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IT Governance for a Family Owned Business

According to research by Boston Consulting Group (BCG)

“More than 30% of large companies are family-owned. The number of family businesses in emerging markets with revenues exceeding $1 billion is growing rapidly. However, when compared to a non-family run businesses, family businesses exhibit different behaviors and performance”.

A CIO from successful background in a professionally run company, could find operating environment in family business, unstructured and biased. Having successfully Governed IT in both family owned business and professional companies, I am sharing some lessons from my experience which can help an IT Leader in family owned business, navigate thorough uncharted roads.

  • Lesson 1 – Align IT investment decisions with the company VALUES set by family. Not every investment decision will be made based on best choice as per business case. For example, family values could forbid a CIO from buying technology from certain companies or Enter outsourcing agreements with certain countries. Respect the values which comes from family board.
  • Lesson 2 – Gaining family TRUST is as important as doing the Return on investment (ROI) calculations on IT project. A family business council might approve an IT project purely on bases of trust they have in their IT leader. As a good IT leader it is still important to be professional and calculate ROI in project, be financially prudent about the proposed investments. This will ensure better control during the execution of the project and grow the trust family business council has demonstrated in IT Leader’s abilities.
  • Lesson 3 – An unsaid metric in family business is PRIDE which the owners have for their companies. This pride gets multiplied when various family business heads exchange “best practices in their businesses” during social events. An IT leader of a family owned business should become pride multiplier, innovating using his IT staff’s skills to code anything, thus providing business solutions (Apps/Portals/Products) which can, not only help meet company goals but also help family members increase social respect in their community.
  • Lesson 4 – Big fancy titles are little meaning to the owners, Job descriptions do exist, but roles are fluid. So when someone in family asks for a small IT request eg (Download Mobile App/Suggest size of tablet PC / Processor of laptop) don’t squirm about it. Treat the request in the same way as it was coming from your own family member, a small support will go a long way in establishing your credibility as an IT Leader who wants to HELP.

While the technology choices remain same across family and non-family businesses, to be successful in family business, it is important that the IT leaders understands and aligns themselves with above mentioned suggestions.

IT Governance for a family owned business is currently very niche discipline and there is not much research available for IT Leaders and vendors. Feel free to comment, like and share this post with your friends in IT, and contribute to building knowledge in this area.

Who knows, your next job might land you in a Family Owned business!

Written by Abhinav Mittal, Abhinav is Author & IT Productivity Coach based out of Dubai, He has a more than a decade of experience in helping business leaders get more value from their IT investments. 

Contact Abhinav on  To know how to establish IT Governance for your family owned business and reduce IT costs


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