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IT/Business Misalignment: What We Have Here is Failure to Communicate

Ann All

Just the other day, I wrote about a minor brouhaha over the phrase "IT/business alignment," the latest in a long series. Peter Hinssen, a consultant and instructor at the London School of Business, told CIOs attending a recent CA event that IT needed to "fuse" rather than align with the business. I noted that Hinssen wasn't the first to take issue with the "alignment" term and offered examples of others who have urged CIOs to focus on "harmonization" or "effectiveness" rather than alignment.

 

David Ratcliffe, president of Pink Elephant consulting, is another naysayer. Writing on the company's blog, Rarcliffe says alignment wrongly implies that IT is separate from the business. That's pretty much what Ajei Gopal, CA's executive vice president of technology products, said in the article I cited in my previous post:

 

Alignment is a horrible word because it's a term that suggests IT and business are two different parts that need to be aligned. [IT is] something that's core to the business. They are fundamentally intertwined.

 

Integration with the business is what IT needs to attain, writes Ratcliffe. He says this means making sure IT knows the business objectives and provides IT services to enable and support them. Sounds simple, no? And yet it's obviously not.

 

SearchCIO.com's Karen Guglielmo thinks IT/business alignment is fine, although it needs to move beyond aligning common goals to aligning processes and metrics. (I've got advice on better aligning metrics, gleaned from Jim Quick of Diamond Management & Technology Consultants.)


 

I think the IT/business alignment issue is fundamentally about a lack of communication. Sure, IT needs to know the business objectives. To do so, it must communicate with the business. Yes, IT should align its metrics and processes to those of the business. Again, communicating with the business is the logical first step in doing so. If the two sides can communicate, then they can begin to collaborate on solving organizational problems and achieving organizational goals.


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