It’s a back-and-forth sentiment that’s not uncommon in many organisations: business executives believe that IT is not doing enough to support business goals while IT leaders are of the opinion that management is holding out on IT investments, preventing them from doing more. In today’s ever-evolving business landscape where the right use of IT can give organisations a competitive edge, the need for aligning technology with business objectives has never been more important.
Both sides–management and the IT organisation – may assert that they are working towards the achievement of the company’s goals. But unless their efforts are aligned, i.e. IT contribution is clearly manifested in efficiency, productivity, and profitability, top management will be hard-pressed to see technology as an enabler of core business strategies and IT people will continue to feel underappreciated.
Before IT leaders can start getting technology in sync with expectations however, it has to be recognised that there is a disconnect somewhere. So where do you start? Or perhaps more importantly, how can you tell if technology is not aligned to business objectives?
Consider these 6 questions:
Are technology investments a big part of the company’s overall strategy?
If the company is not compelled to make IT investments a big part of their strategy, it could mean that corporate executives still do not have a clear view of what IT can accomplish. It is only when management understands what technology can contribute to the achievement of business objectives that they find enough justification to invest in IT.
On the other hand, it is also the responsibility of the IT leaders to initiate strategy and explain what value tech solutions bring to the table. Whether it’s improving the bottom line, speeding up a process, or mitigating risk, IT initiatives should be expressed in terms that business people can readily relate to.
Is the CIO working closely with other C-suite executives?
The CIO that recognises how his role in the organisation is evolving, is one that makes business alignment a priority sometimes even over technology alignment. Years ago, the typical CIO was concerned mostly about what goes on in his area, acquiring and managing IT infrastructure, while seeing little need to contribute at a higher level.
As business challenges become more complex however, the CIO will understand that the IT organisation is not as independent as it once was. This means that the IT chief should build partnerships with the other key C-suite executives to ensure a successful IT operation that may also be considered a strategic business unit.
Is IT putting as much focus on end-user applications as it is on network requirements?
The IT department should not put its sole focus on monitoring system performance and maintaining infrastructure. It’s true that ensuring that servers, networks, storage systems, and other devices forming part of the corporate network are running smoothly is high up on the IT people’s task list.
But another important role is deploying technology that other employees – the end users essentially - can adapt to and employ to help them work smarter and more productively. In managing its various roles in the organisation, IT has to strike the right balance between the technical aspect of things, and the impact or demonstrable benefits that technology has on both internal (employees) and external (customers) customers.
Are the people in the organisation speaking the same cost language?
Every organisation has a standard way of allocating budgets, tracking expense activities, and presenting costs. While the IT department is constantly presenting projects that entail funding, it’s worthwhile to note that most of these projects are allocated over a number of groups.
In such cases, IT costs should be tracked and managed differently from those of other departments. When there is an absence of economic alignment however, these differences do not translate well to the common cost language and crucial projects could get shelved as a result.
Is technology standardised across the organisation?
Standardising technology within the organisation lowers hardware and software acquisition costs, and saves the IT group a lot of maintenance related issues down the line. Having the same types of computers, printers, and other end user equipment makes usage training for new users and error troubleshooting easier. In initiating technology standardisation measures, IT is owning up to its responsibility of contributing to operations efficiency and, ultimately, cost reduction.
Is IT support accessible to all users at all times?
Syncing technology with the company’s objectives is not only about what technology initiatives are employed but also about how IT services are delivered. No matter how comprehensive IT services and business applications are, it fails to drive operational goals if support is not available when and where needed.
For instance, if an enterprise operates in various global regions with differing time zones, IT support should be accessible at all working hours regardless of where the employee or client is located. The IT group that is able to provide round-the-clock support to customers understands that delivery of IT services are delivered in a way that meshes with how the company works.
Clearly, there is much to be gained when IT’s technology evolution finds the right fit with the company’s vision. But the road to technology/business alignment is not easy. If you’ve evaluated your organisation based on the key questions we’ve raised and find it lacking in certain areas, then you’ve got your work cut out for you.