Leadership

Sanity check: IT-business alignment, part 2 -- avoiding the alignment trap

Last week's Tech Sanity Check showed that the whole concept of IT/business alignment is often striving for the wrong goals. This week looks at how to avoid the downward spiral of the alignment trap and turn your IT department into a catalyst for the business.

For highly-motivated IT leaders who are trying to figure out why IT departments are losing clout in many businesses, the best thing you can read right now is the study Avoiding the Alignment Trap in Information Technology from the MIT Sloan Management Review. I consider it one of the most important pieces of IT research that has been published this decade.

Written by four advisers from Bain & Company (a global business consulting agency), the study surveyed over 500 business and IT executives. The results revealed that the vast majority of IT departments are focused primarily on maintaining their current infrastructure and are doing very little to help drive growth. "IT at these companies is generally underperforming, undervalued, and kept largely separate from a company's core business functions," the study reported.

That's a recipe for mediocrity for most companies. For an IT department, it's the fast track to becoming viewed as a necessarily evil. A utility. A commoditized cost that has to be controlled.

The sad truth is that this is what's happening to many IT departments today. The MIT Sloan study pinpoints it, diagnoses the problem, and recommends a three-part solution. Here's my summary of their findings along with my take on it.

Alignment and efficiency

The authors of the Sloan study put forward two primary factors for success in IT:

  1. Alignment between business goals and IT goals
  2. Efficiency of the IT department in delivering services on time and within budget

Then they did their survey of business and IT leaders based around those two factors. Here are highlights from the results:

  • "Only 18% of respondents believed that their company's IT spending was highly aligned with business priorities."
  • "Only 15% believed that their IT capability was highly effective, that IT ran reliably, without excess complexity and always or nearly always delivered promised functionality, timing, and cost."
  • "Almost three-quarters of respondents believed that their IT capability was neither highly aligned nor highly effective." In other words, 74% of respondents were in the "maintenance zone" on the Sloan chart. "Here, IT projects were treated like plumbing, less aligned to major business objectives and bumping along at slightly below-average levels of [business] growth despite average levels of IT expenditure."

  • "When we looked at the 11% of companies in which IT was highly aligned but was not highly effective, however, we found those companies were considerably worse off than their counterparts in the maintenance zone. While their IT spending was 13% higher than average, their three-year growth rates were 14% lower than average... In these cases, it seemed to us possible, even likely, that the alignment prescription could be worse than the disease." This is the alignment trap.
  • "Only 7% of respondents said that their IT organizations were both highly aligned with business strategy and highly effective in delivering what was asked of them. But those companies as a group recorded a compound annual growth rate over three years that was 35% higher than the survey average. More surprising still, they were spending 6% less on IT than other respondents."

And here are some of the conclusions that the authors drew from the study:

  • "A lack of alignment can doom IT to either irrelevance or failure."
  • "A narrow focus on alignment reflects a fundamental misconception about the nature of IT. Underperforming capabilities are often rooted not just in misalignment but in the complexity of systems, applications, and other infrastructure."
  • Richard E. Connell, CIO of Selective Insurance Group, said "Aligning a poorly performing IT organization to the right business objectives still won't get the objectives accomplished."
  • "For a large company, the stakes in getting IT right can thus be enormous. In some cases, companies can save hundreds of millions in costs, while increasing sales growth dramatically." This is demonstrated by the 7% that were highly aligned and highly efficient.

Three recommendations

The study cited Wal-Mart, Dell, Charles Schawb, and FedEx as examples of businesses that have effectively used IT to gain a competitive advantage. With IT, these companies were able to get a major jump in the market with unique products or services. These four would fall into the "IT-enabled growth" sector. In order to achieve that level, three principles were identified by the study as critical for highly effective IT departments:

Emphasizing simplicity -- For companies that had tightly aligned their IT and business goals and dedicated an above-average budget to IT, the study found that their downfall was that their IT department was just not efficient enough. This was often a result of unnecessary complexities that needed to be eliminated.

