THINK AN IT STEERING COMMITTEE IS A WASTE OF TIME? HERE’S FIVE REASONS WHY YOU’RE WRONG

As an IT professional who has spent 20 years leading large implementation projects and as the founder of an IT consulting firm specializing in risk management, change management, solution deployment and informed decisions, I am often asked to consult about how to make projects more efficient. One of the most often asked questions is whether an IT steering committee is really necessary.

To be clear, they’re not asking about a project-based steering committee, but they want to know if either a department-wide IT steering committee or an organization-wide steering committee is actually needed.

The answer always is – yes. We see almost every day large enterprises with thousands of employees who do not have an IT steering committee at all, or just have a senior-level team but none for their departments.

Often, my team is asked, ‘won’t this just add to the time it takes to get things done?’ or ‘doesn’t this just add more complexity?’. My response is always the same – no, it won’t. While it may seem initially like an IT steering committee is just more overhead, it’s honestly critical to keeping departments focused and on-task, avoiding distractions and getting side-tracked, staying on schedule and on budget, and avoiding a myriad of performance issues.

If you’re one of those people who isn’t sold on an IT steering committee, here’s five reasons why you should implement one immediately.

  1. Demand versus Resources
    Very frequently – I’ve seen in some of the largest organizations and some of the smallest – departments are limping along without enough people or financial resources. When there is a sudden demand, i.e. new software programs, analytical requests, new infrastructure, etc., but not enough people or money to deal with them properly, leadership has to make difficult decisions. An IT steering committee represents a collective of thought leaders and subject matter experts who can make informed decisions about what is most critical and how to use resources efficiently and effectively.
  2. Time is of the essence
    Even if there is plenty of money to fund everything an organization wants to do, no one thinks it’s a good idea to do it all at once. Often, one initiative may rely on another, systems need to be put in place for another to function, one effort may consume more time than others, etc. There needs to be as structure with priorities and an understanding of what needs to be done and in what order. That’s your IT steering committee. They make informed decisions about scheduling competing efforts and complementary projects and can monitor timelines to achieve successful outcomes.
  3. Collaboration equals participation
    Ideally, we want leaders from business and IT to be involved with major initiatives. While every major IT project should have its own steering committee, an organization-wide IT steering committee allows senior leaders to work with IT professionals, monitor the status of critical initiatives, remove roadblocks, and promote adoption within the organization.
  4. Business leads
    IT is a function of the business and supports the organization’s goals. Unless it’s purely infrastructure, No IT project should be governed by IT alone. Often, business partners leave all the decision-making to IT because they trust their IT department or because they simply don’t have time to focus on technology decisions. However, successful projects are always those that have business leaders closely connected to the IT team and allow business leaders to drive critical decisions affecting the organization.
  5. Risk is everywhere
    All projects have risk, particularly expensive IT projects and even maintained IT systems. Building risk management into every project is essential. The IT steering committee focuses on risk – identifying potential problems, providing mitigation strategies, and implementing solutions across the company and for each project.

Smart organizations understand information is essential to doing business and the technology that supports it is vital to success. If we all agree that’s true, every organization needs a governing body focused on information and technology who can deal with demand and resources, monitor schedules, foster team building and organization-wide adoption, collaborate with leaders from other departments, and mitigate risk. This is how successful projects achieve your organization’s goals while meeting individual project objectives.

by Shannan Epps, CEO & Founder

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