Is it possible that the holy grail of IT, getting our act together with the rest of the business, is no longer what we should be working on? A survey that was done by the consulting firm Bain & Co. sure seems to be saying this.
Before anyone goes crazy on me, let’s first make sure that we’re all talking about the same thing here. Just what do we mean when we talking about alignment? It turns out that the best definition of IT alignment that I’ve come across comes from Brian Watson over at CIO Insight magazine who defines it as “…synching up strategies [between IT and the business units]“.
Now here’s the trick: there are a bunch of ways to do this. Sometimes the IT organization runs along side of the business units, sometimes the IT organization works within the business units almost like a vital organ.
No matter which approach you take, business line managers and IT managers have to have shared domain knowledge and a common understanding about a specific business process and how IT can help make things better in order to be in alignment.
The damning bit of info that the Bain report revealed was that if your IT department is not effective, then all the alignment in the world isn’t going to help your firm.
The Bain team defined an effective IT department as one that gets projects done on time and on budget. Their study showed that making an IT department effective was MORE important than getting it aligned with the rest of the business if you wanted to boost company growth and control IT spending.
What this means is that too many of us have been trying to walk before we can crawl. Making our IT shops effective is the first step, alignment is the second step. Now there’s a plan that we can live with.
Do you feel that your IT department is effective? Do you believe that it is aligned? What steps are you taking to make it more effective? Do you think that you need to bother to align it with the rest of the business?