"Reducing complexity means developing and implementing companywide standards," wrote the authors. "It means replacing legacy systems where possible and eliminating add-ons. It means building new solutions on a simplified, standardized infrastructure rather than extensive customizing or more layering on top of whatever happens to be there. Such an approach requires a greater investment of time and money upfront and will lead to lower costs only later."

Simplification has to become a continual process and not a project because lots of factors will conspire against it -- mergers and acquisitions, software upgrades, seemingly small customizations, and more.

"Rightsourcing" capabilities -- In order to maximize the IT investment in the business, IT leaders must figure out what services are best to handle in-house, which to farm out to consultants and partners, which to consider for off-shoring, and when to simply purchase a pre-packaged solution.

For those who do decide to outsource, the study also made a strong recommendation: "Many of the CIOs we spoke with emphasized that they needed a deep understanding of the tasks or projects being outsourced, so that vendors could be held accountable for performance and price. That often means doing the job yourself for a while until you understand it well enough to send it outside."

One other piece of advice: "Whatever the sourcing decisions, companies need to revisit them regularly as their strategic priorities and in-house capabilities change."

Creating end-to-end accountability -- "Survey data suggests that about three-quarters of IT projects are canceled or fail to deliver expected results on time and on budget.

"True accountability reflects organizational changes: Executives get the information they need to measure IT progress; IT people are held accountable for outcomes; line managers give IT the resources it needs and then work closely with IT leaders to exercise joint supervision of individual initiatives."

Sanity check

This entire discussion is primarily about big companies with big IT departments. The whole purpose of having a big company is to take advantage of economies of scale and streamlining business processes. And in today's business environment, the primary tools for scaling and streamlining processes are technology tools. As a result, big companies can't afford to tread water in the maintenance zone. They need to get serious about streamlining business processes with technology in order to unleash new capabilities.

Although I agree with most of what's in the Sloan study, the one issue that it doesn't fully deal with is the centralization vs. decentralization of the IT department. For the most part, it is advocating centralization of IT resources and decrying the decentralization of IT into various pieces that serve various business units. In reality, the issue isn't quite as simple or clear-cut as the study implies.

Many organizations moved toward decentralization in IT because even small projects took too long to complete and because the centralized IT department wasn't always well-aligned with the business needs of all the various departments. Some hybrid models are starting to emerge that combine some of the benefits of both centralization and decentralization. I will address this topic specifically in an upcoming installment of Tech Sanity Check.

Also, as I mentioned last week, I don't like framing the discussion as "IT/business alignment." I think it's much better to talk about IT/business integration. Alignment sounds like two separate-but-equals entities that are aligning, when in fact, IT should always be viewed as subordinate to the business.

Has your company ever fallen into the alignment trap? Would you put your IT department in the "maintenance zone"? Join the discussion.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

26 comments
ernestm
ernestm

One of the best articles i've readon the subject! Just today a colleague and I were talking about how our IT department slavishly does whatever the business wants and as a result refuses to 'stand up for' IT vision, standards, and architecture, leaving us in a bad state - and this sums that up perfectly.

domerhp
domerhp

I can agree with integration. The key is that IT is an equal to any of the other major departments. IT also has a unique seat in the company and usually is the only department with end to end knowledge of its inner works. I advocate a model with the CIO as an equal to the other CXO's, sharing in the making of the strategy as a successfull Business Model supported by a real assesment of Hardware, Software and the most important factor Humanware.

