The endevour of converging Business and IT, often referred to as the “business-IT alignment challenge”, is a significant issue faced by many organisations. It stems from the need to effectively integrate and coordinate the activities, goals, and strategies of the business side of an organization, with its information technology (IT) functions.
This challenge arises due to the inherent differences in perspectives, priorities, and communication styles between business and IT professionals – and is exacerbated by hierarchies that incubate functional siloes.
Here’s what we see;
1. Differing Objectives and Priorities:
Business Perspective: The business side of an organization focuses on achieving strategic goals, generating revenue, managing costs, and responding to customer needs. Their primary concern is how technology can enable and support these business objectives.
IT Perspective: IT professionals are often concerned with system reliability, performance, security, and technological advancements. Their main focus is on providing stable and efficient technology solutions.
2. Communication Gap:
Business Language vs. Technical Language: Business executives and IT professionals often use different terminologies and language. Clear communication between these two groups can be challenging, leading to misunderstandings and misaligned expectations.
3. Pace of Change:
Business Agility: Businesses need to adapt quickly to changing market conditions, customer demands, and competitive pressures. This requires rapid adjustments to processes and strategies.
IT Complexity: Implementing and managing IT systems can be time-consuming and complex. The pace of IT change might not align with the dynamic business environment, leading to delays and inefficiencies.
4. Lack of Mutual Understanding:
Business Understanding of IT: Business leaders might not fully understand the capabilities and limitations of IT systems, which can lead to unrealistic expectations and underutilization of available technology.
IT Understanding of Business: IT professionals might lack a deep understanding of the intricacies of business operations, hindering their ability to develop solutions that truly align with business needs.
5. Resource Allocation:
Budgetary Constraints: IT projects can be resource-intensive, requiring financial investments for hardware, software, personnel, and ongoing maintenance. Business leaders might have competing priorities for budget allocation.
IT Investment: Sometimes, business leaders might not recognize the strategic value of IT investments, leading to underinvestment in technology that could drive business growth and innovation.
6. Change Management:
Change Resistance: Implementing new IT systems often requires changes in business processes and employee roles. Resistance to change from both business and IT sides can hinder successful adoption.
7. Lack of Integrated Strategy:
Siloed Approaches: Business and IT units sometimes operate as separate silos, leading to disjointed strategies and fragmented efforts that don’t contribute to the overall organizational goals.
8. Rapid Technological Evolution:
Keeping Up with Technology: The fast pace of technological advancement makes it challenging for businesses to stay current and identify technologies that can bring genuine value.
Addressing the business-IT alignment challenge requires fostering collaboration, clear communication, and a shared understanding of goals between business and IT professionals.
So how do we overcome these challenges? The answer seems fairly simple, but in practice of course it is not. Organizations must promote cross-functional teams (which is being addressed to some extent by the ‘Product’ model), establish common metrics for success, and ensure Business involves IT in strategic decision-making processes. This will ensure technology initiatives effectively support and enhance overall business objectives.