Alignment’s Ailment: IT Strategy’s Focus Shifts To Agility

by Alexander Peters, Ph.D.

Alex-Peters  I haven’t heard much about alignment recently and I wonder if the subject is loosing its appeal. In 2008 SIM spotted IT-business alignment as the No.1 management concern. But during the six major CIO networking events that I attended this year, I haven’t heard much about IT alignment. Scholars and practitioners used the term to describe the strategy process for adjusting technology resources to match business objectives. And year after year CIOs placed it at the top of their list of unsolved issues.

A major challenge related to alignment is its practicality. Even in the relatively stable days of mainframe computing, few organizations, if any, have experienced alignment nirvana — the perfect state of IT-business relationship, free from animosity, anger and other afflictive perceptions. The waves of tech innovation, which followed the mainframe, increased the complexity of the issue. They came fast, required more changes than most organizations could absorb, and created a state of continuous ailment rather than alignment in the IT-business relationship. See June 17, 2007, “Debunking Alignment Nirvana” report.

Do you think that alignment will top the list of CIOs concerns this year again? I am not sure. Based on data collected during hundreds of inquiries, interviews, presentations networking and advisory sessions, I believe that CIOs’ strategic focus is shifting from IT-business alignment to business agility.  The economic turbulence accelerates this trend.  With business objectives and technologies getting more complex and dynamically interlinked, CIOs can no longer afford to build IT and business strategies and try to align them — a process that rarely worked. Instead they must build agility directly into business processes.

Forrester recently completed research on “Driving Business Value With Process Improvement” illustrates this shift. The core message of the participating CIOs is “IT exists to deploy business processes not technology”. This value proposition is different from the traditional model of adjusting resources by “running IT like a business”.  If what I am saying sounds too abstract or high-level, please have a look at 30 April, 2008, “The Road Map To BT Maturity” report, illustrating a strategist’s strategy and model for moving from IT-business alignment to business agility. Stay tuned for a more in depth BT Maturity Assessment, which we’re planning to publish later this summer

Please let me know your opinion about the future of alignment and agility. Thanks!

Comments

re: Alignment’s Ailment: IT Strategy’s Focus Shifts To Agility

Dr. Peters,I am a Consulting/Interim CIO and I believe I fail my clients if I don't put an alignment mechanism in place before I leave. If IT is not deliberately aligned with the business (tactically, strategically and innovatively), then nobody really knows if what IT is working on is producing the highest value/highest returns for the business.Alignment should be the top objective of CIOs, so I'm always pleased to see it at the top of CIO's to-do list, but disappointed that we never get around to it. We fail the business and all stakeholders if we don't align first, it's that simple.One additional point - alignment doesn't have to be difficult either. You don't need million-dollar software nor do you have to re-invent the wheel. Alignment is all about ongoing communication, portfolio management and IT governance...all fairly basic and simple to implement.John HughesFounder/PrincipalGrowthWave

re: Alignment’s Ailment: IT Strategy’s Focus Shifts To Agility

Dr. Peters,I think that perhaps CIOs (and Business Leaders) are finally starting to understand that IT Business Alignment is not a process, but an outcome. And like so many things, once you get there, you're not there - it's a continuous process.I believe the way CIOs can move there is to create a dependence with the business, and often times that starts by being able to provide a better focus on the process to prepare for the technology. I have written about this here: http://itbusinessalignment.wordpress.com/2009/04/14/want-it-business-alignment-change-your-approach-and-create-a-dependence/So, while people may not be calling it 'alignment', the outcome they desire is just that.Glenn WhitfieldDirector of Business IntegrationNew Age Technologies