No User
No User

The article does deal with large companies but the heart of the theme can apply to all companies in general. It doesn't get into much specific detail which is hard to do on the range of IT in large companies. That said it certainly covered a range of areas and was specific with that. The only point of disagreement is the last comment you made. Also, as I mentioned last week, I don?t like framing the discussion as ?IT/business alignment.? I think it?s much better to talk about IT/business integration. Alignment sounds like two separate-but-equals entities that are aligning, when in fact, IT should always be viewed as subordinate to the business. Clearly IT is part of business they are inseparable. Why do you always view IT as subordinate? In many ways IT is just like sales, marketing, accounting and every other component of the company. In other ways it has a special relationship with the business that the others don't have IT is the fabric that binds everything together. Other occupations are very much static with in the companies and you will find IT in a big way with in them all. That is distinctly not subordinate it's much more so dominate but I'll settle for equal. IT is distinctly a part of and not separate from the business. Hey you made all the way to the end to deliver the zinger this time great job Jason. You are showing improvement. ;) The article was very good!

Steve Romero
Steve Romero

I have a copy of the study but have not yet set the time aside to read it in its entirety. I appreciate your endorsement. I am on the road and won't have the chance to read it for a couple of days but I didn't want to wait to post a comment. I have a problem with the belief that an IT organization can be aligned with the business even when it does not effectively deliver services. Even using your more appropriate terminology, is it possible for an IT organization to be integrated with the business if it cannot effectively deliver what the business needs when the business needs it? IT alignment with the business is not enough. That is why it is but one principle of IT Governance, the others being value delivery and the appropriate management of risk, resources and performance. It is not a ???take your pick??? proposition. Steve Romero, IT Governance Evangelist Read my IT Governance Evangelist Blog at http://community.ca.com/blogs/theitgovernanceevangelist/

cmurray
cmurray

Sanity check: IT-business alignment, part 2... Where is "part 1"

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

Your making me think. My only comment is that the survey seems to be based on how the respondents "felt" about their IT dept/solutions. Sometimes people "feel" that something is aligned or effective when it isn't. Or vice versa.

pjcasey75
pjcasey75

Complex subject. I'll address just one small aspect of the business/IT misalignment I've seen in my career. I learned an adage some time ago while in sales. "People will do what you pay them to do, and they will not bother to do what you do not pay them to do." Generally true, though many compensation plans supposedly designed to drive certain behavior wind up driving weird behavior that was wholly unanticipated. Exceptions noted, but the rule is pretty reliable. If you pay IT people based primarily, if not solely, on measurements such as "up time" and "reliability", then their focus, their goal, will always tend towards maintaining the status quo, to resist change (because changes can and usually do destabilize the system, at least for awhile). Hence, you pay them to maintain - and that's what they do. Reward them for project success (on time, on budget, meets requirements, etc), lowering business costs, improving sales (the business goals you want to acheive) - and they may feel they have a share in the project's overall success in achieving these business goals. Could make them willing to take some risks (along with the business) and make some changes. On the other side, business people aren't paid to keep IT simple, to adhere to standards or make sure the system is up and running and reliable. Hence, they feel motivated if not actually authorized to do anything and everything they can to get their job done - including introducing new cool software apps they've downloaded at home, using cell phones, blackberry's, ipods in odd and technically disruptive ways, or whimsically requesting reports or programs that will be used once and thrown away. Reward them for sharing in the company's overall efficiency goals, including some involving IT standards, compliance, participating in project evaluations, etc. and they may feel they have a share in IT's overall success An endemic adversarial relationship between DEPARTMENTS can only be overcome by involving PEOPLE in shared goals - which means getting them into the same room periodically, and asking them to work out solutions together, for which they all be rewarded. You can talk all you want about how people ought to act, what goals they should align with, and how they ought to cooperate with each other, but if at the end of the day,(week or year) you reward them in the most tangible ways (money, promotion, awards, recognition) for protecting turf, resisting change, ignoring standards, working around the system to get things done - then that's what they'll do. I whole heartedly agree that if information technology can be used as a strategic tool to gain a business advantage, then the leadership in a company must lead (not merely manage) the enterprise into treating it so.

