</li><li> It does not suggest where to direct action. It may identify, for
example, that disaster recovery is generally weak and that testing is
generally strong. But it does not highlight which systems actually need
better disaster recovery, or which systems buck the trend and have weak
testing. As a result, it tends to suggest broad "IT initiatives" rather
than focussed individual improvements.</li><li> It makes little sense outside IT. In fairness to COBIT, most of
its measures are externally relevant system qualities or relate to the
broader business. However, it presents these measures structured around
internal IT processes, and not around things the rest of organisation
understands.</li></ul><p>System governance redresses this balance. It focuses on the
outcome of IT processes, as shown in the capabilities and qualities of
the systems. It does not require a high degree of process maturity. It
directly suggests where to act. And it makes sense outside IT because
it presents IT issues structured around systems that are familiar to
the broader organisation.</p><p>System governance still allows you to
view measures by process. But an exclusively process-based approach
does not allow you to view measures by system because the underlying
facts are not gathered per system.</p><p>If you use a process-based
framework like COBIT, consider using system governance within it. This
will help you distinguish between externally significant outcomes and
internal working practices. It will help you make the figures relevant
and understandable outside IT. Our comparison found that 60% of COBIT's
key metrics relate to systems and can be captured, analysed and
presented using a system governance approach. (Of the remainder, 20%
are general IT-business relationship measures, and 20% are measures of
internal IT practices.)</p><p>If you do not use a governance framework,
you can use system governance anyway. Unlike COBIT, it does not aim to
give you control and assurance of IT's internal processes. But it will
give you many of the same measures you need to manage IT effectively,
at a fraction of the cost of a full process-based governance framework.</p><p><em>To find out more about Metrici's approach to system governance, read our whitepaper <a href="http://www.metrici.com/whitepaper_missing_link.html">System governance: the missing link in IT governance</a>.</em></p><em>? Copyright 2006 Minimal IT Ltd. See the <a href="http://www.minimalit.com/">Minimal IT website</a> for the <a href="http://www.minimalit.com/newsletters/2006-05-16-it_governance_and_it_processes.htm">original newsletter</a> and <a href="http://www.minimalit.com/copyright.htm">copyright information</a>.</em>

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Outsourcing, governance, and nursery school

by andrew.clifford In reply to Minimal IT

<strong>To govern outsourcing you need
to establish service levels, check the supplier's development skills,
and negotiate costs. But how can you make sure that the supplier will
maintain and improve the systems?</strong><br /><br />What do you look for in a good nursery school (preschool)?<ul><li>
Service. You need to find a nursery that is open for the days and hours
that you need your children looked after. There is no point in a
nursery that does not open until 9am if you need to be in work for 8:30.</li><li>
Development. You want your child to learn and develop. You need to
check that the nursery staff are qualified, and can help your child to
learn and grow in basic skills.</li><li> Cost. And you need to understand how much it will cost.</li></ul>But
these are not the most important. What's really important is that your
child will be looked after well, and given the care and love and
attention that you would give them if you were looking after them
yourself. In comparison, the other factors hardly matter at all.If you decide to outsource your IT, you need to look for similar things.<ul><li>
Service. You need to understand what service you will get from the
outsourcer. You can use tools like service level agreements (SLAs) to
define and then track performance against service targets.</li><li>
Development. If the outsourcer is going to provide development
services, you need to know that they are competent. You can ask for
evidence, such as an assessment against the Capability Maturity Model
Integration (CMMI), which measures the maturity of an organisation's
system development processes.</li><li> Cost. And of course you will negotiate costs.</li></ul>Important though these are, they miss one vital element.<br /><br />If
you have entrusted the care of your system to an outsourcer, how do you
know they will look after it? Will they keep the documentation
up-to-date? Will they upgrade the databases to the latest versions?
Will the code be as well structured and documented as when you gave it
them, or even improved? Will there be up-to-date test packs? Will the
system still comply with all necessary regulations? Will the system be
as efficient as it can be? Would it be easy for you to take the system
back if you had to?<br /><br />These questions are critical. They determine
how well the system can support day-to-day business. They make a big
difference to how easy it is to change the system. They dictate how
long the system will last. Without care and attention, systems regress
in all these areas. If you have outsourced your systems (or even if you
have not), what have you put in place to manage this?<br /><br />System
governance can answer these questions. System governance is a framework
for gathering and analysing this information, so that you can monitor
these system characteristics. Just like an SLA, it is a way of setting
targets for your service provider.
But it goes much further than an SLA. It looks beyond short-term
service delivery measures, into every corner of your system's well
being. It's a way of checking that your systems are giggling and
smiling, and not crying quietly in the corner.<br /><br /><em>To find out more about Metrici's approach to system governance, read our whitepaper <a href="http://www.metrici.com/whitepaper_missing_link.html">System governance: the missing link in IT governance</a>.<br /><br /></em><em>? Copyright 2006 Minimal IT Ltd. See the <a href="http://www.minimalit.com">Minimal IT website</a> for the <a href="http://www.minimalit.com/newsletters/2006-05-23-outsourcing_governance_and_nursery_school.htm">original newsletter</a> and <a href="http://www.minimalit.com/copyright.htm">copyright information</a>.</em>

