Integrate Ethics Into Your Governance Framework
by Betsy Burton and Adam Pease
Governance continues to be a critical issue for many business and IT leaders. The challenge is that the discipline of governance is highly dynamic and changes as the business landscape and ecosystem evolves.
In this view, our governance framework must change as organizations introduce emerging technologies that directly impact business culture, society, economics, and the environment. In the near future, these disruptive technologies will include AI, predictive analytics, augmented and mixed reality, and more new systems that we have not even seen yet.
In this blog, we explore how governance is changing and why organizations need to include ethics in their governance framework and discipline.
Governance Is More Than Policies
Governance is the discipline of managing regulatory requirements, roles and responsibilities, investments, organizational structure, risk management, and performance management (metrics) to achieve business outcomes, including business goals and strategy, effective operations, compliance, etc.
Many organizations have mistakenly viewed corporate governance, business governance, and IT governance as different and distinct disciplines. Companies may seek out a deep understanding of IT governance best practices while neglecting business governance models, or failing to understand the purpose of corporate governance.
This ‘siloed’ approach to governance stems from an understanding of governance as a collection of policy choices, rather than a unifying set of values and norms. It is essential for organizations to view the different aspects of governance as highly integrated disciplines that feed into and influence one another other.
All are used to guide strategic, tactical, and operational decision-making. In this post, we consider how a focus on digital ethics, on a broader and more abstract set of values, rather than a focus on policies, can draw the otherwise disparate poles of governance together into a cohesive whole.
Figure 1. The overlapping circles of governance
Artificial Intelligence and Governance
In today’s disruptive technology landscape, more and more firms are relying on expert resource to determine how to define their business and long-term strategies to support these transformative systems. Increasingly, firms are turning to specialized digital ethicists to help them negotiate the thorny moral questions that emerge around new technologies.
Ethics has both a practical and a normative dimension. Applying ethics requires defining business processes to establish norms of workplace conduct; meanwhile, theorizing ethics involves articulating the guiding values that underpin enterprise. Additionally, an ethicist will have to consider the foundational company values that inform such decisions.
At its heart, digital ethics involves balancing the specificity of unique technical contexts with the generality of moral reasoning and value articulation. For businesses looking to invest in these technologies, investing in such an expert may be integral to the success or failure of the venture.