mwarfie
mwarfie

I share many of Jason Hiner's comments about the need for better integration between IT and business users. I also believe that ojeda said a couple things that ring true to me. I work at a large (Fortune 100) company that fluctuates between a centralized and a decentralized structure. IT supports my department with project managers that are supposed to help shepard projects through to completion. I guess the thinking is that, as people who understand both the needs of my department and how to get things done in IT, they are best equipped to efficiently manage the work. My experience, though, is that these people are caught in a no-win position between IT, which does NOT want to change, and me, who looks at computers and our network as a took to get my work done productively. That, I think, is the crux of the problem. IT views the computer system as "theirs," and everthing I want to do spoils their "product." I, on the other hand, look at it as a tool that I should be able to use, even if that means getting it dirty from time to time.

don.gulledge
don.gulledge

Being an old dog, I've been through the evolution of automation throughout the 70s, 80s and beyond. Seen it all, learned very little because these ideas keep coming up and discussed and little is found that resolves them. Plus, even when they do get something right and working, it's always just replaced with a more primative thing and you start all over again. Microsoft has become the worst at it. How many times have they reinvented the automation and forced developers to go backwards instead of forwards. I think as long as money is the goal, automation will always be churning in circles dealing with these issues because everything Microsoft, IBM or anyone else does is not to advance automation, but take over market share and make money. It doesn't do any good to become expert at anything, it will change or evolve into something else soon. So, with each change, a true path to resoving these issues gets obsured by the technology. Plus, Business people are for business and they don't necessarily have the savvy for IT. IT is a widgets builder arena of nerdly folks that like to create, tinker and accomplish. That isn't really something business types understand, nor want to. But, as long as we have business types making the decisions and IT following them, we'll never get past this trap. Business types are too prone to believe the sales jobs and act accordingly while IT folks tend to want to learn it for themselves and decide from a position of knowledge. The business manager thinks you don't have to know anything about the milk truck or the milk in order to have a successfull milk delivery company. They think all buisness is the same and therefore, their reality is that they can decide anything for any reason under any circumstances. IT is doomed in the US. We're becoming a IT society of business adminstrators and not IT people. Soon, the US will have business adminstrators and all the it will be done outside the US.

drivibu
drivibu

IT alignment trap :- May be we need to have the business alignment changed if IT is important core function to business. But if IT is a support function for business , IT may need to be aligned to the business. In either case "Alignment" becomes central tendency for growth. May be I think Alignment should co exist with the current technology, business demands and customize/prioritize/centralize/de-centralize/contract/sell IT as per the need of the company, but ensure that revenue leaks are checked time after.

ojeda
ojeda

IT thinks it is a department. No, it is a tool. Because of this popular misconception, there is a mistaken belief that this is "our territory", and hence if we say no, that's the way it is. WRONG!! In 20 years of dealing with IT departments, I have yet to find one I wouldn't fire given the chance. As a tool, you need to keep yourself sharp and make yourself available. That doesn't mean 2 hour lunches or voicemail. Don't hinder the process, make it work. My explanation of the initials 'IS' is Instant Stonewall. Now my peers at other institutions repeat that quote back to me. I hope for the day when someone in IT says "I'll make that work". I am an Informatics Pharmacist in a hospital, and I cherish everyday I do not have to interface with IT.

ceshull
ceshull

I agree completely with your point that hybrid centralized/decentralized IT management models provide for the best of all worlds. I called this "distributed" in my Master's thesis 14 years ago, and it's evolution paralleled that of the hardware architecture. First we had mainframes and centralized IT. Then the PC revolution allowed decentralized end-users and under-served business units to solve their IT problems without the obstacles associated with central IT. The emergence of network computing required cooperation between these groups. Informally at first, many central IT organizations embraced and adopted the decentralized IT groups. In many organizations, the trick (both then and now) is to find the right balance between central command & control and decentralized innovation and flexibility. Sometimes this gets flipped around and the central group is impeded by the decentralized groups, but this seems relatively rare to me. Rather, in the organizations I've worked with, the central group worries a lot about "IT Hygiene" -- security, privacy, compliance, maintainability and integration. The decentralized groups worry about meeting the business needs and advancing the objectives of their business unit. These two sets of goals often come into conflict with one another, which is where I've always enjoyed sorting out the right balance.

