Why we need stronger Governance of Information & Technology in a “New Normal”
Updated: Sep 1
By Svetlana Sidenko
Business environment will never be the same
Since mid-March 2020, we’ve had to cancel all business onsite activities and meetings. In less than a week, many business activities were put on hold, postponed or cancelled. As millions of others around the globe, those who still had their jobs, shifted toward remote work. Between going through the emotional curve, managing cancellations/rescheduling, leaving some activities for better times and shifting priorities, we slowly begin to the accept the fact that our business environment will never be the same. There will be a “new normal”, but we don’t really know how it will look like or when it will become a reality. Are simple things like travelling, face to face business meetings, hand shaking, corporate town halls and lunches likely to happen any time soon?
In mid-April, we came to a conclusion that many companies prefer having their workers work from home whenever possible, at least until the COVID-19 vaccine is proven. Gartner experts advise that “ultimately, the COVID-19 pandemic has many employees planning to work in a way that they hadn’t previously considered.” Moreover, Gartner assumes that to retain staff and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic response, organizations should expect that 75% of their staff will ask to expand their remote work hours by 35% in late 2020 and early 2021.This is a huge change which requires a strong support of digital technologies on one side, and governance of Information & Technology on another.
Digital Transformation has become a matter of survival
It’s been a while now since technology professionals have been experiencing and working in an environment of rapid change and uncertainty. Technology has always been an evolving field in which rapid changes are needed regularly. However, in today’s reality, digital transformation has become a “must” and sometimes even a matter of survival for many companies. Some companies accomplished digital transformations with success while many others didn’t. Companies which have already struggled with digital transformations are now in a significant disadvantage to those who succeeded prior to the COVID-19 crisis. Last year, within my PhD research program, I identified several reasons to explain why the Digital Transformation results varied from one organization to another, below are some of the reasons.
Science research findings about Digital Transformations
Companies were not ready for change
Research showed that even if some companies saw the need for change, they were not ready for it. Taking the first steps towards a digital transformation poses a great challenge as organizations are not swift enough to incorporate digital initiatives in their activities. Therefore, they cannot take advantage of the valuable outcomes delivered only through digital transformation. Other challenges that companies faced were leadership and coordination issues related to the governance of their Information & Technology, including unclear or conflicting goals, roles and responsibilities (Hafsi & Assar, 2016).
Information & Technology structures were ineffective
The ineffectiveness of Information & Technology to respond to change was another challenge. Some of the organizations built a complex and interdependent network of legacy that slows down the change process, which can only be achieved in an organization if the vision is clearly explained (Hafsi & Assar, 2016). Companies without a well-defined strategy for conducting planning, implementation, design, and analysis using a holistic governance of Information & Technology approach were not be able to adapt and achieve digital transformation.
There was significant Gap in Management
Digital transformation is a process that requires strong support from the upper management. However, most of the managers were not willing to adapt to the change. It is generally believed that executives are eager for digital transformation but that was not the case (Andriole, 2017). The number of executives who want to embrace digital transformation is minimal especially in public companies. The executives are always scared to “break” the existing business models (Andriole, 2017). This is because the motives of the executives are complex. Many executives think the changes may affect the status of the company. Some are motivated by the long-term health of the company while others focus on instant profits. Successful companies, especially the public companies, are always cautious about change (Andriole, 2017). Change is time-consuming, painful, inexact, and expensive. Apart from the management, most employees are always resistant to change especially in an organization where they have been comfortable. Hence, for digital transformation to occur, there must be leaders who can convince their followers to adapt to change.
Digital transformation brought significant Security Risks
Attacks against central Information & Technology is more likely to directly endanger an organizational continued existence (Ahlemann, 2016). There is a need of security and business continuity management as threats and attacks from inside and outside have become “normal”, but not many companies are prepared.
The “New Normal” will radically change existing business models
While business models will certainly radically change in the nearest future, the digital transformation is becoming a matter of survival. There are numerous considerations related to this change, such as:
Management of change
Employees’ spirit and staff retention
Trust and communication
Of course, there are more than the list above. Everything we were very much concerned about before COVID-19 is still there and it’s requiring significant improvements or it has to be revised, readjusted and rebuilt. In addition to all the pieces needing to be strengthened and adapted to the future, there are also new business models under the umbrella of the Governance of Information & Technology to be considered: decision – making structures and committees functions, performance reporting and relevant KPIs, organizational RACI, controls and compliance, risk management, information security, just to name a few elements.
Why companies need stronger Governance of Information & Technology
As a Certified Governance of IT Professional, I see a particular and urgent need to not only adjust, but to rebuild an approach to how organizations govern their Information and Technology. This is where the COBIT 2019 framework from ISACA is indispensable. COBIT 2019 guides I&T professionals to design and implement a tailored Governance System, corresponding to the needs of specific organization. It covers performance, information security, risk management, compliance, and other management objectives in accordance to the size of organization, industry, risk appetite, legislation requirements, and other design factors. COBIT 2019 is a flexible, practical, and pragmatic framework which would help organizations to adapt to the “new normal” and ensure that value is delivered.
Read the ISACA blog on how COBIT 2019 can help Businesses Thrive in Uncertain Times
Watch the webinar about the use of COBIT 2019 framework
Hafsi, M. & Assar, S., 2016. What Enterprise Architecture can bring for digital transformation? An exploratory study. IEEE Computer Society
Andriole, S. J., 2017. Five Myths About Digital Transformation. MITS loan Management Review