Every CEO desires an IT organization that supports the business objectives. After all, what value does IT provide when IT is more an obstacle to business success than an enabler of it. It follows, then, that CIO’s should ensure IT is aligned to organizational goals. This sounds easy, but in practice, can be very difficult.
Addressing Common Obstacles
One of the major issues which needs to be overcome if IT ever has a chance of proper alignment is giving IT a seat at the table. This is still a very real obstacle in too many organizations, sometimes as the result of IT’s historical track record. The CIO or senior IT management is often excluded from key business strategy meetings and decisions. This happens often when senior IT management is viewed as too technical in nature and lacking business sense. Senior IT managers and especially CIO’s need to be viewed as credible business people. If they aren’t, they’ll always be excluded from business decisions.
When the Senior IT management is excluded from these strategy and decision-making meetings, the IT department is often left without context for the organization’s goals. We also lose the opportunity for IT to really shine as the department that introduces creative and disruptive business solutions. This is an area where IT can lead business strategy and not just align to it.
Another common obstacle comes in regards to clarity of business goals. While there are many pitfalls that need to be avoided when establishing business goals, there are two basic concerns I’d like to point out – ambiguous business goals and goals that lack effective tracking and measurement. Sometimes these two factors overlap.
An ambiguous business goal will often sound nice, perhaps even containing a variety of buzzwords, but it’s so non-specific that it’s really hard to precisely define. As such, it’s basically fluff that makes management feel good. The goal could mean almost anything or be summed up in a “I think we should get better” type of statement.
The other basic concern that causes issues is a goal that lacks effective tracking or measurement. Even when the goal seems like it can be measured (increase, decrease, improve, reduce, and similar words are helpful), sometimes we lack a viable mechanism to accurately measure and track such goals. It’s a good practice to determine how a goal will be measured and tracked before that goal is established.
Using Some Simple Alignment Tools
One of the most effective ways to ensure alignment between the business and IT is through the use of simple tools. The tool you use should enable you to evaluate how IT is aligning to the business goals, whether IT is actually an enabler of the business, and how much value IT truly provides. The good news is that you don’t have to create these tools as good tools already exist.
Many of the analysis tools available in our root-cause analysis courses can be leveraged in establishing goals and keeping them aligned. We also have some simple checklists and an alignment tool we’d be happy to send you if you want to make sure the business and IT goals are aligned with one another. If you want this simple but remarkably effective alignment tool, contact us and request our goal alignment tool.