Alignment 101: How To Do It

Knowing How To Align IT And The Business Is The Key To Success

Achieving alignment between the business side of the house and IT is one of those things that everyone likes to talk about when they are putting together the goals for the upcoming year, and then nothing ever seems to get done about it.

A survey that was done by the consulting firm Bain & Co. may contain the reason why we never seem to make any progress on this: we’ve been trying to do the wrong thing. The Bain crew believes that IT departments must first become efficient, and then worry about becoming aligned with the business.

Now the trick here is that you can’t just do one at a time. Karenann Terrell who is that CIO over at Baxter International says that “There is a complexity to doing both, but that’s the job.” Her point is that you can’t wait to become 100% efficient before you start to work on the alignment thing.

Let’s say that you get the efficiently thing up to a point where it’s good enough, what then? Too often CIOs view alignment as being a situation where IT stands ready to do the bidding of whatever the rest of the business needs. That’s not what the business wants. Instead, the business needs IT to participate in the strategic decision making process – help do the thinking for the rest of the business. Perhaps a better word here would be “integration”.

Finally, the alignment of IT with the rest of the business needs to be supported from the CEO on down. Without top-level support, it’s never going to succeed. Strong collaboration between the business and IT is what will make alignment work. Remember that alignment is a dynamic process and that it will always be changing along with your business.

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?