We CIO’s read and write quite a bit on the topic of Business-IT alignment. Not to hurt anyone’s feelings too much but alignment and its evil twin misalignment don’t begin or end in the CIO office. Another urban myth is that a steady-state utopia of alignment is actually attainable – wrong. Misalignment that starts at the top gains momentum and increases the damage it causes as it cascades down through the enterprise. By the time it reaches the front line associates, the execution of strategy is completely different than what the CEO envisioned.
Alignment must begin with the senior leaders of a company before it becomes possible throughout the rest of the organization. The amount of strategic gaps visible between executives slows down the firm, causes silos and manifests itself in many different areas – one of which is in the IT landscape. Infighting, politics and indecision are also ugly offspring of misaligned executive teams. Let’s face it, without the people running the company being on the same page, the CIO has no shot at herding the cats for them. Once you read this writing on the wall, it’s time to either step up or step out.
Another favorite topic of the CIO publishing world is “getting a seat at the table”. Smart CIO’s don’t wait until they’re asked, they just invite themselves to the party. In the post-Enron, post-Sarbanes, post-911 world, CIO’s get more exposure than ever to the C-Suite and board members whether they like it or not. No matter if there is good news or bad news to report in these forums, good CIO’s take these opportunities as an excuse to collaborate more with their executive brethren. For instance, a CIO friend of mine used PCI compliance as a way to galvanize the senior team around a set of aligned decisions on where they would take their payment strategy.
When a CIO is a member of the senior executive team, they are accountable for alignment as much as their peers are. To see misalignment and not get involved in fixing it will mean being the recipient of more bad decisions, last minute firedrills and failed IT initiatives. Only in a reasonably aligned environment can a CIO build actionable plans, reasonable budgets and develop the right talent to pull it all off. Let’s all get up off the couch, go get a seat at the table and get ours team aligned.
– Keith Morrow
Keith Morrow is the owner of K. Morrow Associates, LLC and was formerly the CIO at 7-Eleven Inc.