What is Business-IT Alignment?
A study by Trianz of over 5,000 company leaders found that, except for technology-intensive industries such as high tech, communications, entertainment, and banking, most leaders do not understand the fundamental digital technologies capable of transforming their enterprise.1 As technology permeates everything that businesses do, it is critical for business leaders to understand technology and to make strategic and informed technological investments. Manchala asserts that the following steps should be taken to increase the tech knowledge of leaders and their teams:
Analyze technology rollout results. Whether a technology rollout succeeds or fails, take time to learn from the experience so that best practices will be learned and adopted, and future failure risks are minimized.
Appoint business technology leaders. Either identify a technology leader from within or hire an expert technology leader with expertise in technology selection, deployment, and operations. The leader will become the liaison between the management team and IT.
Internal technology roundtables. Have your technology leader organize industry and business-specific technology roundtables within the company to increase knowledge and to create a culture of active learning.
Require technology learning. Collaborate with IT counterparts to identify mandatory training courses that would be beneficial for each of their direct team members.
Develop collaborative processes. Design a process from concept and prioritizations to technology selection and implementation so that there is clear ownership, and the decision-making process is clear.
Successful business and IT harmonization happens with planning and effort. Tips for successful business-IT alignment include:
Build close business relationships. Commit to having insightful conversations with business leaders across your enterprise in order to understand the role that technology is playing within the industry. Bring your technology leader into the fold as IT is a key player in defining the corporate vision and strategies.
Ask IT leaders questions. Do not limit questions to those of particular IT strategies, operations, and technologies, but also ask IT leaders about their own jobs, views on trends, and key challenges that they are facing.
Build trust. Create and cultivate a culture that supports open communication. Business and IT leaders who discuss the challenges and the goals of day-to-day business processes become a team with shared goals and objectives. This team can work together to strategize about how IT can help improve speed, efficiency, and innovation.
Motivate. Business leaders who learn from IT about new and enhanced technologies are in a strong position to spread enthusiasm for technology adoption across their organization.
Measure. Key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics reflecting the outcomes of critical systems and processes help business and IT determine how aligned business needs and IT operations are.
Survey. Surveys designed to provide deep insights into overall business vision including strategy, key priorities, and required capabilities can capture more information that tradition surveys that focus on technology and service quality alone. Qualitative open-ended questions allow more flexibility to explain experiences.
Ongoing assessment. Consider business-IT alignment as an ongoing project that requires consistent oversight and management to ensure that issues can be addressed before they become serious problems.
1 Manchala, 2021, “Closing The Business-IT Alignment Gap In Digital Transformations”