IT Governance: What it is and why it matters

This article is featured courtesy of Bill Kehoe, Chief Information Officer, Department of Information Technology

bill (002)Governor Inslee’s investigation into the Department of Corrections’ early prisoner release issue cited “IT Governance” as a key contributing factor. What exactly is IT Governance?

In short, it analyzes the need, researches the solution, takes advice from public and private sector experts, and creates an open environment to expose and fix errors quickly. More technically, IT Governance is an approach to IT solutions that integrates business needs, technology trends, innovation, best practices and quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) into every IT solution, product and system whether it’s cloud computing, county-issued mobile devices, or any other need that touches the public.

Many of our software systems in King County rise to the critical public safety level, similar to the DOC system. At KCIT, we recognize that it could happen here if IT Governance were not among our highest priorities.

It takes commitment and time. Changes in leadership and philosophy can put an effective system in jeopardy.

King County Information Technology (KCIT) manages IT for 18 separate departments and agencies with a total of 14,000 County’s employees and 2.1 million customers throughout King County.

To do this well, we assign service managers or liaisons to each organization. Together, side-by-side, they develop strategies that align with the business need and standardization goals that allow for streamlined, cost effective solutions (and fixes when necessary).

Other tools include:

  • Quality Assurance teams that track the Software Development Life Cycle.
  • Configuration Management, testing methodologies that test developed code to business requirements which adds to reliability.
  • Standard intake and prioritization of both fixes and enhancements to applications so software errors are documented in a common system and prioritized with business. This allows for a problem with public safety, for example, to be fast tracked.
  • Strong IT Governance with the Technology Management Board (HOW will it work) the Business Management Council (is it the right solution) and the Strategic Advisory Council (is this in line with King County goals and values).

Our governance councils include public and private sector experts who bring the best ideas forward.

We’re proud of what we have built in the past five years at KCIT, but we are also mindful that ad-hoc practices and a less-than-laser-like focus on best practices can lead to catastrophic failure and that could have a devastating impact on the people we serve.