Align IT to Business or Business to IT?

September 29, 2008

According to the Society for Information Management (SIM) and for the sixth time in the past seven years, the survey of member of the CIO group deemed IT and Business alignment as their #1 concern. Additionally, Business leaders continue to voice concerns about IT understanding the business.

This creates an interesting dynamic. “I need to align better with you and you need to align better with me.” Sounds like a simple problem, and in the words of Rodney King, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

Of course basic communication is part of the solution, but only a part. At the CFO Technology Summit in San Francisco in September, Ian Campbell of Nucleus Research offered a simple suggestion – Go to lunch together. So if you are a CIO, go to lunch with your CFO/CEO, and vice-versa. But again, that is only part of the solution.

Communication is the start, and key to the next step – understanding. We need to do a better job of creating an understanding of what each other can offer.

Over the past several years, organizations have done a good job in creating an understanding about how the business, specifically the financials, works, and in getting people in the organization to be able to speak to them in a somewhat intelligent manner. Many organizations likened it to managing your home expenses to drive the point.

But, how well have we done in getting business leaders to understand technology? The fact that technology has permeated our society today, while a boon for the technology industry may be creating an obstacle for IT and Business Alignment. Since most business leaders use technology daily at work and home (email, text messaging, IM, even setting up a wireless home network), they may feel they already “get it.” The technology industry has done such a great job with solutions like “plug and play” devices that they may have made technology appear, dare I say it, simple.

Business, on the other hand, remains very complex – at least that is what most business leaders would have you believe.

In reality, both can be as simple or complex as we want to make them, depending on how far in the weeds we want to go. Still, more needs to be done to create a better understanding to Business leaders of what technology is available.

Ultimately, it is a two-way street. Technology leaders need to understand the business process to they can propose technology solutions to improve the process. Business leaders need to be aware of what technology so they can understand how it can be applied to improve the business process.

We need to do both. And it can be done. Anyone who has spent any time in or observing manufacturing over the past 20 years can relate to this dichotomy. Think Quality and Cost. For years we were told you can have great quality, but it will be at an increased cost, or you can have low cost, but quality will suffer. Through the use of some innovative, and let’s be honest, some common sense approaches, companies have achieved this. There are many low cost, high quality companies thriving; those that couldn’t pull it off are close to extinction, or already gone.

It is not easy and there is no “silver bullet.” But it can be done. One way to start is to use a framework that includes an assessment of where you are today and an analysis of how the technology solutions can improve your business processes, allowing you to be more agile and capable of responding to ever changing conditions.

Drop me a line to discuss further!

Glenn


IT2B – Alignment or Convergence?

September 22, 2008

Went to the CFO Technology conference a couple of weeks ago in San Francisco where one of the many interesting topics was on IT to Business Convergence.

The presenters at the kick off work shop (Michael Fillious and Fasail Hoque from the BTM Corporation), did a fine job of outlining the case for Convergence, stating, “Convergence occurs when business and technology activities are intertwined and the leadership teams operate almost interchangeably.” This should be an objective of virtually all organizations. In fact, it seems to me that convergence is the next logical step in the process; however, I don’t believe we can write off alignment.

It’s important to understand the difference between alignment and convergence:

Convergence can be defined as a process of coming together or the state of having come together toward a common point.

Alignment can be defined as a state of agreement or cooperation among persons, groups, nations, etc., with a common cause or viewpoint.

Source: Dictionary.com

Before one can come together and converge, there must be an agreement between the groups on the direction the organization is taking. Alignment must take place before Convergence.

The concern I have in pushing Convergence over Alignment is that although Convergence follows Alignment in the logical process of transforming an IT organization from a basic cost center to a strategic partner, many organizations will want to skip critical steps, one of those being Alignment. Or, they may feel they are already at that stage – after all, we’ve been talking alignment for over 5 years. However, based on what I have seen, there is still a lot of work to be done just to get organizations to the Alignment stage in the process. Not only is it a lot of work, but it is a lot of hard work. You can’t discount the work that is required to get you to your ultimate destination. Yes, you have to have a vision, you have to have a plan, but you also have to be willing to do the work to get you there.

In our society of instant gratification and desire for immediate results, many organizations will not have the intestinal fortitude to follow the necessary steps to improve. Will leaders be able to “stay the course” in their improvement activities? The concern is unless organizations have a strong strategic partner, or in LEAN terms, a sensei, most will be unsuccessful.

I want to give kudos to Fasail and Michael for pushing the next step in the process – a new vision in the journey of improvement. We definitely need the vision. However, although Convergence may be the ultimate goal (for now), let’s focus on getting some basic Alignment between IT and Business Processes first.

Let me know your thoughts!

Talk to you soon!

Glenn


What does IT to Business mean?

September 12, 2008

Hey everyone!

 

After years of working with organizations to improve their processes from primarily the business side of things, and working with IT folks to try to match the technology they could provide to the business, it occurred to me that maybe these two ‘sides’ should try to work together a little more.

 

 

Doing a little research, it appears more than one person has also had this thought. Just pick up virtually any magazine on technology and you will find conversations about the need for IT to align with business, or for the CIO to become more ‘strategic’ and provide ‘value’ to the organization.

 

 

These are great goals, but what do they mean? How does one do this? Where do you start? What do people really mean by “IT to Business Alignment”?

 

 

In starting this blog, I am hoping to begin a dialogue with those who have an interest in aligning IT and Business (IT2B); those who are looking to move their organization forward and to help it become more agile.

 

 

I have my thoughts on this, and will be sharing them with you in the future.  But for now, give me your thoughts on this. What do you think it means to “Align IT to Business”?

 

 

Talk to you soon!

 

Glenn