April 30, 2019 by Siobhan Climer
Business IT alignment is a concept that describes a company where information technology is planned and used to directly and effectively achieve business objectives. In most cases, those business objectives involve increasing revenue and making the business more competitive.
That sounds pretty straightforward. Unfortunately, achieving business IT alignment is more complex and tricky than one might first expect.
Misalignment: When Business And IT Go Wrong
Of course, business technology should be used to make the business more effective, but the theory doesn’t always line up with the reality. One of the core challenges in alignment is that the decision-makers on the executive level rarely have a technical background, so they are more likely to believe marketing slogans over the on-the-ground reality of an IT solution.
One client described it this way:
“Our execs walk the traderoom floor and come back with all sorts of products and widgets and dashboards they want to implement without fully understanding the backend effort and IT strategy.”
At the same time, IT professionals may not always have a seat at the table in executive discussions, nor do they necessarily have insight into the overall business strategies. These different perspectives and skillsets often put IT and business at opposing ends, creating gridlock in the organization when a decisive move is needed.
Misalignment can be created or worsened by either of these two parties gaining significantly more decision-making power than the other. An executive board unilaterally purchasing and deploying whichever technology sounds the best or an IT department given the freedom and budget to do whatever it wants can very easily lead to an inefficient, if not dysfunctional, business technology strategy.
Business IT alignment is the pursuit of some form of harmony, cooperation, and – dare we say it – synergy between the business and the technology it depends on.
The Business IT Alignment Spectrum
Business IT alignment is abstract, and it can therefore take many forms along a spectrum of alignment. Companies aren’t ever completely aligned or misaligned. They instead fall somewhere on a spectrum of totally optimized to completely dysfunctional. There are no quick fixes to be found. Instead, there are a few different models that have been shown to create a more organized and manageable IT department that can be better utilized by the business. These include the Enterprise Architecture Framework, the Open Group Architecture Framework, and the Zachman Framework.
Cutting To The Core: An Alignment Exercise
The first step to achieving better business IT alignment is by identifying the problem.
Start by noting what elements of the business require the use of technology in order to function. A contact center needs phones. The office staff need computers. A sophisticated collaboration tool is needed to help project teams across multiple locations.
From there, envision a technology that completely addresses the challenges of these business elements. Then assess the technology you already have, note shortcomings, and identify the steps your IT solution needs to take to improve.
While this exercise won’t paint the perfect path forward, it will give you a foundation on which to realign your IT department to better serve the needs of the business as a whole.
Finding A Partner With Business IT Alignment Perspective
For many organizations, taking those initial steps – especially if the business already exists in some level of dysfunction – can be overwhelming. One way to gather buy-in from both IT and business – because, frankly, it takes two to tango – is to bring in a neutral third party.
Finding a partner with technology expertise that also centers itself on meeting business objectives enables both IT and business to express needs, identify and discover compromise, and build a better business.
Grasp business IT alignment with Mindsight in our weekly whiteboard sessions. These (free!) conversations bring in our technology architects – technical professionals experienced in build business-based roadmaps – for a video or in-person conversation centering on your goals.
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About The Author
Siobhan Climer, Science and Technology Writer for Mindsight, writes about technology trends in education, healthcare, and business. She previously taught STEM programs in elementary classrooms and museums, and writes extensively about cybersecurity, disaster recovery, cloud services, backups, data storage, network infrastructure, and the contact center. When she’s not writing tech, she’s writing fantasy, gardening, and exploring the world with her twin two-year old daughters. Find her on twitter @techtalksio.