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IT Risk: Turning Business Threats into…
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IT Risk: Turning Business Threats into Competitive Advantage (edition 2007)

by George Westerman (Author)

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371562,023 (4.33)None
Are you exposing your business to IT risk, and leaving profit opportunities on the table? You might be if you are managing your IT risk using more traditional approaches. IT Risk, a new book based on research conducted by MIT s Center for Information Systems Research and Gartner, Inc., helps companies focus on the most pressing risks and leverage the upside that comes with vigilance. Traditionally, managers have grouped technology risk and funding into silos. IT Risk outlines a new model for integrated risk management, which identifies three core areas you can develop to eliminate the problems that silo strategies create. The authors also offer specific ways to make the most of your new found advantage. And because IT risk is the responsibility of all senior executives not just CIOs this book describes the tools and practices in language that general managers can understand and use. Named a top-ten managerial book of 2007 by CIO Insight magazine.… (more)
Member:karlmelrose
Title:IT Risk: Turning Business Threats into Competitive Advantage
Authors:George Westerman (Author)
Info:Harvard Business Review Press (2007), 240 pages
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IT Risk: Turning Business Threats into Competitive Advantage by George Westerman

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I was lucky enough to get a pre-release copy of IT Risk: Turning Business Threats into Competitive Advantage by George Westerman and Richard Hunter. The book approaches IT risk not as a technical issue but as a business and management one with potentially serious consequences. As businesses increasingly are there information systems, this point of view is both necessary and valuable. The book introduces IT risk and its consequences, discusses the authors' 4A framework and outlines 3 core disciplines for IT risk management. It then drills into actual steps to take to fix the foundation, develop risk governance processes and establishing a risk aware culture. It wraps up with some forward looking thoughts and a list of ways in which executives can improve IT risk management.

Their basic premise is that effective IT governance essential in times of high change and increasing complexity (of systems as well as of business/problems). They discuss 4As - availability of systems, access to systems and data, accuracy or data and results, and agility in terms of ease of change - as being the framework for risk management. These 4As are supported by a foundation, a risk management process and a risk aware culture. The framework and the disciplines mostly work well for the authors, only occasionally becoming confusing to the reader. From my perspective I found the focus on agility very interesting as possible changes to systems should be considered along with general IT effectiveness when managing risk. Also, while the foundation is lower level than I usually consider, I think the objectives for the foundation can all be met more easily by and organization that has adopted enterprise decision management - the approach discussed in Smart Enough Systems: How to Deliver Competitive Advantage by Automating Hidden Decisions. It can make it easier to assess risk, easier to maintain systems, easier to change and fix them. It can also make it easier to apply risk assessments in operational systems by calling out the decisions that must be made, which is where risk assessment matters.

Fixing the foundation is described as a journey and I really liked the focus on incremental improvement. The foundation is a problem as most companies developed their IT infrastructure in stages. However, a poor foundation undermines agility by degrading the business/IT relationship and by making change to existing systems, to meet changing business needs, hard. While I think there are other ways to add agility into existing systems, I do agree with their assertion that you need to change and replace foundation to some extent. They make some fairly good suggestions for broad steps you can take and show the kinds of payoffs that come from the capabilities you enable with a better infrastructure. The authors make a critical point when they show how change in infrastructure is IT change while change in applications is business change but most IT departments don't see the difference - they see it all as "system" change making it harder to manage than necessary. Again, a focus on separate automation and management of decisions can help clarify this difference. There is a fair amount of useful discussion in the book about the need for both local and central management to which I would add one more category - where do decisions live in your organization? Should they be managed locally or centrally? The book outlines both incremental and "big bang" approaches to fixing the foundation and notes that incremental change is slower but surer. The discussion of how legacy application modernization might be business value based or risk based (human resources or technology risk for instance) or both (such as a need to change to support a new business strategy) was well done. I also really liked their idea of a renewal and reinvestment budget to keep legacy modernization ongoing and they had some great stories about human resources risk coming from retirements and the need to get knowledge out of people's heads and into systems.

The section on a risk governance process was thorough, although I think you need to be careful not to implement all of it blindly, and I liked the focus on broad risk awareness - not "risk-averse" or "risk-pro" just "risk-aware". To support this idea, IT needs to build systems in a risk-aware way - they need to drive their use of technologies and languages, consider the consequences of a failure to update documentation or code and so on. It occurred to me while reading these sections that organizations considering a policy manual for this stuff should also consider the value of rules and decision management as a basis for a "policy engine". They had a particularly nice example of a mid-sized company finding its legacy applications, and the lack of agility in them, to be a key risk and investing in replacing and upgrading systems to make maintenance and evolution easier and less risky. This kind of agility improvement is something enhanced by a parallel focus on decision management.

The book was a fairly quick read, had lots of useful suggestions and some good ways to think about the problem. If you think IT risk matters, you should read this. ( )
  jamet123 | Jul 10, 2009 |
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Are you exposing your business to IT risk, and leaving profit opportunities on the table? You might be if you are managing your IT risk using more traditional approaches. IT Risk, a new book based on research conducted by MIT s Center for Information Systems Research and Gartner, Inc., helps companies focus on the most pressing risks and leverage the upside that comes with vigilance. Traditionally, managers have grouped technology risk and funding into silos. IT Risk outlines a new model for integrated risk management, which identifies three core areas you can develop to eliminate the problems that silo strategies create. The authors also offer specific ways to make the most of your new found advantage. And because IT risk is the responsibility of all senior executives not just CIOs this book describes the tools and practices in language that general managers can understand and use. Named a top-ten managerial book of 2007 by CIO Insight magazine.

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