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Is system governance agile?

by andrew.clifford In reply to Minimal IT

There are surprising similarities between system governance and agile methods. Although they address different problems, they share many core values.<p><div class="blogdisclaim"><a href="http://www.minimalit.com/newsletters/2006-04-04-is_system_governance_agile.htm">This post originally appeared on an external website</a></div>

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IT stewardship

by andrew.clifford In reply to Minimal IT

To get closer to the business, IT must recognise and promote its role as stewards of the business' IT systems.<p><div class="blogdisclaim"><a href="http://www.minimalit.com/newsletters/2006-04-11-it_stewardship.htm">This post originally appeared on an external website</a></div>

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System governance: less is more

by andrew.clifford In reply to Minimal IT

To gain the benefits of system governance, you only need simple materials, processes and tools. Anything more complicated would get in the way.<p><div class="blogdisclaim"><a href="http://www.minimalit.com/newsletters/2006-04-18-system_governance_less_is_more.htm">This post originally appeared on an external website</a></div>

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System governance: nobody's problem is everybody's problem

by andrew.clifford In reply to Minimal IT

System governance solves problems that affect everyone in IT. But it is hard to position system governance because few people are directly responsible for solving the problems.<p><div class="blogdisclaim"><a href="http://www.minimalit.com/newsletters/2006-04-25-system_governance_nobodys_problem_is_everybodys_problem.htm">This post originally appeared on an external website</a></div>

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Why you really need a list of systems

by andrew.clifford In reply to Minimal IT

Writing a single, definitive list of the IT systems within your organisation is a simple task that can deliver significant long term benefits.<p><div class="blogdisclaim"><a href="http://www.minimalit.com/newsletters/2006-05-02-why_you_really_need_a_list_of_systems.htm">This post originally appeared on an external website</a></div>

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Risk management and system governance

by andrew.clifford In reply to Minimal IT

IT risk management overlooks critical long-term risks. With system governance, you can identify and manage these risks.<p><div class="blogdisclaim"><a href="http://www.minimalit.com/newsletters/2006-05-09-risk_management_and_system_governance.htm">This post originally appeared on an external website</a></div>

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What does your website say about you?

by andrew.clifford In reply to Minimal IT

Simple, direct websites work. Complicated, vague websites fail.<br /><br />The web is indispensable to <a target="_blank" href="http://www.metrici.com/">Metrici</a>.
Many IT specialists see their web presence as an optional extra - the
thing to do - somewhere to publish a brochure. We are different. We
have captured our specialist knowledge in our product <a target="_blank" href="http://www.metrici.com/metrici_advisor.html">Metrici Advisor</a>.
We deliver Metrici Advisor as a service over the web. The web-based
service costs much less than traditional consultancy. Our website is
our product. It is our competitive advantage.<br /><br />We needed to think hard about our web presence. We looked at other businesses, to see what they do.<ul><li>
We looked at the websites of two leading suppliers of testing tools.
The home page of the self-proclaimed "Leader in IT value" took over 50
seconds (on dial-up) to load. What for? To show an animated hand. The
other one took 25 seconds to ask what country I was from, and show me a
picture of skyscrapers. 25 seconds later, I got a moving graph with the
name of their product on it. Both sites took around 360k of network
traffic, just to enter the site. Would you buy performance tuning tools
from these people?</li><li> We looked at the website of a company that
provides IT management tools over the web. They proudly explain how
much cheaper a hosted service is than an in-house solution. But they
don't actually tell you their prices.</li><li> We looked at a local IT
consultancy. Their home page says, "To see how we can help you deliver
your business vision more effectively, please take some time to explore
this site." Evidently they have no idea what they would like to tell me
about themselves. But they considerately warn me that finding out for
myself might take some time. And they do have a nice picture of a
motorway.</li></ul>These sites are typical. None of them get their
message across simply and directly. Perhaps they are not sure of their
message. Perhaps they can't explain it. Perhaps they're trying to hide
something. Maybe they believe they can entice readers to their site
with pictures of skyscrapers, and then bewilder them into buying.<br /><br />To stand out, we needed to be different. We adopted two rules:<ul><li>
Be simple. Use a straightforward text-based layout. Don't have
irrelevant pictures of skyscrapers, motorways, or hands. Don't have
anything that moves.</li><li> Be direct. Explain how we deliver value, and what our products are. Publish our prices. Give the reader a call to action.</li></ul>It
is a high-risk strategy. We may look amateurish - as if we lacked the
skill or money to build a proper "professional" website. It is true
that we are not visual design experts. It is true that we don't like to
spend money unless we understand what value it brings. But these are
not the real reasons behind our approach. Our real reason is that we
need a website that reflects our simple and direct approach to IT
management.<br /><br />What does your website say about you?<br /><br /><em>? Copyright 2006 Minimal IT Ltd. See the <a target="_blank" href="http://www.minimalit.com/">Minimal IT website</a> for the <a target="_blank" href="http://www.minimalit.com/newsletters/2006-05-30-what_does_your_website_say_about_you.htm">original newsletter</a> and <a target="_blank" href="http://www.minimalit.com/copyright.htm">copyright information</a>.</em>

