To Steer or to Strategize –Differences between IT Steering Committees and IT Strategy Committees

Yes ‘decision by committee’ is often negatively associated with non-essential, seemingly off-target, purposeless meetings.  Agreed (sometimes) – meetings for the sake of meetings is unproductive and a waste of a valuable resource…TIME.  But if you think about meetings conceptually, meetings are actually the organizational thread – a venue for intellectual property (a.k.a. knowledge) that becomes a strategic asset for organizations.   So then, I propose it is the actual structuring of people – knowledge embodied individuals – within the organization that is truly compromising (or not) to business success. 

The members, setting and climate unify groups within an organization.  
The members, the setting and the organizational climate inevitably bring the right pairing and/or unification to any group/sub-group within an organization.  So while not a one-size-fits-all theory, hierarchically structuring leadership discretion will inherently bring collective vision and cross-boundary collaboration.

For our purposes today, we will focus on the distinguishing hierarchy between Governance and Management – both vital processes for high-performance organizations.    COBIT5, a framework by ISACA for the Governance of Enterprise IT (GEIT) explains the difference between the two:

 

Compatible to organizational structures are interconnected roles, activities and relationships.  I will again turn to the COBIT5 Framework to help distinguish functional stratums and further identify the need for compatible profiling when pairing individual competencies across function and/or operational specialty [Note:  While COBIT5 uses an enterprise perspective, models can be paired to fit organizational need].

 

Owners and Stakeholders.  Think highest power.  Driven by fiscal and sustainability interests.  Particularly charged by changes in:  strategy, technology and regulatory.

Governing Body.  Think board of directors.  Accountable to owners/stakeholders for organizational success; responsible for management foresight.  [Note: Identifies with COBIT5’s Governance structure referenced previously]

Management.  Think executive leadership/’C-suite’.  Accountable to Governing Body for organizational performance and responsible for management directives. [Note:  Identifies with COBIT5’s Management structure referenced previously]

Operation and Execution.  The people, technology and processes necessary to produce a product or service of value to end customers.


Once you conceptually identify with the functional differences between Governance and Management, you can profile and organize forums (committees) that maximize knowledge share and bring aspiring organizational value to stakeholders.

The difference between IT Strategy Committees and IT Steering Committees.
Compatible mind-share is critical for committee success, and while enterprise processes/principles can be conceptually neutral across business function (IT, Finance, etc.), performance outcomes are widely differentiated by functional sector.  Thus for our purposes herein, the remainder of this paper will focus on IT practices explicitly for maximizing committee efficacy.

 

IT STRATEGY COMMITTEE.  Ensures alignment between IT and business strategy through enterprise IT governance.  Although this committee is often assumed to operate at the board level, it does not carry decision authority exclusively.  This committee has dashboard authority and oversees IT management in partnership with other board committees (audit, business strategy, finance, etc.).   The committee is composed of a chairman (usually board member) and board/non-board members based on IT knowledge and corresponding business insight.

Responsibilities:

  • Provide IT insights to board and act as subject matter expert
  • Monitor strategic IT plans
  • Monitor enterprise resource availability to support IT initiatives
  • Understand, Communicate, Mitigate IT risk (may also be coordinated with a Risk or Compliance Committee)

IT STEERING COMMITTEE.  Oversees major projects – managing priorities and allocating resources with guidance from the IT Strategy Committee.    There may be several steering committees within an organization depending on size, complexity and management culture.  In any case, the steering committee should be the responsibility of executive management, providing a conduit between the governing body and program/project teams.  Membership generally consists of varying business sponsors, the CIO and key advisors as applicable.

Responsibilities:

  • Ensure programs/projects meet business requirements and align with IT strategy
  • Determine overall level and allocation of resource to extend IT value across enterprise
  • Communicate strategic goals to project teams and recommend changes to strategic plans
  • Monitor and approve various architectures to support achievement of IT strategy

Final Thoughts.
Although an enterprise can have multiple committees and boards for various functions or specialties, the intent of this blog was to highlight two critical assemblies that can help in your quest for IT value.  While I recognize there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, profiling roles and structuring by compatible competencies/interests, will improve productivity and ultimately increase meeting satisfaction.  Following are four high-level take-away’s for optimizing both IT Strategy and IT Steering Committees:

  1. Ensure that your committee has tasks outlined and all members understand their charge.
  2. Strive for cross-boundary collaboration – IT Steering Committee should have representation from the IT Strategy Committee.
  3. Avoid getting lost in the details – committees are designed to guide, not solve tactical issues that should be handled at program/project level.
  4. ALWAYS remember – governance exits to provide value through benefit realization, resource optimization and risk mitigation.

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