What Is Governance in IT?

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Technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, opening up exciting new possibilities for businesses of all types. Yet, it’s important for those within the information technology (IT) field to remain rooted in governance and ethics while simultaneously reaching for new heights. If you’re curious about pursuing a career in IT after earning a business information systems degree, it will benefit you to first obtain a thorough grounding in business ethics and regulations.

Exactly what is governance in IT and what are IT governance best practices? This quick guide explains this core concept in the field.

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Let's Dive Into IT Governance

Before taking a closer look at the question, What is IT governance? it can be helpful to reaffirm your understanding of the IT field itself. In the broadest of terms, IT refers to the use of technology for the transfer and processing of information, as well as for communication. In practical terms, IT can be defined as the application of technology to solve problems, streamline processes and improve operations. For example, the IT department at a major corporation is responsible for planning, developing, implementing and troubleshooting all of the networks and systems that the company needs to carry out its mission and day-to-day operations. 

A typical IT department is also charged with upholding IT governance and ethics standards. So, what is governance in IT? An IT governance framework guides the IT department in shaping their IT operations in a way that furthers the overall business objectives of the company. The IT team can do this by setting quality standards, tracking results and ensuring compliance with all applicable regulations — both internal and external.

In other words, IT governance is like a quality control process that ensures that the company’s technological systems are developed and implemented in a way that furthers the company’s objectives. IT governance involves establishing policies, procedures and standards that are proactive in nature and that guide the IT department’s activities in the present and into the future.

The Objectives of IT Governance Models

Although every business has its own unique ecosystem, all types of businesses can use IT governance frameworks to achieve certain goals. Some common objectives for implementing IT governance models can include the following:

  • Quality control – IT governance frameworks can establish quality standards for all IT work performed at the company.
  • Performance evaluation – Within an IT governance framework, an IT team can analyze its performance, identify areas that require improvement and establish new or modified protocols that allow the team to achieve those improvements.
  • Business value – IT governance doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Its ultimate goal is to provide greater value to the business as a whole.
  • Regulatory compliance – IT governance frameworks may be developed and implemented internally for the purpose of meeting business objectives, but they are often subject to regulatory oversight.

This last objective is particularly critical. Arguably, it could be said that regulatory compliance is the single most important objective of an IT governance framework.

It wouldn’t do for an IT department to successfully support the business’ overall goals only to do so in a way that flouts external regulations and exposes its stakeholders to significant risks. All types of industries are subject to governmental regulations, such as those that involve data privacy and financial disclosures, and the IT department is responsible for ensuring that the company’s IT practices are in full compliance with those regulations.

A Look at IT Governance Best Practices

Effective and ethical IT governance best practices must take a holistic approach. In order to truly understand IT governance best practices, it can be helpful to examine some of the common results of improper IT governance:

  • The IT department is characterized by stalled projects, projects that exceed budgetary constraints or projects that do not provide value to the business.
  • The IT department operates in a vacuum, without input or collaboration among other departments.
  • IT governance only goes into effect as a reactionary function, such as when there are regulatory violations, significant system failures or audits that raise red flags.

Clearly, those results are not conducive to the long-term success of the IT department or the company as a whole. Instead, the IT function must carefully plan, implement and evaluate its organizational structures, policies, culture and infrastructure to ensure each component is aligned with IT governance best practices.

Improper IT Governance Examples

Some examples of improper IT governance include:

  • IT governance must generate value through the application of both information and technology, while also meeting stakeholder requirements and goals.
  • IT governance frameworks should be sufficiently dynamic to accommodate a constantly evolving business ecosystem while remaining true to their core principles.
  • The framework should be customized to suit the unique needs and objectives of the business.
  • IT governance should be implemented strategically, with an understanding of current IT needs and an evaluation of future needs and capabilities.
  • IT systems and their usage should conform to all internal and external (e.g. governmental) regulations.

Furthermore, the IT department should make any investments in additional IT infrastructure only after thoroughly analyzing costs, benefits and risks. All decision making should be wholly transparent. It’s also important to ensure that IT-related decisions and investments are not made in a vacuum; rather, the IT team leader should closely collaborate across departments to ensure that the IT infrastructure continually supports the overall business objectives.

IT Models and Frameworks

IT governance is quite a broad topic, and meeting all of the internal and external requirements might seem a little overwhelming at first. However, companies don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There are multiple established IT governance frameworks that may be applied, perhaps with some modifications. IT departments and companies often choose from the following IT governance frameworks:

  • IT infrastructure library (ITIL) framework
  • ISO/IEC 20000 (ISO 20000) framework
  • Balanced scorecard framework
  • Control objectives for information and related technology (COBIT) framework
  • Committee of sponsoring organization (COSO) framework
  • Factor analysis of information risk (FAIR) framework

Some of these frameworks emphasize certain areas or are better suited to certain types of companies than others. For example, the FAIR framework is predominantly concerned with identifying and mitigating cybersecurity and operational risks.

Earn Your Business Information Systems Degree

Now that you know the answer to the questions, What is IT governance? and What are IT governance models? you may be thinking about how to build a career pathway that aligns with your business and technology interests. There are several IT career paths that involve IT governance, including the following:

  • Computer systems analyst
  • Network and computer systems administrator
  • Computer and information systems manager
  • Computer user support specialist

If careers such as these appeal to you, then your first step is to earn a relevant bachelor’s degree. A business information systems degree will instill both, as it will instill both business-related and technological competencies. The exact curriculum will vary from one program to the next, but in general, you could expect to study topics such as the following:

  • The fundamentals of networks and IT networking, with a look at how networks work, how to configure enterprise networks and how to conduct scalability planning with switches and routers
  • The essentials of IT project management, including common mistake avoidance, risk mitigation and virtual team management
  • The role of corporate governance and ethics within the IT field, encompassing topics such as IT audits, data privacy issues and governmental regulations
  • The design, development, deployment and post-implementation processes of IT systems

If you’re eager to develop and implement IT governance best practices in your future career, you can build a firm foundation for success at Grand Canyon University. The Colangelo College of Business is pleased to offer the Bachelor of Science in Applied Business Information Systems degree program, which instills core competencies in IT project management, data management principles and ethical considerations related to IT governance, among other areas. Complete the form on this page to learn more about joining our dynamic learning community.


Approved by the director of academic operations from the Colangelo College of Business on May 16, 2023

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.