Align IT to Business or Business to IT?

According to the Society for Information Management (SIM) and for the sixth time in the past seven years, the survey of member of the CIO group deemed IT and Business alignment as their #1 concern. Additionally, Business leaders continue to voice concerns about IT understanding the business.

This creates an interesting dynamic. “I need to align better with you and you need to align better with me.” Sounds like a simple problem, and in the words of Rodney King, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

Of course basic communication is part of the solution, but only a part. At the CFO Technology Summit in San Francisco in September, Ian Campbell of Nucleus Research offered a simple suggestion – Go to lunch together. So if you are a CIO, go to lunch with your CFO/CEO, and vice-versa. But again, that is only part of the solution.

Communication is the start, and key to the next step – understanding. We need to do a better job of creating an understanding of what each other can offer.

Over the past several years, organizations have done a good job in creating an understanding about how the business, specifically the financials, works, and in getting people in the organization to be able to speak to them in a somewhat intelligent manner. Many organizations likened it to managing your home expenses to drive the point.

But, how well have we done in getting business leaders to understand technology? The fact that technology has permeated our society today, while a boon for the technology industry may be creating an obstacle for IT and Business Alignment. Since most business leaders use technology daily at work and home (email, text messaging, IM, even setting up a wireless home network), they may feel they already “get it.” The technology industry has done such a great job with solutions like “plug and play” devices that they may have made technology appear, dare I say it, simple.

Business, on the other hand, remains very complex – at least that is what most business leaders would have you believe.

In reality, both can be as simple or complex as we want to make them, depending on how far in the weeds we want to go. Still, more needs to be done to create a better understanding to Business leaders of what technology is available.

Ultimately, it is a two-way street. Technology leaders need to understand the business process to they can propose technology solutions to improve the process. Business leaders need to be aware of what technology so they can understand how it can be applied to improve the business process.

We need to do both. And it can be done. Anyone who has spent any time in or observing manufacturing over the past 20 years can relate to this dichotomy. Think Quality and Cost. For years we were told you can have great quality, but it will be at an increased cost, or you can have low cost, but quality will suffer. Through the use of some innovative, and let’s be honest, some common sense approaches, companies have achieved this. There are many low cost, high quality companies thriving; those that couldn’t pull it off are close to extinction, or already gone.

It is not easy and there is no “silver bullet.” But it can be done. One way to start is to use a framework that includes an assessment of where you are today and an analysis of how the technology solutions can improve your business processes, allowing you to be more agile and capable of responding to ever changing conditions.

Drop me a line to discuss further!

Glenn

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