On the face of it, it sounds simple. IT strategy should be driven by business requirements.
However, that doesn’t prevent CIOs and IT managers from feeling disconnected from time to time.
The reason may be that while they focus on business alignment, they only address some of the possible dimensions and ignore others.
Depending on how you look at things, however, there may be as many as five different business alignments to get right, in order to have an IT strategy that makes sense across the board.
- Business objectives. IT strategy has to be defined in a way that helps an organisation meet its business goals and in a way that meets business end-user needs, while defining IT investments of long term business value.
- Operations. Availability, security, effectiveness, efficiency, user-friendliness… all these things and more determine how reliably and confidently an organisation can keep on operating today and into the future, while still meeting its immediate business goals.
- Organisational agenda. Budgets, sales kick-offs, seasonal manufacturing changes, IT staff vacations and more all have to be worked to or worked around. The business defines the timing. IT strategy then aligns with the dates.
- Financial. It may not be the best solution, but in many cases the CIO still reports to the CFO, so that corporate IT budgets can be planned, tracked and managed appropriately. IT strategy can extend to charging departments for individual IT resource consumption too.
- Organisational culture. As a CIO or an IT manager, you may have to “align” with a CEO who is a techno-sceptic, a chief marketing officer who is techno-phobic, and a supply chain director who expects perfection every time with no compromises.
Once you’ve sorted out these five dimensions, you will have considerably reduced the chances of further disconnects. Just remember, a vague feeling of being unaligned could be due to any of them, so assess each one in turn to see if improvements need to be made.