Monthly Archives: December 2011

The Buzz Around IT Governance

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Information Technology (IT) Governance seems to be the hotnew buzzword  across NASA and theCIO community.  On September 29,2011 NASA Mission Support Council approved  a governing model for improving the management of NASA IT. The Agency spends approximately $1.4B annually on IT. Unfortunately,today’s governance structure makes it increasingly more difficult to manage ITspend at the Agency and Center level. The meaning of IT governance varies depending on who’s having the discussion.  One could simply state that ITGovernance is a process that puts structure and discipline around howorganizations align IT strategy with business strategy, ensuring that its functionalelements stay on track to achieve their strategies and goals, and implementinggood ways to measure IT’s performance. It makes sure that all stakeholders’interests are taken into account and that processes provide measurable results.

I believe that every organization—largeand small, public and private—needs a way to ensure that the IT functionsustains the organization’s mission, strategies, and objectives. The level ofsophistication that we must apply to IT governance, however, may vary accordingto size, culture, industry or applicable regulations. A general principal isthat the larger and more regulated the organization, the more detailed the ITgovernance structure should be.


IT governance aligns the Agency’s and Center’s  IT strategies with its mission and business strategy and ensures that our Center will stay ontrack to achieve programmatic and mission  goals, in a manner that produces an IT architecture that isefficient, effective,  scalable,and measurable.  We must also takeinto account stakeholder (e.g.,Congress, public sector partners, industry, academia, etc.) interests and takethem into account and  establishprocesses to ensure measurable results. Essentially, an IT governance framework should answer these fundamentalquestions:


  • How closely aligned is IT to the strategic direction of the Agency or Center?
  • How are IT requirements identified, validated, and funded?
  • How is the IT managed  overall?
  • What are the specific metrics required to effectively manage the Center’s IT resources?
  •  What is the return on investment?
  • What are the risks and how are they being managed?


As detailed in the GSFC IT Strategic Plan, the IT governancemodel proposed for GSFC is supportive and aligns to the Agency IT governance processesby providing the framework and visibility to ensure the Center improves IT as astrategic asset. GSFC’s IT governance policy incorporates the five essential elementsof effective governance:

  • Strategic Alignment – link the mission to IT investment
  • Value Delivery – ensure the IT investment delivers the benefits promised
  • Resource Management – project management personified
  • Risk Management – establish a formal framework for analysis and management of all risks
  • Performance Measures – are we meeting the business goals, how are we reporting them, and how often are we measuring

Center-wide IT investments, programmatic and institutional, willbe reviewed by the governance boards comprised of representatives from every organization,creating a governance structure for IT that is truly federated, providing a strongbalance between organizational and enterprise innovation.


So how do we successfully embrace the structures andprocesses of IT governance? We align our IT strategy with the missions of GSFC todeliver maximum value, and establish a solid portfolio management system thatintegrates and lays out project components to clearly identify how assignedresources lead to the accomplishment of our goals.  This structured policy, along with senior managing governanceboards, combines to ensure that IT investments are synchronized with themissions of the various organizations, thereby providing full value to GSFC. 


Using IT as a strategic asset must be one of the central tenantsof the Center going forward and IT governance is one of the mechanisms thatwill propel GSFC forward as we take on the new and exciting challenges and opportunitiesthat we will face over the next 5 years. I welcome your feedback.