mike
mike

That is an interesting observation. I would hope that more quantitative methods would be employed. From experience, I have worked in some places that were very well aligned, but because of the draconian methods used to get them that way, the employees were rather dour on alignment. Alignment was a sort of swear word. I have also seen companies that think they are aligned because their balanced scorecard told them they were, but in reality were so dysfunctional that nothing really got done. Alignment is NOT a four letter word!

Lee T
Lee T

I've been a consultant (or at least I've worked like one) my entire career and I've seen a lot of different ways of doing things in IT, both from my experience in infrastructure and in applications. It seems like the organizational culture set and cultivated by the people at the top have the greatest effect on how well IT functions. Right now, I am working at a hospital which has undergone some serious regime changes, most of the top executives have only been here for two years or less, including the CIO. Some of these executives have come from highly successful corporations and causing an EXTREMELY big shift in culture here. The biggest problem, being a non-profit institution, is that politics mainly drove decision-making in operations, and thus change is not something dearly loved by most people here, even in IT. Now we have leadership who are mostly interested in results, and not merely in trying to look good by always saying yes to every user's request (and usually underperforming or underdelivering on it). The IT folks here are actually JUST learning how to say "no' or 'not now' to users, and they are JUST learning how to ask management for the tools and the help that are needed to get things done efficiently, as the answer management used to always have for IT was 'no'. What I can say is that the CIO's leadership here is changing the culture to one where IT has been able to finally catch up to the 21st century, and that's much due to the rest of the executive team seeing that the costs are worth the benefits on the projects we are working on. This is also due to the CIO going to bat for his people and getting us the tools and the manpower we need to do a better job. On the other hand, I've worked in places where IT was really a core service, but it was given the resources of a second class support department. Here, the IT director was unable to do much to help his staff because the executive leadership was too focused on politics and not on furthering productivity or offering better service to customers (they wanted to remain the most 'inexpensive' in their market). The conclusion is, in order for IT to really succeed, there has to be a business culture to allow it. It's about the exective leadership RECOGNIZING the value of IT in general (both what it is and what it is not), finding someone to lead the IT organization who CAN deliver that value, and then giving them the RESOURCES to produce what the company overall expects of it's IT department. If any of these items are missing, there will be no success in integrating or aligning IT and business no matter how much is expended. Business people need to look around from time to time and see what IT does for highly successful organizations, and ALL IT decision-makers need to understand the business they service and how the technology tools can keep it moving forward better all the time. This requires a lot more COMMUNICATION (two ways!) than currently goes on in most IT departments I've seen--IT management needs to listen not just to users and execs, but also to their own staff--and then recommend solutions that serve business needs, and not always just giving users what they think they need or what IT thinks they need. These thought pattern changes over time at all levels can make an organization and its IT group much more flexible, efficient, and INVALUABLE.

