Aligning IT (with) the Business

What does it mean to align IT (with) the business?

For most organizations, IT management issues continue to be a strategic and organizational challenge. In addition, CIO’s continue to strive for performance gains such as IT becoming more efficient, nimble, and innovative. For IT to be more agile, control costs and align with the business further supports a desire by organizations to achieve strategic organizational benefits.

According to the Society for Information Management (SIM) and it’s 2016 and 2017 IT Trends Survey; aligning IT (with) the business has been a top-ten issue, and for both years, almost half of the respondents identified alignment as a top five IT management concern.

So we ask ourselves, what does “Alignment” mean for the IT professional?

  • Is it the traditional definition, of the fit between the objectives of the business and IT, and how well IT knows and supports the objectives, and its ability to satisfy the business requirements?; OR
  • Is it less about the alignment? But, more about how cohesively IT and the business team/partner together to accomplish enterprise objectives?

A different point of view

In our experience, we see alignment as a collective effort on both business and IT’s part, and where alignment confusion comes in is where the IT organization has difficulty in responding to business and technological changes? Furthermore, we do not see it as technology’s responsibility to become aligned, and collectively stay aligned, but rather it should be a cohesive partnering between business and IT to form cohesive teams, partner and share responsibilities on a strategic level as well as jointly share responsibilities on tactical execution levels.

What to do?

In our experience, we have supported organizations with both organizational change and “running IT (with) the business”. In both instances, we promoted and encouraged clients to take a top-down strategic approach. This approach includes establishing and institutionalizing five basic portfolio management techniques:

  • Break down the silo’s: be aware of organizational functions and staff titles, but, take down the organizational barriers between IT and the Business and instead encourage the establishment of cross-functional teams, with accountability for collective objective and project goal accomplishment
  • Convene a strategic group of stakeholders: establish forum/s with representatives that include internal (business, technology) or external partners to drive ownership, accountability and oversight of technological change
  • Establish the “rules of the road”: be prepared to improve on enterprise collaboration, the collective ways and guiding principles in which teams come together to accomplish firm-wide and initiative objectives
  • Establish role-based teams: drive execution activities for project consistency. This includes establishing portfolios of projects, resources and combined teams with clearly demarcated accountable roles and responsibilities
  • Focus on deliverable milestones: to ensure consistency of what to accomplish, and by when, clear milestones have be created, measured and actioned

What to expect?

Taking this approach typically yields the following benefits:

  • Significant increase in managing business expectations
  • Improved engagement and cooperation from all stakeholders
  • Faster time to market for technological change,
  • Cost effective service delivery
  • Shorter decision time-frames

Written by Terry Coull. Terry is a management consultant focusing on transformation and continuous improvement in technology today. This is part 4 of a series of informative team-centric leading practice white-papers.

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