by CIO Staff

What’s the Real Key to IT Business Alignment

Feb 24, 20052 mins
Business IT Alignment

What’s the real key to business/IT alignment? Getting business leaders to say what they really want IT to do. Of course, that’s really difficult. Most CEOs can’t articulate business strategy, much less an IT-enabled business strategy. This article offers an easier approach to the problem: Just get the business to identify the things it would like to improve, speed up or change and then narrow them down into a list that IT can work with. “Provide all the information to service theclient from any service point,” is one example; “Ability to detect and respond to subtle shifts in the marketplace” is another. Not too hard to envision some IT projects that could come from those. IT creates its own list that affects how it will supply services to the business, such as, “Customer service representatives must have access to a complete file of each customer?s relationship with the firm.”

These two lists cement the idea that CIOs are not simply suppliers to the business; they are also responsible for demand. Just as Sony can’t wait for customers to request a new electronic gadget, CIOs can’t wait for the business to ask for IT. It’s easy for this simple vision to get lost in the tidal wave of demand for new applications and services that flow into IT each year. IT wouldn’t be so overwhelmed if it was taking a more active role in focusing and prioritizing that demand on the front end.

We need to get away from the age-old idea that CIOs are service providers. That is no more true than saying Sony is a service provider to bored teenagers. IT is a product, and CIOs must manage both demand and supply to be effective. It’s the same challenge that business leaders face. Much of the business disillusionment with IT can be traced IT’s inability—or refusal—to manage demand. That situation needs to change.