Is IT Alignment Sooo 2008?

by drjim on March 9, 2009

Is IT Alignment Still A Good Goal For An IT Department To Have?

Is IT Alignment Still A Good Goal For An IT Department To Have?

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?

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Simon Stapleton March 10, 2009 at 10:37 am

We’re still talking about this, ten years on. True in my workplace too!

I wonder if there is an alternative view here? We talk about business and IT being separate units with separate strategies (that we try to align). Why is IT and the Business divided? Isn’t IT in fact the business, and the business is IT? In the modern enterprise, isn’t IT a fully paid up member of the business?

If the Business/IT is a euphemism for customer/supplier, then why do strategies need to be aligned? As long as they meet in the middle at agreed junctures (the contract/SLA) then… so what?

But if IT is an equal partner in the business, then isn’t it just ONE strategy?

Maybe if we removed the concept of division between IT and Business, then we’ll start talking the same language and striving to achieve the same goals with the spoils of the outcome shared by everybody?

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