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The Boomer Bulletin - 2011
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IT Governance – The Key to Alignment!

Posted By Jim Boomer, Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Keeping up with the changing landscape of technology is challenging and more so 
when you don’t have the proper IT governance structure in place.  What exactly is IT governance and how should a firm go about it?  Let’s start with the AICPA’s definition of IT Governance:

A framework that ensures that technology decisions are made in support of the business goals and objectives.

In other words, it ensures that you have alignment between the firm’s strategic vision and the technology initiatives that support the desired results.  This concept seems simple but it is one that CPA firms have struggled with for years.  So how do you create this alignment?

Getting Started

Start by developing a strategic plan for the overall firm that outlines your Vision, Mission, Core Values and Strategic Objectives.  Once you identify your top 4-6 Strategic Objectives, you must then drill down to the specific initiatives, measures of success, responsible parties and due dates.  We recommend that you limit this to a single page, front and back to force yourself to focus on what’s really important.

Once you have the strategic plan for the firm you can start to tackle the Technology Plan.  Too often, we see firms try to develop the two plans in siloes.  The result is typically two disjointed plans that don’t support each other.  When you align IT with firm strategy you leverage technology to its full potential and accelerate business results.

Align IT Strategy with the Firm Vision

Another major disconnect between IT strategy and the vision of the firm is caused (or at least compounded) by the fact that each party is "doing their own thing.”  IT people go to technology conferences/training and firm leadership attends practice management events.  While each may hear discussions on the same topics, they are not hearing (and taking away) the same message.  Bringing together these two important areas of the firm will bridge the gap between IT and practice management.  By joining a community of forward thinking firms, you can accelerate the alignment between firm strategy and your technology plan.  Learning from your peers who are thought leaders can be disheartening when you find out you’re behind but it can also be very satisfying when you learn your firm is leading the pack.  By joining a community like the Boomer Technology Circles, you will instantly have a group that will push you to improve and hold you accountable.

A Seat at the Management Table

One myth that is far too common in CPA firms is that you must be a CPA to manage and understand the firm.  This is simply not true and is costing firms a lot of time and money while reducing their ability to compete today and into the future.  Requiring a CPA certificate to have a seat at the management table is holding back some of your best talent and limiting the firms potential for greater success.

One party that should have a seat at the management table is your CIO, especially if you want to create the alignment between firm strategy and technology discussed previously.  Let’s look at five ways CIOs can provide you a strategic advantage and why they should be contributing members of your management team.
  1. CIOs bring a different perspective to the table than most partners.  They see the entire enterprise and approach strategy from that viewpoint.  They strive to break down barriers and eliminate siloes by improving integration.  They are also typically outsiders to many of the firm’s processes and can more easily see opportunities for improvement.  Gödel’s Law states that to understand the system you are in, you have to get outside of it.
  2. CIOs understand how technology can improve efficiency and effectiveness.  They can provide innovative insight into firm and client strategies that will add value.  Leadership, relationships and creativity create value.  Some of the current priority areas are mobile, virtualization, workflow, digital platforms including portals, cloud computing and business intelligence.
  3. The firms with the best technology are those firms with strong IT leadership.  CIOs often have to deliver news that client service partners don’t want to hear – "we have to invest”.  Having a strong CIO on your team who supports the firm’s vision and integrates technology is a strategic advantage.  Great IT professionals will push firm leadership and management to excellence.  Don’t settle for mediocrity at any level - partner or IT.
  4. CIOs have project management skills which are essential to the success of the firm.  These are skills that most partners, managers and staff lack even though they would be extremely beneficial.  Firms are requiring and demanding more production from fewer resources and this is only possible with engaged staff members who are highly motivated, well trained and can leverage technology.  The CIO has unique abilities that can be leveraged in a team environment and should drive these skills in your firm.
  5. One of the key roles of the CIO is to assist leadership and management in developing new services and revenue streams.  During Q4 of last year, over 60% of Apple’s revenue came from services and products that were not for sale three years ago.  This is not an anomaly, but rather a trend.  Is your firm prepared?  A quality CIO can assist you in meeting these challenges.
Do You Have the Right IT Leader?

Do you have the right IT leader?  To answer this question, you should assess based on these important skills.
  1. Business Savvy
  2. Marketing & Sales
  3. Human Resources
  4. Project Management
  5. Budgeting & Cash Flow
  6. Strategy & Planning
While your IT leader’s sufficiency in all these areas might not be at an "expert” level, you need to look for potential.  Do they show a willingness to learn new skills and a desire to develop beyond their current position?  If the answer is yes, you likely have the right person and need to invest in development and training programs like the CIO Advantage.  You also need to encourage them to join a peer community and share with peers.  If you answered "no”, then you are better served investing your time and money in recruiting and hiring the right person.  Once again, a peer community like the Boomer Technology Circles can be very helpful in learning from firms who have made a successful hire.


Technology impacts every area of your firm.  Managing the people, planning and processes around IT can be challenging but is critical to the success of your firm.  Waiting can be costly since playing catch-up requires a lot more time, effort and money than maintaining your technology at a high level.  I encourage you to start today by taking the initial steps to improving your firm’s performance through improved IT leadership and governance.

Tags:  IT Governance 

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