In a recent study published by A.T. Kearney, the need for alignment
between IT and the rest of the organization was brought up yet again.
Their research shows there still is a disconnection between IT and the
business side. The Kearney study provides some very interesting contrasts
between IT and business perspectives — how IT aids the business and
makes some sound suggestions.
First and foremost, why is alignment an ongoing issue?
There is nothing special about IT, but the problem lies in the fact that
business people feel — either rightly or wrongly — that a
communications barrier lies in between. People who aren’t in IT are
intimidated by that.
Plain and simple, an organization must have an objective. The various
groups should then have objectives that clearly assist organization in
achieving these objectives. IT must aid the business in the attainment of
these objectives by adding value or mitigating risks. If it isn’t
assisting in the creation of value or the mitigation of risks, then there
is no reason for IT to exist.
This is problematic, to say the least, as organizations run, if not
exist, based on the management of information. It is inconceivable that
IT can not help a modern organization of any significant size.
One of the points made in the study is that 50 percent of the business
would adopt immature technology, as opposed to only 30 percent of IT. To
IT people, the idea of unstable products that risk failure is currently
Do you know why the business is so anxious to be early adopters? It’s
because they are the business — they know where the entity needs
competitive advantages and can trade off initial implementation and
projected operations costs, plus risks, as they perceive them. Some
business people do a far better job at this than others, while a
short-sighted few figure they don’t have to worry about ongoing support
costs and risks as they can ‘throw the pig over the wall’ for IT to
maintain if worse comes to worse.
This type of bad logic exemplifies how one area can be optimized at the
expense of others or even the overall entity. The systemic consideration
is that the implementation must to be gauged by true benefits to the
organization versus overall costs and risks to the company. Organizations
will be well-served to have in place metrics and periodic reviews of
implemented projects to ensure that promised benefits and costs are
within acceptable limits over time.
Structurally, no matter what is said or done, if an organization allows
IT to operate as an external non-integrated unit from the business, then
IT will frequently fail to deliver needed solutions because it
fundamentally is not part of the business.
When we look again at the numbers regarding IT’s relative avoidance of
adopting immature technology, we must bear in mind what happened during
the dot-com boom. IT shops largely bought into new technologies. Ignore
expense and risk, we must be cutting edge! But when the promised benefits
never materialized, IT suffered a scathing backlash After that, its no
wonder IT tends to shy away from risky endeavors due to uncertain
benefits and unknown impacts.
To have proper alignment moving forward, risky decisions must be made
with the business — not just IT. There need to be hard discussions about
costs, benefits, risks and mitigation strategies from all of the
stakeholders in order to arrive at the proper decision.
IT can not afford to be one step removed from the business. It must be
integrated to the point that there are IT personnel embedded in the
business, working hand in hand with their business colleagues. These
people should be hired because of their technology, business and
Together, the business and IT can make a radical difference. IT must
evolve from a model that emphasizes pushing technology at the business to
one that works with the business.
In closing, the A.T. Kearney report has many interesting insights in it.
Both IT and business leaders are encouraged to read the study and
carefully review how they can improve their utilization of IT to truly
make a difference.
People who read the report should consider what causes the alignment
problem, and what must be overcome in order for IT to be part of the
business. They also should identify, implement and support technology to