IT has become a critical part of almost every department. As a result, businesses have high expectations of their technical investment. New technologies must now reduce costs, increase security, enhance productivity or improve workflows and communications.
But despite the important role IT strategy plays, it often ends up as an afterthought. Bolted on to the business strategy, rather than forming an integral part of it.
This is often because IT is seen as a separate entity. One where technology drives investments, instead of the business’ own aims and objectives.
This divided approach, by both the business as a whole and by IT, is counterproductive. And usually only serves to increase the disconnect between the two.
What are the benefits of alignment?
Utilising an IT-business alignment model can help improve your business’s performance. Leading to more efficient processes, faster response times and more efficient supply chains. This is because all aspects of a business are not only working towards common goals, but are aware of what other areas are doing.
- Everyone is working towards a common goal
- IT supports the business strategy, adds value and drives success
- Easier to control and manage risk and compliance issues
- Meets the IT demands consistently and efficiently
- Increases the agility of the business and allows it to react to changes
- Creates greater integrations and collaboration between departments
Why does disconnect happen?
There are a few ways in which disconnect between IT and the wider business can form. Below are the most common reasons.
- IT departments do not have a clear understanding of what is important to the business
- Leadership don’t understand the value of IT
- Leadership are unwilling to stop using outdated technology
- IT decisions are made separate to business decisions
What are the potential drawbacks?
It’s important to remember that alignment is not a one-off, box ticking activity. Alignment is something which requires regular reviews, assessments and adjustments.
Even businesses who achieve alignment can experience disconnect over time. As needs and priorities change, other departments will react. They’ll develop their own strategies which work for them. But will have little thought to how they must adjust IT to support these developments.
If this continues, pain-points and organisational friction will arise. But the cause of this is rarely identified. The business strategy has developed, but IT has stagnated.
The leadership team should review IT strategy alongside business strategy each quarter. This helps determine how technology is helping – or hindering – growth.
This process benefits greatly from an external consultant. For companies without an internal IT team, the consultant provides important technical insight. And where companies do have an internal IT team, the consultant provides a much needed objective point of view.
Although aligning the IT and business strategy takes time and cooperation, it is an exercise worth completing. When IT is working to support business goals it leads to happier, more productive teams, smarter investments and greater return.
IT and business strategie
“Being strategic” requires a sense of confidence in one’s decision-making process which cannot be founded on 100% proof of concept. “Being strategic” means being perceptive, future-oriented, open-minded, proactive, working off the front-foot, and making and taking decisions based on evidence and calculated hunches.
Organizations can use IT to make strategic changes to their business models. A company that traditionally sold products through retail outlets might use IT to develop an e-commerce model that enables it to reach a wider market, reduce its distribution costs and offer a more convenient service to customers.
A good IT strategy keeps in balance 2 elements: supporting daily operations and developing for the future (new architecture, new systems, new technologies). Some IT and business leaders focus only on current problems and take no time to establish a long-term strategy.