5 Questions to Ask About Your Business-Infomation Technology (IT) Alignment

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:

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:

Today Tomorrow
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). 

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5 Questions to Ask About Your Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation is the process of using technology and data to do Business Transformation. Nowadays, every business article you read has something directly, indirectly or implied related to transformation, business transformation, and digital transformation. The problem is that everything that is done to improve the organization is said to be some sort of transformation. Even small changes. They are not.

To be clear, while there are many levels of digital transformation ranging from disrupting/rethinking industries to drastically improving customer experiences, making small incremental changes does not mean you are doing a digital transformation. Additionally, there are organizations that claim that they are doing some sort of digital transformation but in reality, they might be just upgrading/introducing software, deciding between on-prem, off-prem, SaaS, etc.

As I see it, the fundamental problem of Digital Transformation is not only the over-hype use of this cool buzzword but also the fact that Digital Transformation is hard to do. It is hard because it is misunderstood and most of the time its boundaries are kinda vague. To illustrate this point, try to think of who do you think is responsible for Digital Transformation, now go ask your peers in other departments and compare. If someones come up and say that since its Digital Transformation it has to be somehow related to the Information Technology (IT) department or maybe even the Marketing department that uses the term Digital Experience.

In either of the above cases, the answer is not a simple one. In the case of the IT department, it could be them:

  1. if the Chief Information Officer (CIO) is part of the executives,
  2. if CIO’s name is published in annual reports,
  3. if the CIO doesn’t report to CFO,
  4. if the CEO considers CIO to be a crucial differentiator,
  5. if CIO has responsibility for operations and innovation,
  6. if CIO is supported across middle management and front-line employees of all departments
  7. if…

Too many ifs to answer and there is not enough time/resources in organizations for people to be thinking about these ifs. But to at least get the ball started, I would encourage people to ask the following:

Today Tomorrow
1. Who is responsible for defining and managing the organization’s Digital Transformation? Who should be responsible for defining and managing the organization’s Digital Transformation?
2. What is being accomplished with Digital Transformation? What do you want to accomplish with Digital Transformation?
3. Where does the Digital Transformation start and end? Where should the Digital Transformation start and end?
4. When is Digital Transformation relevant? When should Digital Transformation be relevant?
5. Why Digital Transformation is happening? Why should the Digital Transformation happen?

When you ask the above question to yourself or others, bear in mind that answers can be fluid, misaligned or just simply wrong (yes that can happen!) and that Strategy, Politics, Innovation, Culture and Execution (SPICE) can really mess-up or enhance your recipe(s) for success.

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Most companies are thinking about video for their external audiences. Is there a difference if you’re creating a ​video for an internal audience?

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5 Myths About Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation and Business Transformation are the Same

Business Transformation is the process of transforming: (1) how things are made, (2) how things are bought, (3) how things are sold and (4) how services are provided.

Digital Transformation is the process of using technology and data to do Business Transformation. In a way, Digital Transformation is a subset of Business Transformation.

Digital Transformation is only about Technology and Data

While it is true that Digital Transformation uses technology and data but they are not the only important areas for consideration. Other areas that affect Digital Transformation include people, processes, products and even services. Additionally, this notion that Digital Transformation is the responsibility of the Information Technology (IT) department is not only short-sighted but also half-hearted.

Digital Transformation is a Specific Project

Under the umbrella of Digital Transformation there can be many projects (e.g., going paperless, e-signatures, enhanced digital customer experiences etc.) but Digital Transformation in itself isn’t really a project but more like an ongoing program (or even a portfolio) that continues to look for improvements. It is also important to know who (CEO, COO, CFO, CIO etc.) is ultimately responsible for Digital Transformation and how much help are they getting from their peers.

Digital Transformation is Well Understood

If you take individuals from across the organization with varying functions, responsibilities and levels and ask them what does Digital Transformation means for them often you will get confused looks, some by the book definitions and very few (if any) examples.  In order to address this, create a basic understanding of Digital Transformation specific for the organization, how Digital Transformation relates to the organization’s mission, vision and values and where Digital Transformation directly affects individuals.

Digital Transformation Does Not Affect Culture

Culture is not just one thing (only about people) but it is a collection/combination of different things/subcultures that can be observed and also measured. What this means is that Digital Transformation not only affects people’s jobs but also what elimination and/or creation of processes need to occur, why (de)selection of technologies happens, retirement and/or creation of products, measurement of IT Service and Customer Service Experiences and your organization’s data maturity for decision-making.

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Monopolies don’t care about customer experience. Should they?

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