by Sharyn Leaver

IT-Business Alignment a Thing of the Past

Apr 27, 2011
Business IT Alignment

It’s time for CIOs to embrace an integrated, evolving strategy

How is your IT strategy developed? Most companies work tirelessly to make sure it directly aligns to the business strategy, but it’s still a waterfall process: Decide on a business strategy, and then build a technology strategy to support it. In fact, according to Forrester data, more than two-thirds of IT leaders wait for business leaders to finalize their strategy before IT formulates its own.

Today, businesses move too fast for this traditional model. Over the next 10 years, huge changes in the business landscape will up the ante for speed and agility. The increasing pressure to get new products to market faster, respond to changing market demands and enter new global markets means that business strategy is constantly evolving.

To move beyond business-IT alignment, you must drive innovation and boost business-partner relationships. One way to do this is to reach out to business innovators and create zones that provide an environment for rapid innovation. Getting their input and providing services and advice that help them pursue their ideas will ensure that you are brought into the loop when new opportunities surface. Also consider opening up centralized vendor sourcing so all business and IT leaders have access to an agile method for quickly sourcing and assembling new technologies into innovative business solutions.

IT leaders should also embrace new governance approaches that empower the business by providing guardrails and education, reserving strict control for only the most critical technology assets. Guardrails will ensure that systems can intercommunicate, data can be protected and recovered, and business processes can be restored if a disaster occurs. But for these guidelines to be successful, they must be anchored by an understanding of the business intent, not a purely IT-centric view of governance.

Most important, leadership teams must adopt an iterative approach to developing integrated business-technology strategies that assumes change and focuses relentless innovation on the core business competencies that will sustain their competitive advantage over the long term.

Sharyn Leaver is a vice president at Forrester Research and leads its CIO practice.