jimrh
jimrh

I really feel constrained to chime in here with my two centavos - kopeks - etc... I used to work at a company that was the epitome of the "centralized vs de-centralized" conflict... This company had (and has) multiple satellite offices, plus a large central facility. (Actually, this could be said about just about EVERY company I've worked for in the past 10+ years...) The folks in the central facility appeared (to us) to be totally detached from reality. The central IT people felt we were nothing but a bunch of blow-hard crybabies. It has been my experience (as a SQA Engineer) that development and test environments need a certain amount of flexibility to get the job done. (Classic case: Getting stuff to work with Vista... It's necessary to do a lot of web-related research, downloading, and experimentation to discover which "magic spell" is actually going to work - but the centralized IT Gods block half the Internet at the proxy, and have FITS if you download anything more complex than a recipe for brownies!) My experience has been that "business" driven IT (IT driven by business managers who have no tech knowledge) views IT as something to "manage" and "control". The typical IT person believes that anything technology related is "his" - and they confuse themselves with God. Typically - the "corporate IT" model is that everyone in the company is an accountant that needs only Outlook, Word, and Excel; it is NEVER necessary for anyone to have more than one (or maybe TWO if you're lucky!) network drops, and (even if you're doing software Systems or Hardware testing), it is never necessary for you to be able to install - or modify - an operating system even if it's on a test installation! The result is that if anyone has any kind of idea about how to use technology - or even existing resources - to do their job better, it is presumptively EVIL until proven otherwise. (Make that read, until a member of Senior management weighs in and demands it.) My brother works at a company where (almost) every external external web resource is blocked - no matter how important or useful - except for *ONE*: www.mlb.com! (Apparently, there is a Senior Executive who likes watching/listening to baseball games on-line!) It is my humble opinion that this - IT driven by people who have no clue as to how to drive IT - and IT people who loose sight of the fact that IT should exist to HELP people get things done - not hinder it - is what is going to be the economic downfall of our economy. It is tragic to have an IT department tell you that "Network connections cannot be (are "not allowed to be") run above the 2nd floor - when SQA is on the 18th floor - or that allowing a software or hardware QA engineer to have a legitimate copy of the software he needs to install on a constant basis is "not allowed". (all software MUST be maintained by IT, and you are NOT allowed to even POSSESS a COPY of it!!) I do understand that businesses need some degree of control - you can't just have every Tom, Dick, or Harry making radical changes in the IT systems - but you also need to have the flexibility to allow necessary work to be done, and necessary innovation to occur without having to engage in blood sacrifice! My question is this: How? If I/we could come up with a good answer to balancing these needs - security and flexibility - we'd have something! Any ideas? Jim .

EMBlock
EMBlock

Don,et al' I think you have gotten some of it but you need to move down a level to the core of these issues. 1. Money: Money should be the scorecard for the success of a business, not the goal in and of itself. As long a business? focus only on the money they have no way of actually refining the process that IT is supposed to implement. Therefore it?s no wonder that IT can't solve the problem 2. Business as a service. Business manager have to understand that what they provide is a service that meets someone?s needs. Thinking that a business is just formulas, spreadsheets or accounting doesn't get the right service to a customer. IT can help define and "deliver" a service only if a business actually knows what it is trying to do. This is why companies like Wal-Mart both works and has successful IT, they have a "good" idea of what they are trying to deliver to their customers and can use technology to deliver it better. 3. Yes, today the difference between people who gravitate towards "business Management" and "IT" are significantly different. We have ourselves grown up in a bipolar (and yes I mean mentally unstable) situation with the two unable to understand the other. It is beneath a business mans dignity to understand what is being built into a system and any system builder know that a businessman is too stupid to actually understand what his company is really doing. Fortunately today?s generation is growing up in a culture where they are intimately connected to technology and feel that the solution is to actually touch with technology what they are doing. 4. I don?t think (or maybe better believe) that IT is doomed in the US, rather it going through a subtle evolutionary change that will take time (even in Web Years) to come to fruition. As younger people who see technology not just as a tool but as a method enter the work force the situation will improve but not without significant upheaval as in any evolutionary scenario.

bill.sugden
bill.sugden

Great articles Jason, I've read both. You have concentrated on the benefits to business in technical terms. What about the intimate knowledge of the business held within a functioning IT department? A lot of IT personnel aquire a very good understanding of the business while dealing with problems and and recommending or producing software. I work for what could be considered a medium sized enterprise, and our small team does have a lot of knowledge of the business, but what we really need are the business analysis skills to promote solutions and give senior management heads up about future trends. We want to be (I hate this phrase) PRO-ACTIVE but persuading senior mangement that investing in a person with these skills is hard work. Bill

