May 9, 2017
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.
It sounds pretty cut and dry, but achieving business IT alignment requires more finesse than one might think.
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. At the same time, IT professionals who may make budgetary requests of the executive team often lack the understanding of business processes and long-term goals to account for these factors in their requested technology. This dynamic leaves two different parties with different perspectives and skillsets talking past each other. It creates 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.
Truly, Business IT alignment is the pursuit of some form of harmony, cooperation, and synergy between the business and the technology it depends on.
Models of Business IT Alignment
Because proper alignment is an abstract problem, alignment may look different to different companies. Furthermore, it is a granular problem. Companies aren’t either 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.
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