Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Is Business-IT Alignment a Paradox? From Alignment to Engagement

High-performing IT will engage business for both questions and answers, businesses also should learn and support their IT.

In the industrial era, the "mission of IT" is to provide the information processing capability required by the business at a cost that represents value. Based on this description, an IT organization that is well aligned with the business is managed well enough. However, many organizations are transforming from industrial speed to digital speed, even business-IT well alignment is not mature enough to adapt to the changes, IT need transform from aligning with business to engaging with business, and the new mission of IT could be: How to become game changer to catalyze business growth by proactively engaging in strategic making & execution.

1.  Is Business-IT Alignment a Paradox? 

Too many CIOs are focused on Infrastructure and they even do not pay enough attention to IT-Business alignment. In addition, the real Paradox is that IT depends on the business to define their technology requirements but the business does not understand the capabilities of technology and it is difficult for them to provide functional requirements for applications. In order to improve alignment, IT needs to understand business problems and provide consultation and recommendations to the business on how to leverage technology.

Is Business-IT Alignment a paradox? A paradox implies a contradiction for which there is no solution. Well-managed IT can deliver tailored customer solutions, It is IT management's responsibility to offer alternatives if they cannot deliver what is requested. How can they phase the implementation to give the business critical capability by the desired date while delaying some of the lower priority scopes? And CIO role is somehow paradoxical, it doesn’t mean CIOs are not solutionary, it’s just because CIOs have to play multiple roles at the same time. Furthermore, the concern is whether doing business-IT alignment is mature enough for IT to become business’s strategic partner; does IT still stick to back-office, cost-center reputation, or IT is ready to transform into higher level value center?

 IT continues to grow in importance to organizations, both operationally and as a competitive advantage. Some leading companies already move beyond the IT/business alignment stage, well jump into IT engagement era --more adapt to today's cloud/social/ mobile ecosystem, to brand IT less as a utility, more as a differentiator. In these forward-look organizations, IT has moved from providing largely back-office support to becoming the prime facilitator, enabler, and orchestrator of the total business.

2. High Mature IT to Engage Business

If the information is the enterprise’s lifeblood, technology is like business’s neural system, and then, centralized IT is like the enterprise body’s heart or brain, it’s hard to imagine it’s less important, as IT now touches every corner of the business. The increasing opportunity to externalize more IT infrastructure services (such as cloud) and business process apps is great news for CIOs, not a threat. Why? Because it allows them to clear more space on their agenda to deal with what is really important to the enterprise - to create and add value through leading the continuous transformation of the business in areas such as new business model development and the innovative use of information - these are the areas where enterprises make new markets or take leadership positions in existing ones.

An effective IT organization should focus more on vendor/customer relationship management, process optimization, project portfolio management, governance, business Intelligence/analytics, and make an influence on the culture/change management via the technology-enabled platform, to create differentiated business capabilities and bridge today and tomorrow of business. In fact, IT becomes more critical strategically, tactically, economically, metaphorically:

  • Strategically, centralized IT will become the innovation engine for business transformation since IT is just in such a unique position to oversight the holistic process of organization, and take steward role of data or information, which is the 80% of corporate asset in modern business;      
  • Tactically, centralized IT will govern technology usage in a more effective and efficient way. Especially now, application sprawl, shadow IT, those are the new headaches in the era of cloud. The governance of IT is a key part of the overall enterprise governance     
  • Economically, centralized IT has the better purchasing power to negotiate with vendors, manage vendor, and customer relationship, chargeback the business, to run IT as the business, that's new philosophy for modern IT.      
  • Metaphorically, IT or the CIO as a bridge is to help envision business’s tomorrow, and mind strategy-execution gap, IT like oxygen, well embedded into cells of the enterprise.
Thus, IT is more critical in leading the organization’s digital transformation today. And high-performing IT will engage business for both questions and answers, businesses also should learn and support their IT, as trust is a two-way street: “Business will get IT they deserve” also it’s IT attitude and aptitude to decide whether “IT is at table, or on the menu” in the boardroom. 


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