Want IT Business Alignment? Change Your Approach and Create a Dependence

 

What’s wrong with your approach to IT Business Alignment is your approach to IT Business Alignment. For over 30 years, organizations have been wrestling with the IT Business Alignment issue, and according to the annual Society of Information Management survey it remains a top issue today. 

Why is this so difficult to get our arms around?  I’ve written previously about how defining IT Business Alignment has been an ongoing issue, and how our organizational structures make it very challenging (here).  We have spent so much time struggling to figure out the right approach that perhaps we have lost our way.

Part of this struggle is due to the definition itself.  ITIL v3 defines Business/IT Alignment as:

An approach to the delivery of IT Services that tries to align the Activities of the IT Service provider with the needs of the Business.

The problem with this definition is it defines Business/IT Alignment as an approach. Other definitions call it an “ongoing process” (Wikipedia).  While there may be a process to achieve it, Business/IT Alignment is not an approach or process, it is an outcome.

It is the outcome of many different approaches and processes which will vary by organization and will involve varying levels of technology.  Defining it as an outcome:

IT Business Alignment is the delivery of IT Services that does align the IT activities to the needs of the business.

Now looking at it as an outcome, how do you know when you’ve achieved it?  Well, it’s just like in the movie Goldfinger, when James Bond is asked, “What do you know about gold 007?”  His response was, “I know it when I see it.”  IT Business Alignment is like this in many ways because there is no “one size fits all” solution; each organization is unique, and alignment will look different in each.  This is what makes it so challenging.  An attempt by Company B to replicate the alignment results at Company A will likely be disappointing, because Company B is different than Company A.

However, to achieve this outcome, there must be some fundamental pieces in place in order to drive the approaches to meet the outcome of IT Business Alignment.  Fundamentally, IT and Business must be dependent on each other for success, and this dependence must be mutually recognized and acted upon.

Creating this dependence starts with creating a relationship and establishing common metrics.  Many will say this already exists in their organization.  Before you do, ask if the actions back it up?  Remember, not only does the dependence need to be recognized, but it must be acted upon.

 One way to act is to take the initiative to engage with the business in helping improve their operation.  This is where taking a process based focus to the operation can provide real benefit.  Using techniques like Business Process Management, or the one we’ve developed like the IT2x FrameworkSM, can help IT and Business create the necessary dependence and become aligned.

Once aligned, continue to move IT and the business closer.  Whether you call this Synchronization, Convergence, or Fusion, doesn’t matter.  What does matter is the continuous process of moving toward these goals. 

Change your approach to IT Business Alignment.  Stop treating it as an approach, and start looking at it as an outcome.  Then act toward achieving this outcome, by creating a dependence on each other through relationships, common metrics, and a process centric approach to improving operations. 

Let me know your thoughts!

 

Glenn Whitfield

 

 

 

 

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4 Responses to Want IT Business Alignment? Change Your Approach and Create a Dependence

  1. Peter Thomas says:

    Glenn,

    As ever, I like your way of thinking. Have finally got round to adding your blog to my list of recommended sites ( http://peterthomas.wordpress.com/about-this-site/please-add-my-site-to-the-recommended-list/ ). Sorry for the delay.

    Peter

  2. Glenn, nice post! I particularly like your comment, “IT and Business must be dependent on each other for success, and this dependence must be mutually recognized and acted upon.” This is so true and far to often this is not recognized by some business leaders until it is too late. IT leader need to realize that it is not technology for the sake of technology. Technology must serve a business need and advance the goal. The business must understand that technology can and must be a competitive advantage. As an example, data mining is key to understanding customers and obviously the business must serve their customer if they are to continue to exist. A business that serves their customers better than the competition clearly has a competitive advantage.

  3. Royce,

    Thanks for the comments. You’re right that the dependence if often not recognized until it is too late. What can be even worse is when it’s taken for granted as being there when, in fact, it’s not.

  4. Tom Lodahl says:

    Glenn: Just found your blog. Could not find your email address.

    You are right about dependency: Over the fifteen years we have been measuring it, business dependency on IT has increased from about 4.5 on a seven-point scale, to well over 6. This of course creates resentment when business does not get what it needs from IT. In our alignment practice, we recommend that part of IT managers’ incentive pay be based on improvements in alignment, thus creating reciprocal dependency. Our measure of alignment, “IS Contribution to Managerial Goal Achievement,” is described in detail at http://www.cognitechcorp. com This measure is a repeatable benchmark and correlates strongly with company profit margins. It also shows you where in the company IT goal alignment is good, and where not.

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