In the context of an organization,
- Business is the activity of making, buying, or selling goods or providing services in exchange for something (e.g., money, services, barter, etc.).
- Information Technology (IT) is the use of any type of technology to achieve the current and future goals of the business.
- Alignment is the ability of two or more individuals/teams/groups/departments to be in agreement with each other as to what needs to be accomplished.
Thus, Business-IT Alignment is an agreement between IT and Business (non-IT) parts of the organization to use data and various computer systems to make/buy/sell things and provide services. These things and services can be provided internally (e.g., purchasing enterprise hardware and software, help desk services, etc.) and externally (e.g., selling enterprise hardware and software, cloud services, etc.).
Ideally, when an organization is being run like a well-oiled machine where all parts know their goals, roles, and responsibilities and know how to frictionlessly collaborate with each other there would not be any need for Business-IT Alignment. Unfortunately, most organizations aren’t run like a well-oiled machine. Most organizations are usually misaligned in terms of People, Processes, Products, Services, and Technology. To understand why Business-IT Alignment happens, here are a few things that can happen in organizations from a Business (non-IT) perceptive:
- Strategic business decision-making doesn’t involve IT
- Business politics, authority, and hierarchy determine what IT can(‘t) do
- Business doesn’t consider IT innovation to be relevant or important or necessary
- Business culture creates miscommunication, biases, and perceptions about IT
- Business doesn’t think that IT can be a responsible partner for execution
On the flip side, there are a few things that can happen in organizations from an IT perspective:
- IT strategy is late and misaligned with business strategy
- Depending on where/who IT head reports determine what say/respect (if any) IT has
- IT in-house innovative solutions can be costly to maintain
- IT culture makes fun of non-IT folks in regards to Business’ lack of IT knowledge
- IT forgets that execution requires relationship-building and nice communications
Now that the dirty laundry of both Business and IT has been revealed, let’s move on to what questions we need to ask to begin in the journey of Business-IT Alignment:
|Currently||In the Future|
|1.||Who is responsible for Business-IT Alignment? Business? IT? Both? No one?||Who should be responsible for Business-IT Alignment? Business? IT? Both? No one?|
|2.||What is Business-IT Alignment achieving? Operational Excellence? Faster to Market? Better Services?||What should Business-IT Alignment achieve? Operational Excellence? Faster to Market? Better Services?|
|3.||Where does Business-IT Alignment start and end?||Where should Business-IT Alignment start and end?|
|4.||When is Business-IT Alignment considered? Hiring? Process Improvement? Purchasing? Selling?||When should Business-IT Alignment be considered? Hiring? Process Improvement? Purchasing? Selling?|
|5.||Why Business-IT Alignment (not) happening? Lack of resources? Lack of objective? Ambiguity?||Why should Business-IT Alignment be (not) happening? Lack of resources? Lack of objective? Ambiguity?|
If it is not clear by now, Business-IT Alignment is, directly and indirectly, the responsibility of Business, IT and all the individuals/teams/groups/departments led by all levels of leadership (executive, middle and front-line).