CG IT
CG IT

a lot of companies operate. There is this programmer who also manages the network and whenever someone wants some new application, they write a program for it. As the Sloan Report mentions, pretty soon, the complexity has grown so unwieldly, that change can have a major impact on the entire operation. Only when De Beers management wiped the slate clean by imposing standardized applications across the entire organization, then the IT department became "lean and mean". What also was presented in the De Beers example was their ability to cut IT costs significantly. They were able to outsource their helpdesk to India because they now use a standardized application company wide so they no longer needed their own help desk with people who knew how to troubleshoot the specially created applications.

cedric.tanga
cedric.tanga

Alingnment is a positive concept in that it supports your company/org by future proofing. I.T. aquire resources that will help the company/org to leapfrog ahead of potential competition. The anchors holding I.T's ability to achieve this goal are the lower management personal who may have a different vision! .... unless everyone is on the same page through good communication such advancement will move painfully slow due to mind boggling processes and posturing.(having experienced this more than once first hand) and I.T. is seen as a liability rather than an asset. Just a thought.

mike
mike

We could dedicate an entire website just to this topic, and in fact, I make a pretty decent living addressing these problems. I see most problems in IT as being less than 15% technology issues and the other 85% are all people, process and money issues. Here are some of the more successful strategies I have seen for business alignment: * tight fiscal controls - know how much you can and should spend and where the money is going. No matter what kind of company you work for money always should be an issue. Not keeping money and value on your radar you is doing your organization, and ultimately yourself, an injustice. * Tracking the ?Managed IT and Managed Chaos? continuum. Business needs a sandbox to keep up with market demands and to play with new ideas outside of a managed IT environment. A savvy business person can throw together an Access database in a matter of hours that many in his / her department will use. There may be a piece of custom code or a macro that they will write to trim their work time from hours to minutes. For example; business environment needs can be met with offering a MS SQL environment that they can create their own DB tables through Access. You can still back it up and check up on the what is out there because it is centralized. Security can audit an environment like that much easier than an Access DB on someone's desktop. Furthermore, business lines, architects and other IT players need to be able to kick the tires on new technology, in an insolated environment, then publish the results for all to see. A test lab with virtualized servers is a must have for any company. * Spending face time with business and IT. I really can?t stress the importance of architects that can sit down and get to know the business, then turn around and translate that into technical terms. It is an awful lot to ask to have someone that is fluent in both languages, so if you find people that can perform that role, hold onto them like a vintage scotch. There is a good deal to be gained from a proper process, it doesn't need to be a bloated ordeal like full-blown RUP (not to diss RUP but it is too heavy). But it needs to address the shortcomings of your particular organization and remedy them. The art of business IT alingment is to not pit business against IT in an effort to assign blame, but rather to get individuals to view the whole picture (via process and architecture) then inwardly accept their role in the grand scheme of things. Oh yeah then tie that to their performance bonus, people seem to like money.

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

"I have also seen companies that think they are aligned because their balanced scorecard told them they were, but in reality were so dysfunctional that nothing really got done." Or actually that's how I felt. Maybe the big shots were right and we really were aligned. But that's not how the little fish felt. When studying the results of a survey it is important to know HOW the survey was done.

mike
mike

I agree there needs to be this kind of wiggle room for special cases. Software that isn't "tried and true" or certified by an organization should have some recourse. This is why I love insulated test labs to kick the tires on software.

mike
mike

This is one of the draconian measures I had alluded to earlier. There is a lot to gain from it for sure, but I think it is also unnecessarily risky for many reasons. * loss of business functionality * gross dissatisfaction by employees and ultimately customers * huge risk of failure, especially because of pushback from the organization * this typically only works in an organization that is already highly centralized On the other hand a "build it and they will come" strategy almost never succeeds without massive support from executives. Folks that can offer a carrot and stick. The most common success story I have seen is to define the point of arrival business and IT architectures and at every new full version release must be closer to the POA. Sure it takes a while, but given the battles you would have to fight otherwise; the job gets done, the company saves money and functionality is not lost.