CIO Symmetry

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» VIEW ALL POSTS Jun 17 2011   1:55PM GMT

If you’re worried about business alignment, you’re doing it wrong



Posted by: Wendy Schuchart
Tags:
business alignment
business process management
IT/business alignment
IT/Business Leadership
Leadership and Strategy

Why is IT so concerned with business alignment? That’s the question that Dr. Michael Ali, CIO at Harman, asked during his Forrester IT Forum keynote that left many of the IT professionals in the audience stumped. It seems like a no-brainer, right? IT is a different animal — anyone in IT will tell you that. But many business units will be quick to argue that they too are different — and special: Why aren’t they spending as much time and energy worrying about business alignment as we are?

Ali said he did a Web search and found many IT publications like SearchCIO-Midmarket.com focused on business alignment, but only a single mention of the term business alignment in the publications of other business revenue streams such as human resources and marketing.

“The right question is not ‘How do you ensure IT is aligned with the business?’ It’s ‘How do we generate business value?’ Because that’s what the head of HR is asking. They already assume they’re aligned. This is the question that you should be asking,” said Ali during the keynote.

Ali’s biggest tip is that CIOs should stop thinking like CIOs and think like CEOs instead — focusing on growing revenues and profits while staying legal and being a good corporate citizen. The key to generating business value, he added, is in allying with the right partners and making strategic leaps, such as getting away from owning IT architecture and instead own the architecting of said systems.

This call to action was echoed by Forrester Research Principal Analyst Marc Cecere, who warns that “IT is in danger of being perceived as irrelevant to the business.” With consumers feeling more and more comfortable with making technological decisions, and with younger workers empowered to download their own solutions off the grid, I humbly suggest that we’re seeing the stirrings of a coup that will change the face of business. That transition is going to be measured, not in decades but in fiscal quarters. It’s Moore’s Law; only instead of hardware, it’s a mental leap for your workforce.

The message is clear: Stop worrying about business alignment and worry about the burgeoning IT revolution. Now the choice is yours: Lead, follow or get out of the way.

2  Comments on this Post

 
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  • Fsell
    Somehow topics such as business alignment, and generating business value, misses the reality of technology management. Business streamlining initiatives and high value technical direction are often defined and advocated by IT, then "sold" to managerial constitutiencies. Since so many initiatives cross organizational boundries, it is often unrealistic to identify user champions. IT does and should lead - advocate - promote.
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  • PatriciaH
    I believe Wendy's point (and Dr. Ali’s original message) are spot on. It’s all about ‘How do we generate business value?’ When it comes to your business management and business analytics software this message is even more significant. Whether you’re in the camp of “owning IT architecture” or leaning more towards “the architecting of said systems”, the software selection can make or break the perception of value creation by IT. In essence it becomes one of the most tangible and visual examples for the business on what IT is bringing to the table. In effect, if the software is adding value, there’s a higher perception that IT overall is adding value. Unfortunately the reverse is also true. There’s more choices out there today than ever (vendor options, licensing options, hosting options) while at the same time the potential value the software can bring to the business has never been greater. A potent (and exciting) combination. Patricia Harris SAP
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