IT Governance vs. IT Management: What's the Difference?

Sophie Danby March 30, 2023
- 5 min read

There's so much confusion around IT governance right now that sometimes it's complex to differentiate it from other parts of an organization. One of the areas that always raises questions is IT management. Are they the same? Do they somehow overlap? Let's oppose IT governance vs. IT management and find out!

In this article, we'll cover their definitions, differences, and why you need both. Let's get started!

What is IT governance?

It's IT, governance, baby! Said no one ever. IT governance doesn't get much love in the IT best practice world, but it should. IT governance is the thing that keeps us all honest. It's obviously in place to assist us in managing, controlling, and protecting our estates and looking after our people. It's the function that collectively helps us up our game regarding IT service provision. 

One of the most commonly agreed-upon definitions of IT governance is: "The processes that ensure effective and efficient use of information and technology in enabling an organization to achieve its goals."

IT governance is a crucial part of enterprise governance. It consists of organizational structure, leadership practices, and processes that maintain and support the business's and its stakeholders' strategy and objectives. No matter what governance framework you use, the main benefit of governance is value creation. And value is created when:

  • The benefits of services, processes, and projects are realized.
  • Blockers and pain points are reduced.
  • Risks are mitigated and managed appropriately.
  • The use of resources is optimized, and services are delivered efficiently.

IT governance is the function that monitors, evaluates, manages, and directs people, processes, and technology to ensure value creation for our stakeholders. It ensures that IT activities are aligned with business objectives resulting in improved compliance, reduced risk, and increased performance.



What is IT management?

As opposed to governance, IT management focuses on looking after the people. You can dress it up however much you like, but in short, it's looking after the people and their processes and tools. But mainly? It's all about people. 

IT Service Management (ITSM) includes all the activities involved in planning, designing, transitioning, managing, and continually improving IT services. IT management looks after the processes and practices that deliver IT services, including infrastructure operations, application management, and user support. 

Just as IT governance is critical to keeping the business honest, IT management is vital to ensure the business can keep running.

Why are both needed?

To work effectively as an IT function, you need both management and governance to deliver services effectively, efficiently, and safely. And they can't work in isolation. Governance and management are much more effective when they play nicely together. 

Organizations need IT governance to meet financial, regulatory, and compliance requirements, while IT management delivers the service or outcomes the business needs. And since they have different scopes and responsibilities, the same team can't do both – there needs to be segregation of duty in place to avoid a situation where one is marking their own homework. Having both functions in place, but working closely together, accomplishes this.

IT governance vs. IT management: 5 differences

IT governance and management are two sides of the same coin. They look after people, practices, and technology but do it in slightly different ways. 

IT governance operates at the strategic level, sitting at the top of the organization, setting policy and operating models. IT management sits at the operational level, ensuring the day-to-day working practices deliver value. 

Let's take a look at the five main differences between IT governance and IT management.

IT Governance IT Management

It's part of the organization's leadership team. It sits at the company's top and leads by reviewing and approving organizational processes, procedures, and operating models.

It works underneath the governance team, enforcing their policies, procedures, and operating models into the day-to-day working practices.

It establishes business goals and strategy, and enterprise goals in line with business objectives, vision, and strategy.

It establishes IT goals and service delivery, and IT management goals and service delivery objectives in alignment with enterprise goals.

It ensures benefits realization through approved services and projects.

It designs, organizes, and delivers benefits through IT service delivery management.

Its relevant best practice framework is COBIT.

Its relevant best practice framework is ITIL.

Key takeaways

Though IT governance and IT management slightly overlap, it's crucial to understand that they are two different areas with separate responsibilities and teams. 

  • IT governance consists of the structure, leadership practices, and processes that maintain and support the business's and its stakeholders' strategy and objectives.
  • IT management is the set of practices involved in planning, designing, transitioning, managing, and continually improving IT services.

And the reason why you need both is that they are required to manage your IT department effectively and be closely aligned to deliver value, optimize services and reduce risk.

Read other articles like this : ITSM Framework

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