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The Mystery of IT-Business Alignment – Unveiled!

Aligning IT and business isn’t as easy as stacking two slices of bread, but there is advice to lead the way. IT consultant Marc J. Schiller demystifies the process with a bundle of great ideas in an article for CIO Insight.

Alignment Epiphany

The epiphany for Schiller was that every person in IT and the business experienced a lack of alignment differently, that business-IT alignment was not so cut and dry, but rather something more like a feeling. What Schiller discovered was that although the problems of misalignment varied according to each organization’s individual needs, the experience of being misaligned was universal. The truth of the matter is that there isn’t a single solution to the misalignment “problem.” Alignment is a broader and more complex phenomenon than anyone ever imagined it to be!

Five Finger Recount

Schiller likens IT to a hand with five fingers. Each finger represents an area where IT can become misaligned:

  1. Strategy-driven alignment
  2. Operational alignment
  3. Calendar alignment
  4. Economic alignment
  5. Cultural alignment

Depending on the unique “fingerprint” of IT on the business for which it operates, alignment will look different for each of the five areas. If the issue is strategy-driven alignment, there will either be a need for a. The IT project portfolio to meet the needs of company strategy, b. IT projects / budgets that are tied to company strategy, or c. IT investment that is firmly integrated into the company’s core strategy.

Operational alignment deals with how IT delivers its services to internal or external customers. Calendar alignment is about (unsurprisingly) timing – specifically the timing of IT as it relates to the organization. Each category on the business calendar (budget, “big event,” operational) should show up on the IT calendar as well.

Economic alignment is associated with how costs are allocated and managed, but since IT tends to go about this in a fundamentally different way from most departments, the result is economic misalignment with the business end. Finally there is cultural alignment. This one might be imagined as the “thumb” of IT, since, apart from the other four, it is not easily quantified and yet it may have disproportionate influence of the IT-business relationship. Schiller recommends having an open mind toward the company’s “personality” and attitude toward technology.

Read the original article at: http://www.cioinsight.com/it-management/expert-voices/the-challenges-of-aligning-it-and-the-business.html

About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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