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Hard choices make good websites

by andrew.clifford In reply to Minimal IT

<p class="firstpara">To make your website simple and direct you
have to focus on a simple message. You can't be all things to all
people. You have to make hard choices about what to leave out.</p>
<p>Your website needs to focus on</p>
<ul><li>what products you offer</li><li>what customers you target</li><li>what benefits your products will bring</li><li>the call to action for your website visitors.</li></ul>
<p>You need a short list of things to include, and a long list of
things to leave out.</p>
<p>To show you what I mean, here is the short list of what the

<a target="_blank" href="http://www.metrici.com/">Metrici</a> website includes.</p>
<ul><li>We offer a web-based tool (<a target="_blank" href="http://www.metrici.com/metrici_advisor.html">Metrici Advisor</a&gt
that supports a method for long-term management of IT systems
(<a target="_blank" href="http://www.metrici.com/whitepaper_missing_link.html">System
Governance</a&gt.</li><li>We target IT managers in end-user organisations, who have
responsibility for the long-term management of multiple IT
systems.</li><li>We present how our products "answer your questions" about the
state of your systems and the actions required to improve their
long-term effectiveness.</li><li>We invite our readers to take a 30-day free trial of our
product.</li></ul>
<p>Here is the long list of what we could say but leave out.</p>
<ul><li>We do not offer our more general consultancy services in system
<a target="_blank" href="http://blogs.ittoolbox.com/pm/minimalit/archives/hard-choices-make-good-websites-9701#" class="iAs">governance</a>.</li><li>We do not explain how Metrici Advisor can support assessments
and evaluations in other subjects.</li><li>We do not offer Metrici Advisor as packaged <a target="_blank" href="http://blogs.ittoolbox.com/pm/minimalit/archives/hard-choices-make-good-websites-9701#" class="iAs">software</a>.</li><li>We do not target project managers, who could use Metrici
Advisor as a tool for reducing cost and risk in a single
project.</li><li>We do not target other IT consultancies, who could incorporate
our products into their services, to deliver more value to their
customers.</li><li>We do not present how Metrici Advisor could be used as a
product configuration tool.</li><li>We gloss over how much cheaper our products are than using
human experts to assess every project.</li><li>We miss out how our products can help manage outsourcing
contracts.</li><li>We do not cover how our products can support IT restructuring
after mergers or acquisitions.</li><li>We do not cover how our products can help regulatory
compliance.</li><li>We do not explain how system governance can add to company
valuations by quantifying the asset value of <a target="_blank" href="http://blogs.ittoolbox.com/pm/minimalit/archives/hard-choices-make-good-websites-9701#" class="iAs">business</a> systems.</li><li>We do not stress that we are happy for potential customers to
contact us and arrange a face-to-face discussion.</li><li>We omit to mention that anyone can use a guest logon to our
service, to have a quick look round.</li></ul>
<p>Deciding what to leave out is really hard. You have to miss out
some of the best parts of your products. You have to ignore some
customers. You have to omit some benefits. You have to cut down the
options for what your readers do next.</p>
<p>Having a clear, simple focus makes your website easy for your
readers to follow. You will lose a few readers because of what you
have missed out. But you will retain many more.</p>
<p>It is tempting to leave all the content in, and let the readers
choose for themselves. But they will not choose. They will see your
website as vague and confused, and leave. If you want an effective
website, you must make hard choices.</p>
<em>? Copyright 2006 Minimal IT Ltd. See the <a target="_blank" href="http://www.minimalit.com/">Minimal IT website</a> for the <a target="_blank" href="http://www.minimalit.com/newsletters/2006-06-06-hard_choices_make_good_websites.htm">original newsletter</a> and <a target="_blank" href="http://www.minimalit.com/copyright.htm">copyright information</a>.</em>

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