Alignment problems occur because there is a lack of effective collaboration. A collaborative environment ensures that business requirements are understood by the business and IT. Enabling business/IT alignment through effective collaboration requires adherence to three primary principles: trust (having a neutral facilitator who establishes transparency and integrity in dealing with parties); communication (ensuring that all parties have the same understanding of the terminology involved); and context (maintaining and displaying the relationships between components in the project).
Translating Services to Meet Business Expectations
After achieving collaboration, it is important that business requirements are translated into services that meet business expectations. Misunderstanding the business requirements can result in a deployment that cannot service the uptime requirements. Two complementary disciplines are available to govern service delivery: IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) and Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF). While neither service management nor enterprise architecture are new concepts, the business service focus of their latest version, TOGAF Version 9 and ITIL Version 3, enables a standard, effective approach to integrated service delivery and business/IT unit alignment. Both TOGAF and ITIL have a common focus in the integration of IT services and the business processes that they support. This common service focus enables an integrated approach to aligning business and IT.
ITIL is an integrated set of best practices that defines how service management is applied within an organization. Being a framework, it is completely customizable for application within any organization that has a reliance on IT infrastructure.
TOGAF is a framework for an enterprise architecture that provides a comprehensive approach to the design, planning, implementation and governance of an enterprise information framework. This framework provides an agreed baseline for strategic planning and tactical decision making.
ITIL defines service as a 'means of delivering value to customer by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve.' TOGAF's enterprise architecture methods focus on optimizing the use of people, processes and technology to meet common business objectives. The integration of the two provides an encompassing framework for delivery of IT services. TOGAF provides the structured framework for strategy and design of the organization and the roles, processes and tools required for service delivery. ITIL service management practices focus on governing, standardizing and simplifying the delivery of IT services to the business.
Integrated Service Support
Starting with ITIL and TOGAF basic definitions and context, enterprise architects can map subject areas and processes between the two disciplines to ensure that optimal integration occurs. With ITIL in an operational role and TOGAF as the enterprise-wide strategic framework, this model is directly adaptable to most current environments. Because the subject area for enterprise architecture is the entire enterprise, and the subject area for ITIL is delivery of IT services, we can easily map processes and integration points using ITIL as the IT service delivery mechanism and TOGAF as the enterprise 'umbrella' framework. This integrated view enables collaborative roles across the enterprise as primary business units and IT service delivery functions have defined points of interaction throughout the service delivery cycle, from business strategy to service retirement.
Models Provide a Clear View for Alignment
Defining IT services can be a very intricate process, complicated by IT service delivery. Models enable organizations to manage this complexity productively. Detail components are captured and maintained within the context of summary layer models; this enables business and IT managers and technical professional to reach a consensus on how to best describe and manage key components and their interrelationship without overwhelming participants in the process.
Reference models serve as a starting point for defining enterprise-unique service delivery requirements. By adapting standard, out-of-the-book solutions, your organization can start speaking a common language and then integrate internal best practices with industry best practices to ensure that any existing competitive advantage is retained and exploited. Additionally, the use of reference models enables an incremental approach to adopting a robust framework that can later be modified without a large initial front-end investment.
To successfully use models to attain better alignment, follow these five steps:
1. Identify your goals.
2. Determine where you want to be. (Make sure to include TOGAF and ITIL reference models in your analysis.)
3. Determine where you are by mapping both your current business and IT processes.
4. Identify the gaps and solutions required to close them.
5. Develop and deploy the solutions.
By standardizing IT services and integrating their use through effective business processes, your enterprise will drive support costs down while increasing responsiveness. ITIL provides the service portfolio definitions, and the change, release and configuration management processes to manage these services. TOGAF provides the standards, framework and context for determining cross-organizational impacts in planning and governance. Together they establish an approach to use managed service delivery and ensure business and IT alignment.
Achieving business and IT alignment reduces the risks associated with business and technology change, increases the ROI attained by both process improvement and technology projects and provides an enterprise-wide understanding of the interactions of strategy, business processes and information technologies, enabling coordination of strategy, development and service delivery at all levels within the enterprise.
Integration and adoption of these frameworks within an infrastructure and collaborative environment to support them will go a long way to ensure that business and IT alignment will no longer need to be the top priority for CIOs in the coming years.