IT Governance Software: Tools in Need of Processes

John Sloan, Senior Research Analyst, Info-Tech Research Group

Calling a suite of IT project and asset management tools "IT governance software" raises the false promise of out-of-the-box IT/business alignment. Alignment cannot be purchased - it is earned through capable management processes. Focus on the processes first and then look to how these powerful tools can help.

Governance and Governance Software

Sound IT governance involves the broader enterprise in establishing which IT investments are important, as well as in establishing how performance will be measured. Typically, IT governance involves:

  • Creating a comprehensive and accurate view of IT operations and assets through clear documentation and discovery processes.
  • Developing a consistent framework for assessing the benefits and risks for the business of major IT investments.
  • Establishing a broadly representative oversight body, such as an IT steering committee, to prioritize projects, measure progress against agreed-upon success measures, and ensure accountability of all constituencies involved in the project.

A software tool that enables any of the above can legitimately be called IT governance software. For example, Project Portfolio Management (PPM) software offers IT decision makers and business leaders a view of IT as a portfolio of investments that can be measured in terms of strategic value. PPM is a critical governance tool.

Another valuable tool that also fits under the umbrella of governance software is software that helps enterprises with regulatory compliance. Governance and regulatory compliance both require documentation and agreed-upon accounting controls for IT. For this reason, vendors have sometimes called their regulatory compliance tools "governance solutions."

Governance Software Vendor Landscape

Since a number of related tools can equally apply to IT governance, it wasn't much of a leap for vendors to combine these tools and apply the label "IT governance software." In many cases, these suites have been created through mergers and acquisitions. For example:

  • Compuware added a strong PPM component to its offerings through the acquisition of ChangePoint, and integrated the ChangePoint PPM solution with its existing quality control offerings.
  • Computer Associates also boosted its profile in IT governance software through the 2005 acquisition of leading IT PPM solution provider, Niku.
  • IBM acquired Systemcorp in 2004 and added IBM Rational Portfolio Manager to its IBM Rational product line. The product features Tivoli integration for Information Technology Information Library (ITIL) support.
  • Pacific Edge, a vendor with a strong PPM offering, added IT architecture data gathering functionality through a partnership with Troux Technologies.
  • Mercury Interactive, previously an applications performance management specialist, became a major player in IT management software with its 2003 acquisition of IT PPM specialist, Kintana.

Other vendors have done it all themselves. For example, ITM Software, an up and comer in this field, has created modules for inventory, financial resource management, PPM, vendor relationship management, compliance, and HR management in its ITM Business Suite.

Recommendation: Processes Precede Tools

Info-Tech has identified that IT decision makers in mid-sized enterprises are not doing enough to develop formal processes in areas such as project management, vendor management, ROI management, and HR management. However, IT governance software is only a tool and should not be seen as a shortcut to developing mature IT governance processes.

  • Focus first on best practices and process maturity. A mature process supported by simple tools (such as spreadsheets and Gantt charts) is far superior to owning robust tools without first developing sound processes. Look at governance and service management best practices frameworks such as ITIL and the Control Objectives for Information and related Technology (COBIT).
  • Match the tool with a clearly defined need. IT governance software suites are comprehensive; however, the need that they address will be more limited. Only look to these solutions when a particular management process becomes mature enough and large enough to require heavy-duty tools. Then, focus on how product features address that particular need.
  • Go with PPM leaders. IT governance is about more than just project management, but PPM remains a key piece (and often the centerpiece) of many governance offerings. Start with vendors with a strong track record in IT PPM (such as Compuware, Computer Associates/Niku, and Primavera) rather than ERP vendors that have added these features.

Bottom Line

IT governance software vendors offer suites of powerful tools for governance-related initiatives such as PPM and regulatory compliance. However, these tools must serve to simplify and automate management processes. Focus on developing the formal management processes first, and then match the governance tools to specific needs if necessary.

Of interest:

Mercury and Governance "Leadership"

Mercury Interactive is a leading provider of IT governance software with a product suite that includes tools for project portfolio management, regulatory compliance, and change management.

Ironically, the company was recently shaken by an internal management scandal that led to the resignation of three senior officers. The problems at Mercury underscore the important distinction between governance processes and software. If good tools were all that was needed, it is difficult to imagine how Mercury's woes would have occurred.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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