Everyone agrees that business priorities define the IT agenda for any enterprise; the starting point is the organization business strategy, in the creation of which the CIO participates and then gets down to formulating the IT strategy that is aligned to the business objectives. It is also well understood that there are no IT projects but only business projects enabled by IT. There is no disagreement to the fact that if there is business ownership and buy-in, initiatives have better success rates when compared to projects owned and led by IT. Companies working in this framework claim higher business IT alignment or BITA.
In the current context with disruptions and changing business paradigms driven by technology, social media, mobility, every day brings new challenges and opportunities for every CXO. All of these link back to IT in some way and the responsibility rests on the CIO to help unravel the quagmire. Referentially there are many instances of wins though they do not provide the same results when replicated by others. So where is the gap?
A recent survey on the balanced scorecard of the enterprise cascaded to CXOs revealed that in mature organizations it was difficult to differentiate between the CMO, CFO and the CIO scorecard. They appeared to mirror each other with the collective agenda being customer acquisition and retention, growth, and profitability. There was appreciation of core competency but there were no silos. Everyone had to work together to create success.
What’s the right recipe for success?
Then is the hypothesis on alignment above still relevant? Why some of the innovation does not work with copy and paste? What makes some organizations successful and some challenged? In the past some of the scenarios were termed cultural or political and brushed aside; sustained success is a function of how the management team works together to support each other. When any of the functions is perceived to be first amongst equals or of lesser pedigree, then the effort required for success multiplies.
CIOs leading from the front can drive new business opportunities and models. In the case of FMCG industry, the solutions transformed the way orders were logged into the system from the field; the pharmaceutical industry gained prescriptions using planning, targeting, and reporting by the medical representatives on the field; retail and airlines improved customer service with queue busting. These are just a few examples of innovation driven by IT. I do not in any way take away the credit from others–without their collaboration this would not have worked.
I believe that the era of alignment is passé; many CIOs have already moved beyond focusing on alignment to creating new business opportunities. It is not about how IT can solve a problem but about the next leadership step driven by IT and business adapting to the new paradigm. Business no longer drives IT alone; IT has broken free of the age old postulate and is now also leading business direction. BITA and ITBA are two sides of the same coin. It does not matter which side you look at, the value remains the same.