IT Execs Want to Adopt Best Practices, but Lack Needed Resources

Ann All

The good news from a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers survey: IT executives are more aware of best-practices frameworks like the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and the Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology (COBIT) . The bad news: They don't have enough IT staff to implement them.


According to a news release about the survey, which PwC conducted on behalf of the IT Governance Institute, more than 50 percent of tech execs are now aware of COBIT, a nearly twofold increase since 2005. Actual use of COBIT is far lower, at 16 percent, though that also represents a twofold increase since 2005.


Fifty percent of North American and European organizations have adopted governance-related activities, compared to 44 percent of their peers in Asia and 27 percent in Latin America.


Staffing emerged as a major issue, with 58 percent of respondents citing a lack of adequate IT staff, up from 35 percent in 2005. The second most common problem, mentioned by 48 percent of respondents, was IT service delivery problems. Thirty-eight percent said IT staff lacked needed skills.


In an itWorldCanada article, John Lainhart, a past president of the IT Governance Institute who now serves as an advisor to the group, says a new certification program can help folks gain the skills associated with COBIT. He is quite complementary of COBIT, mentioning that it helped one of his clients, a financial institution, cut its number of software systems from 900 to 400 in a month's time.


A similarly positive COBIT case study is included in a 2006 Intelligent Enterprise article. Unisys used COBIT to standardize its IT processes, ultimately reducing its IT cost-per-user from $13,000 a year in 1998 to $6,000 in 2006. A big bonus, says the company's CIO, is that COBIT made it much easier for Unisys to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley requirements.


Indeed, IT Business Edge blogger Lora Bentley mentions that the U.S. Postal Service is also employing COBIT (along with ITIL and other frameworks) as part of its effort to implement Sarbox controls by 2010.


In an insightful IT Business Edge interview from 2007, Michael Warrilow, managing director of advisory firm Hydrasight, also registers his support for COBIT, noting that it is applicable across industries, covers the entire IT lifecycle and "represents the collective thinking of many external parties," thanks to the IT auditing community's interest in it.


Warrilow advises organizations interested in adopting COBIT, ITIL or other specialized frameworks to first conduct a thorough organizational check-up. He says:

I recommend that all organizations take stock of their current performance levels prior to any major initiative or change. Why? Otherwise, it is almost impossible to quantify the improvements. Without this, there is a decreased ability to justify further investments. Also, from a practical point of view, it's always best to start with what you know. Of course, it is important always to remember the old adage that "you can't manage what you can't measure."

While achievement of compliance standards is a common benefit associated with adopting best practices frameworks, a lack of expertise appears to be a common barrier to adopting them. The itWorldCanada article notes that survey respondents mention it as a key challenge in adopting Val IT, a framework issued by the IT Governance Institute in 2006, along with uncertainty around ROI.


Interestingly, Lainhart says a second version of Val IT, due to be issued this year, is now more aligned with COBIT. The IT Governance Institute also plans to produce a guide geared to helping organizations fast-track their COBIT and Val IT initiatives.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Feb 18, 2008 2:20 AM IT Governance Blog IT Governance Blog  says:
It's hard to imagine almost half of tech execs not knowing what CobiT is, let alone implement it, but it really doesn't come as a surprise. And really, it's hard to answer a question about implementing CobiT because I would argue you don't implement it so much as you use it as a documentation guideline.I do find the reasons given for not implementing it rather funny. Sort of like, "I can't plug the hole in my boat because I am too busy bailing the water out." Reply
Feb 20, 2008 3:27 AM Jay Miller Jay Miller  says:
It is apalling to me that there is still a serious dearth of COBIT awareness on the part of senior level executives, but they are still using that same old "cop out" about a "lack of resources." I assure you that, at least, the human resources exist. I know. I'm one of them with a very extensive COBIT expertise as well as an MBA/CIA.However, my research and job hunting has uncovered that a majority of Fianace VP's are still "crying wolf" in the hope that hey can get the US State Department to increase the H-1 greencard quotas becuse they are still much less costly than technical and finance personnel who are born, raised and eductaed in America. It is an attempt to create the tehnical equivalent of NAFTA in the IT Industry. Reply

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