Information technology organizations have been pursuing business-IT alignment for as long as businesses have used computers. Wikipedia defines business-IT alignment as:
A dynamic state in which a business organization can use information technology to achieve business objectives – typically improved financial performance or marketplace competitiveness. Some definitions focus more on outcomes, like the ability of IT to produce business value, while other definitions of alignment focus more on the means, i.e. the harmony between IT and business decision makers within the organization.
What does your IT organization do to keep alignment? CIOs in the Indianapolis area have cited the following:
- Get coaching – Many organizations need outside help refocusing both IT and business leadership on working together.
- Build, implement and maintain an IT governance system – preferably one that keeps business and IT talking frequently about specifics like policy, architecture and priority.
- Every week, IT evaluates work against stated business objectives to make sure we keep our eye on the ball.
- We outsource as much of our RUN work as we can so IT staff can spend the time needed on GROW and TRANSFORM projects.
Successful business-IT alignment often includes:
- Organizational belief that IT is an instrument to transform the business
- A clear, stated focus on customer service both internally and externally
- Cross-functional understanding of strengths and challenges in both the operations and IT organizations
- Clear, specific goals for both the business and IT employees
- Clear understanding of how the company makes and loses money
- Inclusive company culture that includes all sides of the business
- Giving IT staff the time to focus on business alignment
We see many organizations use cloud infrastructure to reduce or eliminate the tactical, low-return hardware and software maintenance IT organizations have historically managed. Great IT leaders then use this reclaimed time to keep IT staff focused on applications, end users and the business requirements. Read more about how Stanley Steemer used cloud infrastructure to support a larger business transformation in this case study.