Business – IT alignment is the connection between the business objectives and the Information Technology (IT) requirements of an organization. These two factors often seem to contradict, but many economic and technical experts agree that alignment between them, maintained over time, is essential to the success of an organization.
An organization can successfully integrate IT strategy with business strategy if there is:
- A shared understanding of how IT applications, technologies and services will contribute to business objectives – today and in the future;
- A shared focus on where to allocate limited resources, time and money as well as the trade-offs the enterprise is prepared to make; and
- A credible working relationship between the IT organization and the rest of the business, as evidenced by reliable daily operations, responsive problem management and innovative solution delivery.
This can be achieved if some basic steps are taken.
Step 1 – Communicate Openly with Operational Groups and Stakeholders
It’s difficult to fix a problem if one is unsure of the fact that:
- A gap exists; and
- The specifics of the problem.
It’s normal for different departments to disagree or misunderstand one another. Operational groups see themselves as focused on the true core competency of the company and many of the corporate support organizations view their role to be critical to operational success. Both are completely accurate, but the IT department is as critical for company success as any other department. In addition, IT is one of the few groups that enables all the areas within the business to be more productive and successful.
Gaps are created when IT starts to operate in a vacuum. There are many IT initiatives that must take place to create a stable and supportable technology environment that have little interest to those outside of IT. Nevertheless, keeping the company aware of what IT is doing is crucial.
Activities such as network upgrades, system installations, and disaster recovery planning, take time and often have large expenses associated with them. For the most part, these projects are not something an operational manager or company executive can actually see and touch, so they may not understand the real benefit in doing such projects. In other words, it’s just one of those expensive projects the IT department is always asking funding for.
Communication is a skill that will help reduce or eliminate the “IT-Operational Gap”.
Step 2 – Find Out What’s Needed
As a consulting firm walking into a new organization, we at Litcom have an advantage. We can ask the staff virtually any question to better understand what they are trying to do about their objectives, problems, and issues. No one is put into a defensive position because we represent someone trying to develop an “objective” evaluation of the company’s IT situation.
Representatives of IT must do the same. They must ask internal stakeholders what their needs are and whether the IT organization is focused on these issues.
Step 3 – Validate Your Plans
While some of us are able to size up a situation and develop a technology strategy to address that situation, the solutions we each develop for an issue can be very different. While there may be many solutions that work, some may be totally inappropriate for the organization at the time.
The development of an IT strategy and plan is intended to address the key technology issues identified in the company. The plan needs to identify the IT initiatives planned for execution including the business initiatives to which they align, the priority, the benefits expected to achieve, resources required, and the cost of the plan.
Once completed, it is critical to present the strategic plan to the senior management team and gain their input in some key areas:
- Are the company’s critical needs addressed?
- Are the IT initiatives prioritized appropriately?
- Do the IT initiatives agree with the plan and will they support it fully?
While company priorities often change, it is necessary to ensure that any IT initiative change is realigned to the original plan. Otherwise, it will be a significant challenge (or impossible) to deliver both sets of priorities.
Step 4 – Conduct Periodic Surveys
The “IT-Operational Gap” is always lurking in the background in most companies. It’s something everyone needs to be constantly aware of to keep it minimized. Periodically, it is important to go back to the operational managers and senior managers and ask how the IT organization is working for them. This doesn’t have to be a formal program. It may involve a walk down the hall to meet with people, a periodic lunch, or a brief corridor conversation about how the IT organization is doing relative to supporting their operation.
The Litcom Approach
It is important for executives to utilize an IT provider that can align their business needs with the appropriate technology. Often this process can be effectively facilitated by an experienced third party, such as Litcom. Any consulting organization privileged to help a company work through this process must:
- Be objective;
- Be willing to provide the organization with several options; and
- Have the capacity to discuss and review technology in your language.
Because there are so many options available to senior executives today, the strength of any technology is in how it is properly integrated. It is both important and necessary for an organization to develop a plan detailing how it plans to utilize varying technologies to support its operations.
Litcom’s professional team is equipped to provide comprehensive and efficient solutions for successfully integrating technology into your business.