Align IT with Business Goals

Date:   Tuesday , October 03, 2006

Just as members of an orchestra must play in harmony for their performance to succeed, all departments of an organization must also work in proper coordination to achieve business goals. This calls for aligning IT with the overall business strategy, which is a continuous effort and requires full support from all levels of the organization.

IT has evolved over the years from a back-office support function to a prime facilitator of business and is an essential component of business strategy. It is important that board members and other senior managers are aware of the risks and return on investment associated with IT spending and how business value arises from it.

The process requires adequate planning. Executives should realize that IT planning process should be part of the enterprise strategic planning process. But the trouble with most plans is that they do not indicate what the business value is, and what strategic or tactical business benefits the organization is planning to achieve.

The fact is that your IT plans need to have a business metric approach and not IT metric delivery of application.The greatest key to business alignment is the communication of relevant information across all levels of the organization. IT can facilitate business alignment and performance improvement for the organization. To do so, one must go beyond basic measurement and presentation of historical data and create an environment that enhances communication and highlights the impact of organizational initiatives on strategy.

The objectives and goals of the organizationís executive management team must be communicated and translated into daily plans and actions for operation management. Effective business strategy requires both the translation of goals and objectives, as well as the flow of information to occur between the boardroom and daily operations.

Hence, there should be a mutual understanding between business and the IT management to make sure that IT resources are prioritized according to business needs and that IT-based solutions benefit the businesses in the long run.

Similarly, the results of operations must be accurately measured and translated in terms of how operations are performing in satisfying the goals, plans, and visions of the organization. Adapting to market changes and improving business performance require an organization to align its operations with its overall strategy.

IT has a mission to capture data accurately and deliver information for business decision-making on time. Therefore, these should be particularly well positioned as the process vehicle for operational and strategic alignment.

The successful implementation and adoption of a management system require the technical expertise, guidance, and commitment of IT professionals. Hence, the IT function provides the technical infrastructure, information, and application administration necessary to take root and promote business alignment.

Executives should understand that business strategy and IT strategy are inseparable. The IT executive needs to be in the loop to report the value, and guide the other business executives on providing incremental improvements toward business goals. Similarly, if business leaders also take responsibility for IT, fuller alignment can be achieved, resulting in long-term, sustainable value addition.

The author is the Managing Director, Trilogy E-business Software.