Information technology and the business side, working together? Doesn’t that sound intuitive enough? However, the reality is that many enterprises continue to struggle in aligning their IT strategies to their business goals. The result — a business ends up spending a lot on technology, without extracting the promised business benefit. The solution — establish the ground for collaboration, establish a common language, foster strong relationships, bring in transparency, and keep on working on the plan. Here is a primer to help you understand the challenges and benefits of forging an IT-business alliance that will to pedal together and propel the enterprise forward.
The IT-business vacuum
Most of the challenges of aligning IT and business stem from the fact that the two entities don’t know what the other is up to! For IT, it is super important to get a closer look at the core business practices of the enterprise. IT has to understand the business goals, the way the enterprise business works, the most important business KPIs, and the dynamics of the market in general. Every IT leader knows that his team exists only because it has the potential to help the enterprise to do business better — that underscores why IT just can’t let the distance between it and business remain.
On the other side, business has to get a better understanding of at least four aspects of IT:
- The immeasurable potential it has in helping anybody get more work done with less effort.
- The benefit it has already delivered to the enterprise.
- The operational aspects, skills catalog, and security risks that govern enterprise IT’s ability to deliver value.
- The role of IT as an enabler of productivity, business intelligence, speed of operations, and market understanding, instead of being a mere technology problem solver and troubleshooter.
Let’s understand the biggest challenges that make an IT-business alliance difficult.
Ambiguous, unclear, and oversimplified business strategy
It’s commonplace for organizations to purchase, deploy, and manage information technology tools and services without understanding its future course of progress. However, a much bigger risk is not having a business strategy in place, in the right format, and in the right level of detailing. This can close the doors on any future possibilities of IT being able to align itself with business.
Time gap between business goal realization and IT’s ability to deliver
There’s always a lag between business planning and IT planning. It’s the primary responsibility of IT leadership to:
- Devise communication mechanisms that help them foresee and stay updated about business strategies.
- implement quick response mechanisms that help IT evaluate the need to change its operational approach to meet the updated business goals.
In the past decade, the time lapse between business requirement and IT delivery of value has gradually contracted. Methodologies like DevOps help IT further align with business goals, and reduce the time to value.
IT’s focus on technology instead of business outcomes
In the early 2000s, several enterprise-backed research efforts in highlighting IT-business alliance challenges converged on an interesting idea. This idea declared that IT/IS was a commodity, and not something to be envisaged as a lever of competitive advantage. The reason — it’s easily imitated by competitors.
Today, a deeper examination reveals this more than ever. It’s the IT team’s focus on purchasing and deploying the solution, instead of tuning it to the enterprise’s needs, that must change. The solution is to focus on “mapping” of the IT solution to the business process and goals, instead of adopting a myopic view of successful deployment and go live. Continuous adaptation and fine-tuning of IT solutions to the demands of business goals is what separates one enterprise from another one using the same solution.
Unmatched benefits of IT-business alliance
IT is a fast train that can take businesses farther from competitors within the short term. No wonder that IT and business alignment is a key responsibility of C-suite leaders. Here are some of these benefits.
Achievement of strategic business outcomes
The biggest benefit of a collaborative IT-business alliance is the achievement of lofty strategic business objectives via pioneering efficiencies, highly differentiating creative enablement within the enterprise, and market-leading products and sales practices resulting from continuous improvement.
Creation of knowledge from data
Enterprises are generating an unimaginable amount of data every day. A decade back, the IT tools that could capture, organize, process, analyze, and report the patterns in the data were not mature. Today, with the right business inputs, and with insight on the most important pieces of data, IT can bring invaluable information out, helping enterprises improve processes, design better products, salvage lost business deals, find better channel partners, manage stock better, and outsmart competitors in promotional campaigns.
Enterprise’s agility is amped up by managing alignment, upgrades, and reuse of existing IT systems instead of taking up avoidable rounds of new developments and implementations that can cause scale-up challenges and complexity in the IT ecosystem.
Standardization and consolidation of IT to drive down costs
In an enterprise where IT is developed iteratively without broader thought about aligning it with the organization’s needs, the result is a massive surge in capital costs, maintenance costs of fragmented solutions, and complexity of support. An IT-business alliance paves the way for meaningful standardization of IT usage across business functions.
Safer, compliant, well-governed, and secure business
Enterprises face unprecedented legal, compliance, regulatory, and security risks in these times. By adopting an unflinching IT-business alliance approach to decision making, enterprises can make their systems more secure, their processes compliant, their reporting more robust, and their governance mechanisms more effective. Ongoing management of purely IT risks of cyberattacks also becomes more manageable when business takes ownership of security instead of considering IT as the sole responsible for cybersecurity.
Every enterprise’s reason for existence is to do great business. Efforts to achieve incremental improvements in business KPI scores are a continuous process. IT and business, when aligned, can achieve a lot more than mere incremental improvement.
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