Alignment

Alignment

Much has been written, but much less resolved, about this perennial top five IT issue reported by Gartner, Meta, Forrester, CSC, CIO Magazine, academia and others.  By the way, IT business alignment (ITBA) is not just an IT issue, it is a business issue.  Alignment is needed across all organizations in a business.  Every business wants to be successful as defined internally, and by its competitors, the market, its owners and its customers.  Highly successful companies can trace their success to being -  first, very effective, and  second, adequately efficient  -  “doing the right things – right”.  The better the alignment between organizations, the more effective  their execution, and successful their results.  While most agree the importance of alignment is undeniable, adequate attainment has been elusive.

 So why hasn’t this issue been resolved or relegated below the top twenty CIO issues?  Four reasons:

  1. ITBA has not been well defined in many organizations, therefore, expectations are not set correctly and results are difficult to measure. 
  2. ITBA is a dynamic, people  process that must resolve conflicts and adapt to priority changes.  Often the processes have not been developed to resolve these issues in a consistent and repeatable manner.
  3. Many times the company’s business units and departments are not well aligned, so ITBA is difficult or impossible.  Rather ITBA relies on the “squeaky wheel concept’ and/or politics.
  4. While ITBA is a perennial top five CIO issue, according to a 2006 Accenture survey of CEO’s, ITBA was not a top ten issue for CEOs.  So is IT’s effort in this area the real issue?

So let’s look at the first issue – the definition of ITBA.  A good definition needs:

  1. to be specific, measurable, achievable, and realistic
  2. to answer “what” components are aligned
  3. to answer “who” must reach and own an alignment
  4. to recognize the agreement is based on current priorities, strategy, tactics and plans that can change
  5. to recognize limitations in resources
  6. not to include IT execution criteria

With these in mind, the definition could be:

 IT business alignment (ī t  -  biznəs  -  ə līnment)

nouns

  1. the cooperation and coordination between executives/leaders in business units, departments, etc, and executives/leaders in IT Solutions Development organizations to periodically determine/resolve business priorities and reach agreements as to which mix of projects to undertake that best supports business strategies/model, tactics and annual plans/objectives for a defined IT budget and resource level.
  2. the cooperation and coordination between executives/leaders in business units, departments, etc, and executives/leaders in IT Services Delivery organizations to periodically determine/resolve business priorities and reach agreements as to the appropriate service levels to provide that best supports business strategies/model, tactics and annual plans/objectives for a defined IT budget and resource level.

How does these definitions compare to our criteria for a good definition?