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The mythology of IT and business alignment

Rob Livingstone | June 23, 2014
How well do your organisation's business strategies adapt to the volatile, hyper-connected world in which we operate? Are these strategies shelfware? And how can you tell?

How well do your organisation's business strategies adapt to the volatile, hyper-connected world in which we operate? Are these strategies shelfware? And how can you tell?

In 2010, McKinsey surveyed more than 2300 executives of multi-business companies worldwide to see how they approach the development of corporate strategy.

It found just 19 per cent of all respondents claim to have a distinct process for developing corporate strategy and, more importantly, nearly a quarter think their companies should engage in corporate strategy development on an ongoing basis, as opposed to episodically.

This compared with only 8 per cent who say they currently do so. The situation has changed little over the last few years.

Therein lies the challenge for enterprise IT. Developing a high value, resilient and adaptive ongoing enterprise IT capability, or any other mission-critical function within the organisation, for that matter, in the face of an ill-defined, outdated or poorly articulated business strategy is nirvana.

For organisations to be adaptable and responsive in our volatile technological, commercial and regulatory environments, their business strategic, operational and tactical plans should be routinely tested for relevance, and validated as required to reflect the changing circumstances.

Just like climbing Mt Everest, regular updates on the weather should shape your strategies and plans.

Not taking an ongoing approach could be fatal. Recognition that an effective, trusted and engaged IT function is also key to ensuring your organisation thrives and survives in our competitive, volatile environment.

It takes two to tango
Change is inevitable and will arise on both sides of the business/IT fence. If information technologies are critical to the viability of your organisation, any assumptions that your enterprise IT has clear visibility over the forces acting on your business strategies needs to be tested.

Similarly, the IT leadership cadre should not assume the organisation's executives have an interest or awareness of the IT strategy (which, in reality should be a business strategy with a technology dependency).

Alignment is not the end goal; effective, close coupled coordination between the organisation and enterprise IT at all levels is. Additionally, respective and shared accountabilities for delivering outcomes between IT and key organisational stakeholders should be clearly articulated.

Organisations at war with their own IT departments should raise the white flag, and this situation should be remedied swiftly if the company is to harness the maximum transformational value of enterprise technologies.

Where IT is continually blamed for the poor 'delivery' of enterprise IT projects, shadow IT is flourishing across the organisation, vendor predation is rife, and the executive's discussions always boil down to cutting IT costs. Poor delivery may in fact have little to do with the technologies used or managed.

 

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