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Innovation alignment exists in companies that have innovation cultures and not all companies do (in spite of lip service to the contrary).
Perhaps the easiest opportunity for innovation alignment occurs within research and development (R&D), an area that most companies have defined as important to their futures.
Technology support for corporate R&D might focus on R&D processes, tools to enhance the R&D process, tools that contribute to innovation, and metrics to measure success/failure. There are also opportunities to exploit some new information technologies in the R&D process, such as online contests to solve complicated research and development problems.
Innovation alignment also requires the integration of strategic and operational alignment where new ideas are strategically viable and operationally feasible. This kind of integrative thinking is hard to achieve but when successful it can literally change the face of a company.
People alignment is the key ingredient to all of the alignment flavors. We need people to execute the alignment agenda.
But which people? Each of the alignment flavors requires a different set of skills and competencies. In fact, the flavors are so different that the necessary skills and competencies generally cannot be found in the same people. This has huge implications for companies seeking alignment.
If you look at the five flavors its easy to see how the skills and competencies required for each differ so dramatically.
Strategic alignment requires a top-down, holistic view of the business coupled by a purposeful view of technology, that is, how technology enables broad business agendas not just specific transactions. Infrastructure alignment is about the details of architectures, cost-effectiveness, reliability and security. Operational alignment requires skills in the delivery and support areas, as well as in the areas of flexibility and agility. Innovation alignment requires a great many creative skills as well as the ability to detach from day-to-day infrastructure and operational activities. People alignment requires us to examine the skills of all the professionals responsible for alignment, assess the gaps and fill them with the right people at the right time doing the right things.
Achieving total alignment is difficult. When we think about alignment and read testimonials to alignment success were usually reading about one or two alignment flavors not the whole sampler.
Total alignment is tough because of the diverse skills necessary to achieve it; perhaps the best way to achieve it is to recognize the differences among alignment goals and pursue alignment as though it were five inter-connected processes and then find people that understand the importance of integration.
The key as always is people. Without the right people pursuing integrated alignment not much progress will be made and you may be doomed to wonder how all those servers are helping the company make money or why everyone has CRM software but very few customers that need that much attention.