IT leaders have enough problems running operational technology, investing in innovative systems and managing a geographically dispersed workforce. Then, on top of everything, comes governance.

Good governance is all about establishing an IT-based framework that allows the business to make the right decisions about technology investment at the right time. Governance allows the organisation to make a reasoned decision on technology investments based on an effective balance between potential benefits and perceived risk.

Although the aims of IT governance are admirable, the reality for CIOs is often ghastly. The ‘noughties’ were the decade of legislation, with the business facing an increasing raft of financial, environmental and information regulations.

Many of these regulations, given the ability of IT to record and analyse data, affected the technology team. Recent regulations passed as a result of the economic downturn are unlikely to make the CIO’s job any easier. So, how can your organisation cope, and what IT and business process areas should you prioritise?

Some experts (see further reading, below) have suggested that the complicated nature of IT governance means it should not be delegated to the CIO. It is a fair point – good technology practice is essential to successful business practice.

In an ideal world, the business might remove responsibility from the CIO – but in the real world, IT decision makers are often left accountable for governance. Such responsibility means they must take action.

Integration will be crucial; no executive can make the right decisions without alignment between IT investment and business aims. Deeper business intelligence – in the form of corporate performance management – will help you track alignment.

Also keep a tight grip on document management and procurement technology. Fail to keep track of data and paper flowing around your business and you will not be able to respond to governance demands in a timely fashion.

The demands created by IT governance are unlikely to diminish. But the implementation of the right tools and processes can certainly help your organisation cope.

Author profile: Mark Thompson

Mark Thompson is the managing director of COA Solutions, a UK provider of business management and information systems to the UK mid-market service sector. Mark trained as an accountant before joining the infant business software industry with Olivetti in 1981. This was followed by a sales roles with Multisoft and Tetra (now part of the Sage Group), two of the early pioneers of branded accounting software for SMEs. In 1996, Mark joined COA Solutions, moving rapidly from sales manager to sales director and then onto managing director in 2002. Mark subsequently oversaw COA Solutions' rapid expansion as turnover grew from £12m to £60m over the next seven years. During this period, COA Solutions completed nine acquisitions as it established itself as the leading UK business software vendor to mid-sized organisations. In early 2010, Mark led COA Solutions into negotiations with Advanced Computer Software Plc (ACS Plc), resulting in the business being acquired for £100m in an all cash transaction. COA Solutions now operates as an Advanced Computer Software Group company.