*For every single Abraic client engagement over the past 20 years, a lack of effective governance has been one of the first issues we identify and resolve.

When IT assets (e.g. software, hardware, or XaaS) are underutilized, underperforming, or underwhelming the business, the root cause of the problem is almost always ownership.

Consider an underperforming asset at your company. Is the department managing the technology the same department that paid for it?

Typically, IT assets are not purchased by IT.

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Let’s consider a scenario:

The IT team meets with Frank, the CFO, to pitch a new technology that will improve the business. Frank has no major objections. He says yes, but thinks: I’m not a tech person. I know about debits and credits, but not much about this technology.

Frank is an optimist and trusts IT to do a good job. Or, he is a pessimist and doesn’t want to put his career at risk should the new technology fail. Either way, Frank purchases the asset and releases ownership.

The day-to-day management of the asset is delegated among a few managers, but no one in the IT department is designated as the owner.

Then the business starts complaining: We didn’t get what was promised. Frank doesn’t know what to say—he hasn’t thought twice about it since approving the purchase. IT is blamed.

There are at least two reasons the business complains about an “orphaned” IT asset:

  1. An orphaned asset is an easy target. With no owner to defend the decisions concerning configuration, workflow, or feature set, the asset is a scapegoat for any related (or unrelated) problems. But objectively, the asset may very well be serving its purpose.
  1. An orphaned asset has no one to champion the allocation of resources for improvements. Let’s say the criticism is legitimate. System modifications missed the mark, or the asset is otherwise not delivering the outcomes it promised. Individual contributors working with the asset have no budget, and have no power to change the system for the better.

When an IT system, licensed product, or other asset has low internal satisfaction rates, the CIO’s first step should always be to examine the governance process. Clear ownership will help reveal if the underlying problem is real or perceived, and enable a fix.

The executive who pays for an asset needs to think like the property owner who hires a contractor to build a new house. The more you are involved in the process, the greater the chance of the desired outcome.

It’s important to remember that IT is not the innocent victim here. Implementation teams often think they can ask all the right questions once, go away, and deliver the perfect solution. Realistically, the process requires frequent follow-ups and active engagement with stakeholders.

IT managers need to proactively pull the business owners into the process, establish expectations, secure commitments, collaborate, and hold business leaders accountable.

Key Takeaway: To prevent orphaned assets, assign ownership of every major IT investment to an individual or committee, and establish a viable governance process.

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